Say goodbye to old cutting boards

Farm Forum

I’d like to tell you about my “reappearing” cutting board. I bought a plastic cutting board when I was in college. It was a faithful, consistent cutting surface for many years. I brought it with me when I got married.

However, I noticed that the years took a toll on my kitchen companion, and it became discolored and developed some grooves that were hard to clean. Somewhat reluctantly, I put it in the garage to go out with the trash one day.

When I was reaching for another cutting board a couple of days later, my hand grasped the old white one. At first I thought I had dreamed placing the cutting board in the garage.

I brought the cutting board back to the garage to catch a trip to the trash. A couple of days later, I opened the cupboard and there was my well-worn cutting board again.

I had a strong suspicion about what was going on. With the cutting board in hand, I walked over to my husband.

“Why does the white cutting board keep getting put in the garage?” my husband asked before I could say anything.

“I am trying to throw it away,” I responded.

I admit that I have a hard time discarding things, too. To appease my frugal husband, I took the cutting board to work and used it as an “example” in food safety workshops.

“When your cutting board looks like this, throw it away,” I’d say.

We had used the cutting board solely for cutting up fruits and vegetables, so I wasn’t worried about cross-contamination. However, our kids were getting to the point of helping with meal preparation, so I didn’t want to risk having someone grab the old white cutting board to cut up meat for kabobs. Bacteria would be left behind in the grooves.

Cleaning your cutting boards thoroughly and replacing them when necessary is a way to maintain food safety in your home. If you do not clean your cutting boards thoroughly, especially after cutting raw meat and poultry, you could put yourself, your family and friends at risk for foodborne illness, which can be life-threatening for children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems.

Raw meat and poultry and their juices often are contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and/or campylobacter. These bacteria can be left behind on a cutting board. Without proper cleaning, you could contaminate the next food that you cut, such as your salad ingredients.

Researchers have studied the safety and use of wood and plastic cutting boards with various recommendations. Sometimes, plastic was viewed as better, but chefs note that using plastic boards can dull knives more quickly. When plastic cutting boards have grooves, bacteria can remain ready to contaminate your next food.

Cutting boards made of hardwood such as maple are less likely to dull knives. As long as the wood cutting boards are cleaned thoroughly right away, they are safe to use, according to other research.

Regardless of the type of cutting board you use, be sure to clean your cutting boards after each use. After cutting foods, such as bread or fruit, simply wash in hot, soapy water, rinse and air-dry.

If you have cut meat or poultry, clean the cutting board with hot, soapy water and a brush. Next, rinse with clear hot water and place in a sanitizing solution for a couple of minutes. You can make a sanitizing solution with 1 tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water, or you can drench the cutting board with a bleach solution in a spray bottle (1 scant teaspoon of bleach per quart of water). Allow the cutting board to air-dry or use a clean paper towel to dry.

Instead of washing cutting boards in a sink, you can clean nonporous-type cutting boards such as most plastic ones in a dishwasher. Be sure you know the cleaning recommendation for the cutting boards that you own.

The next time you reach for a cutting board, check it over. Does it have grooves that are difficult to clean? Consider having dedicated uses for your cutting boards. You may want to use a wood cutting board to cut bread and fruit.

Try a color-coding system for your cutting boards to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. You could use a red cutting board for meat and a green one for produce, for example. Just be sure that everyone in the household knows and follows the system and cleans the cutting boards after use.

Here’s a tasty recipe to practice your cutting skills on clean cutting boards. This recipe is courtesy of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, funded by the Beef Checkoff.

Citrus-marinated Beef and Fruit Kabobs

1 pound beef top sirloin steak, boneless, cut 1 inch thick

1 medium orange

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 Tbsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. ground red pepper (optional)

4 c. cubed mango, watermelon, peaches and/or plums


Grate peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons of juice from orange; reserve juice. Combine orange peel, cilantro, paprika and ground red pepper, if desired, in small bowl. Cut beef steak into 1 1/4-inch pieces. Place beef and 2 1/2 tablespoons of cilantro mixture in food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Place remaining cilantro mixture and fruit in separate food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Close bags securely. Marinate beef and fruit in refrigerator 15 minutes to two hours. Soak eight 9-inch bamboo skewers in water 10 minutes; drain. Thread beef evenly onto four skewers, leaving a small space between pieces. Thread fruit onto remaining four separate skewers. Place kabobs on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill beef kabobs, covered, eight to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, nine to 11 minutes) for medium rare (145 F) to medium (160 F) doneness, turning occasionally. Grill fruit kabobs five to seven minutes or until softened and beginning to brown, turning once. Season beef with salt, as desired. Drizzle reserved orange juice over fruit kabobs.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 239 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 20 g of carbohydrate, 27 g of protein and 57 milligrams of sodium (without added salt).