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Best cutting boards for home cooking

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If you’ve been following my advice about how to learn to cook, by now you’ve bought yourself a few really good knives. Great! Now that you’ve treated yourself to good knives, treat your knives to a good cutting board.

The best cutting boards for home cooking will be the right size and shape and made from the right material.

With so many options to choose from, how do you know what the “right” size and shape is? This will vary according to your individual situation: the size of your kitchen counters and sinks, the types of food you usually prepare, even the size of your most-used knives. The “right” material? That depends on your personal taste, once youve considered certain important facts, as well.

Best cutting boards
Size

The ideal size range for a cutting board for the home kitchen is from 10 inches to 14 inches on a side. Bigger boards than that are cumbersome and clumsy to manage. If a board is much smaller than that, the food you’re chopping will fall off the board and you’ll have to manage sliding it around the counter. You also need to have enough space to comfortably fit and maneuver both your knife and the hand you’re holding the food with.

That said, the best size for you and your kitchen also depends on the kitchen space you have to work with. Take into account the size of your sink and counter. You might find a cutting board you love to look at, use and handle, but if it doesn’t fit into your sink for easy cleaning, you’ll come to hate it, and preparing meals. You don’t need to fit the entire board into your sink, just one of the narrow ends. You can scrub and rinse it from one end and then, if necessary, flip it around to clean it with the other end down.

The board should also fit comfortably on your counter, and you’ll need to find a nice niche to keep it in when it’s not in use. Remember that little conveniences and irritations add up to big pleasures and enormous headahes when they’re repeated over and over. Your goal is to make as many elements of cooking easy and fun. That way, you’ll be more likely to cook
frequently. You might also be more likely to spend any extra cooking energy you might have on learning new dishes and techniques, or cooking something that takes a little extra preparation.

Besides your roomy cutting board, you might also want a smaller secondary board or two for small or quick tasks. We have a dedicated cheese board, for instance, and a smallish board that’s nice for slicing a loaf of bread.

Best cutting boards
Material

I swear by bamboo as a cutting board material. It’s beautiful, it cleans easily, and it’s tough yet not in a way that will dull your knife blade. I also love wood cutting boards.

A myth that doesn’t want to die is that plastic is a more hygenic choice. In fact, researchers at the University of Wisconsin disproved this decades ago. Here’s an excerpt from the January 1993 press release announcing the study results:

STUDY: WOOD CUTTING BOARDS, NOT PLASTIC, ARE SAFER FOR FOOD PREP

MADISON For decades now, cooks in homes and restaurants have been urged to use plastic rather than wood cutting boards in the name of food safety. The fear is that disease-causing bacteria salmonella from raw chicken, for example Q will soak into a cutting board and later contaminate other foods cut on the same surface and served uncooked, such as salad ingredients.

It’s become an article of faith among “experts” that plastic cutting boards are safer than wood for food preparation because, as the thinking goes, plastic is less hospitable to bacteria.

It seems reasonable, but it just ain’t so, according to two scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Food Research Institute.

Dean O. Cliver and Nese O. Ak, food microbiologists in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, have found that in some as yet unknown way wooden cutting boards kill bacteria that survive well on plastic boards.

“This flies in the face of the prevailing wisdom,” says Cliver. “It isn’t what I expected. Our original objectives were to learn about bacterial contamination of wood cutting boards and to find a way to decontaminate the wood so it would be almost as safe as plastic. That’s not what happened.”

So. Plastic cutting boards, as well as being increasingly icky to feel and look at the longer you use them — unlike wood and bamboo, which just get nicer as the years go by — also are less sanitary. They also make your knives dull, and are more liable to slip against your counter or under the knife. (The same can be said for glass cutting boards.) And slipping is definitely not somethng you want happening while you’re using a knife.

What about plastic with antibacterial properties built in? That’s a great choice if you want to breed superbugs in your kitchen, and help hasten the demise of human civilization. Otherwise, why not just stick with the antibacterial properties Mother Nature has endowed wood and bamboo with?

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