Shedding some light on cutting boards

As part two of a series of three columns on cutting, this one will focus on cutting boards.
If you missed my previous column on knives, please e-mail me at dez@chefdez.com and I will be more than happy to send it to you. The next column will focus on cutting techniques.
Almost every household has some type of cutting board to offer a place for chopping or slicing in order to protect their kitchen counter tops.
With so many to choose from, hopefully I can help shed some light on this subject by discussing the pros and cons of the three main types of cutting boards available: glass, plastic, and wood.
One of my biggest pet peeves is a glass cutting board, and I take every opportunity to advise anyone I can of the reasons. Tempered glass cutting boards are made to offer a surface that is easily sanitized by hand or by putting them in the dishwasher, and offer a surface that will never deteriorate.
However, because this cutting surface is so hard, it will dull even the highest-quality kitchen knife faster than any other cutting board.
They usually depict an attractive photo or print under the surface of the glass, which makes them desirable to have out and ready to use, but I would highly recommend using them only as a serving platter and nothing else.
Plastic cutting boards, on the other hand, offer a softer surface that won’t damage knives and still can be placed in the dishwasher for cleaning.
The plastic surface also can be subjected to sanitizing cleansers, like bleach, without damaging the board itself.
However, recent studies have revealed that over time, bacteria can build up in the scores from knives on the surface that even sanitizing will not remove completely.
When deep scores have been made in a cutting board, it is recommended to re-face the board. But plastic boards are very difficult to resurface, and it is much easier simply to purchase a new one.
Wooden cutting boards have been thought of as surfaces that hold bacteria, and many households have switched to plastic for this very reason. But wood offers natural anti-septic qualities—and it also can naturally re-seal small scores from cutting.
A food grade mineral oil should be used on a regular basis to help stop the wood from drying out and cracking.
I prefer to use plastic cutting boards for meat or seafood. This way, I can sanitize them in the dishwasher (until they get well-used, that is). Wooden cutting boards offer a cutting surface for all other applications, such as fruits, vegetables, etc.
I do not own a glass cutting board.
The most unique cutting surface I’ve ever used is a phone book. I was invited to a “guy’s night” poker party at a bachelor’s apartment and it turned into an impromptu cooking demonstration.
His kitchen was not well-equipped, so we sanitized the outside of his Yellow Pages and used it as a cutting board!
While this might be an amusing story, I strongly advise against this practice.
Dear Chef Dez:
Can you suggest a natural cleanser for cleaning cutting boards?
Diane T.
Nanaimo, B.C.
Dear Diane:
I often sprinkle a cutting board liberally with salt and rub the surface with the cut sides of a halved lemon.
The salt acts as an abrasive while the lemon not only offers a natural acid, but a fresh, clean scent, as well.
Send your food/cooking questions to dez@chefdez.com or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C., V2T 6R4.
Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor, and cooking show performer. Visit him at www.chefdez.com

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