Which is better: wood or plastic cutting boards? Scientific home experiments tell the truth

The wise chef will use a wooden or plastic cutting board. But which is the best choice? Professional chefs, food technicians, and microbiology parents have long debated which is the most practical, durable, or hygienic cutting board.

Cutting, cutting, cutting on a cutting board

What good is an extremely sharp, smooth-surfaced kitchen knife without a cutting board? The cutting board is one of the less visible but equally important partners in this ubiquitous pair, but even this item has a hidden science.

When it comes to the design of a cutting board, the key is the hardness of the material: the ability to resist deformation when the board is pressed, or more specifically, the ability to cut. If the board is too hard, the blade will become blunt; conversely, if the board is too soft, it will disintegrate.

To know if a cutting board is too hard or too soft, it is necessary to quantify the hardness.

There are several ways to quantify it, the simplest being the Mohs scale of hardness, which was developed by the German Friedrich Mohs in 1812. Mohs (Friedrich Mohs) in 1812. The Mohs scale of hardness is divided into ten grades from 1 to 10 and was originally used to quantify the hardness of minerals. It is important to note that any mineral with a higher hardness scale can scratch the surface of a mineral with a lower scale. Diamonds are at the highest 10 on the hardness scale and can scratch anything less hard than themselves, such as quartz at 7 hardness. Similarly, quartz will scratch on gypsum, which has a Mohs hardness of only 2.

The steel used to make knife bodies is at 5 or 6 on the Mohs hardness scale, so you should never use a cutting board with a hardness higher than that. Keep in mind that kitchen cutting boards, whether made of glass or granite, are primarily made of quartz, both of which are 6 and 7 on the Mohs scale, respectively. don't use your favorite knife to cut on a glass or granite surface unless you like to sharpen it regularly.

The wise chef will use a wooden or plastic cutting board. But which is the best choice?

This question is complicated by a number of confusing factors.

For example, one professional chef told me point-blank that cutting for long periods of time on anything other than a wooden cutting board can cause arm pain. Conversely, many housewives or husbands prefer to use plastic cutting boards because they don't have dedicated cleaners and plastic cutting boards can be thrown in the dishwasher. However, some people claim that the natural phenolic compounds in wooden cutting boards will kill any bacteria that remain on the surface. This point leads me to one of the most important aspects of cutting board science: hygiene.

Since raw food must be placed on the cutting board, there is a risk that bacteria will remain and contaminate the next food that is placed on the cutting board. The obvious way to do this is to follow the example of all commercial kitchens and use a different cutting board for raw meat, the ingredient most likely to harbor the most difficult bacteria, including salmonella.

In order not to be reduced to a hearsay argument, researchers have conducted a number of scientific studies, including a television program that I personally participated in and hosted. In this example of a well-controlled, rare television science experiment, the tests were performed by a laboratory headquartered in Glasgow and accredited by British government scientists.

We started the study with a batch of new and used cutting boards, some wooden and some plastic. First, they were all sterilized in the same way in order to have a uniform hygiene standard. Then, we contaminated one part of each board with a solution containing a known number of bacteria. After the cutting boards were dried, they were sampled for the next 24 hours. The bacteria count of each sample was calculated by painstakingly smearing a small amount of bacteria from each sample onto a Petri dish, allowing it to grow, and then manually calculating the number of colonies cultured.

Part of the purpose of the test was to simulate what would happen if food such as raw chicken was placed on a cutting board, not thoroughly cleaned - or perhaps just casually wiped - and then the same board was used again. We wanted to find out if we could test that wooden cutting boards are somehow antibacterial. Does wood kill more bacteria than plastic? To the disappointment of the filmmakers on the day, the answer was "no".

In fact, it doesn't matter what the cutting board is made of or how long ago it was made. The amount of bacteria left on an uncleaned cutting board is disturbingly high.

So, what if you really did what you had to do after using the cutting board and cleaned it well? We tested the same cutting boards again, but this time after they had been exposed to bacteria, they were first thoroughly scrubbed with hot soapy water. The last time we tested the cutting boards for bacteria, there was again no significant difference between the two types of cutting boards.

From the perspective of the TV show, this was a disaster. We have set up such a large scientific test, explained all the complicated procedures, and gotten disappointing results. However, the results are not surprising and are consistent with several previous studies on cutting boards.

From a scientific point of view, these results suggest that the difference between wooden and plastic cutting boards, if any, is insignificant, and that the exact cleaning method may have a greater impact than the board itself.

If that's the case, for the amateur chef or even the professional chef, that means use whatever cutting board you like. If you want a dishwasher-safe cutting board, go with plastic, but if you prefer the feel or aesthetics of wood, go with wood.

However, all studies agree: If the surface of a cutting board is cut and chopped with a bunch of deep grooves, no matter how hard you scrub, the board becomes a dangerous health hazard that never gets cleaned and bacteria can grow in the grooves. One more thing: If a wooden cutting board is cracked, it will not only harbor germs, it will also be stuffed with chunks of food. I also don't recommend using a bamboo cutting board. Although they look and feel like wood, bamboo is actually a grass, and the stems of grasses are particularly prone to producing small fragments of silica called phytolith. Silica is harder than steel, so a bamboo cutting board will blunt the edge of your knife just as much as glass. As you can see, choosing a cutting board can be a complicated and difficult task.

About Jerry

There are only 24 hours in a day, so why not spend it in a healthy and happy way? So, I choose to spend it happily
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