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WOOD OR PLASTIC - WHICH IS BEST FOR A CHOPPING BOARD?

Various factors need to be taken into consideration when you’re deciding whether to buy a wooden chopping board or one made of plastic or other synthetic material.

A prime consideration is on the subject of hygiene and risk of contamination and food poisoning.

Is ease of cleaning particularly important to you? Do you want a board that doesn’t wear out knife blades more quickly than others? There are lots of things to consider.

The general consensus of opinion is that plastic chopping boards are safer when it comes to harmful bacteria.

Official health groups have spent years urging chefs and cooks to use non-porous chopping boards - namely those made from plastic, polypropylene and other synthetic material - in the preparation of food.

Many local health departments have banned the use of wooden chopping and cutting boards in the commercial preparation of food.

They hold the view that bacteria is less likely to survive on plastic boards which have been thoroughly cleaned, thereby all but eliminating the risk of food contamination.

But there are others who believe the contrary is true and that wooden boards are in fact a safer option.

Two top American microbiologists discovered in 1993 that when they inoculated wooden chopping boards with cultures of food poisoning agents, a staggering 99.9% of the bacteria were presumed dead within three minutes. Yet none of the bacteria which were placed on plastic chopping boards died.


When the plastic boards were left overnight at room temperature they discovered that microbe populations had grown - but there was no trace of living bacteria on the wooden boards.

They put forward the idea that wood has some kind of antibacterial power but admitted they had no idea what agent or mechanism was responsible for it.

There’s no doubt that plastic boards are a better choice if quick cleaning appeals to you - you can simply pop them in the dishwasher. Hand washing is not likely to be enough to kill off any bacteria which may be lodged in the fine slits in a board, caused by knife action. They can however be cleaned with a disinfectant before immersing in very hot soapy water and rinsed.

Wooden chopping boards can be wiped with a mild detergent or sanitising spray, and some people rub coarse salt into the surface to kill off bacteria and remove fine traces of food. They also need to be oiled regularly with a food grade mineral oil or certain wood oils.

One great benefit of wooden chopping boards is that they are considerably more friendly towards knives and the blades will last much longer than they will if you use a plastic or other synthetic board regularly.

Plastic chopping boards will do just fine for normal day-to-day food preparation and they fit the bill nicely for the average cooking enthusiast.

However if you are likely to be getting into chopping in a big way, a heavy duty traditional wooden chopping block may be the way to go. This should last for many years if looked after carefully and will stand up to anything challenge you throw at it.

Either way, there’s no shortage of chopping boards to choose from these days - whether you decide to go for wood or plastic. Most of them are made to a high standard and they’re available in all shapes and sizes.

If you still can’t decide which is the best option for you - why not buy both? A strong case can be put for having a workhorse wooden chopping board in your kitchen, and a plastic version to hand for some of your less gruelling chopping tasks.

And of course, you could even go one better and buy a dual chopping board which will give your the best of both worlds - these are a combination board consisting of a plastic chopping board which is connected via a magnet system with a same-sized wooden board below.


MORE READING

Cleaning and care of chopping boards


Advice on seasoning your chopping board


Chopping boards and cross contamination