Almost everyone uses cutting boards to chop raw meat and vegetables. Yet, only a few people realize the importance of cleaning their cutting board, especially after cutting up raw meat. Studies have shown that poorly cleaned cutting boards are rife with bacterial life such as salmonella, staphylococcus, and E. coli. Bacteria are efficient at scavenging for meat, and they easily spread to other areas of the kitchen.
While we’re not asking you to become paranoid and clean your chopping block with bleach every time you chop vegetables, it is important to sanitize it on a regular basis. This is especially true when you’re working with meats of any kind such as beef, chicken, and fish. More importantly, you need to know how to clean cutting board after cutting raw meat.
Here’s a rule of thumb: never use olive or vegetable oil to season a cutting board when cleaning it because they spoil the wood easily become rancid over time.
It is true that plastic cutting boards are not porous and relatively easier to clean than wooden boards. Unlike wood, plastic isn’t porous and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. But as is true with wood cutting boards, they are prone to tiny cuts and grooves made on their surfaces after heavy use, allowing the liquids to permeate and discolor the surface. It isn’t uncommon for these grooves to house dangerous bacteria.
While it is ill-advised to wash your wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher, they are usually easy to clean. This is because the bacteria tend to die after they are absorbed into the board and they can’t ‘crawl’ up to the surface of the cutting board, minimizing the likelihood of cross-contamination.
Start with the obvious: scrape off any leftover meat with a food scraper.
The cleaning process for a bamboo cutting board is roughly similar. You will have to apply food-grade mineral oil to dry the board’s surface. Allow the oil to sit on the surface for a few hours, and then wipe off the oil with a dry cloth.
For plastic cutting boards, use a fresh solution of 1 tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach diluted in one gallon of water. Flood the surface of the cutting board with the bleach solution and let it stay soaked in the bleach for a few minutes. Rinse the board with water and let it air dry for a few minutes.
This might seem a little extreme, but so are the bacteria you are dealing with. To effectively kill the germs on the board, wipe the surface with a paper towel dipped in hydrogen peroxide. Make sure to rinse the board in water before using it again.
Make sure to dry the cutting board, especially if it is wooden. Leaving the board wet and humid will cause its surface to warp and crack.
If your chopping board still smells like a butcher’s shop, you can get rid of the odor by rubbing the surface with lemon juice. Simply cut up a small lemon into two halves, use one half on the cutting board. Use a paper towel to dry the board and store it in a dry cupboard. While the citric acid in lemon is far too weak to disinfect bacteria, it can remove any leftover smells.
At some point, your cutting board will have undergone far too much abuse. If you see lots of deep grooves from repeated use, it’s time to replace your cutting board. Larger grooves provide more area for the bacteria to thrive, grow, and absorb even more moisture.
If the household cleaner is too tame for the bacteria, it is time to bring in the big guns: bleach.
Dip a brush in a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach diluted with 2 liters water. Scrub the surface of the chopping block in small circles, being careful not to saturate the wood with bleach. Use a lightly damp paper towel to wipe away any bleach.
Flexible cutting boards are popular because of their bendable design, making it possible to shape them into a funnel to transfer chopped up meat and ingredients directly into the heating pan. Furthermore, the tough plastic resin material used to construct the boards naturally resists bacterial growth. Unfortunately, these boards are very thin and prone to damage from sharp blades. If your cuts go through, the board will have to be replaced.
There are many types of materials used to manufacture cutting boards, including acrylic, glass, plastic, marble, and wood, but it’s ultimately up to your preferences. Our recommendation is to use wood or bamboo because it is easier to clean and doesn’t dull sharp knives.
To prevent cross-contamination, keep two cutting boards: one for cutting raw meat, and the other for chopping up vegetables and breads. Consider purchasing differently colored boards so you can tell them apart.
Once the cutting board has outlived its lifecycle, don’t shy away from replacing it. This applies to all plastic or wood boards that have cracks, grooves, crevices, and deep scars.