Last Updated on July 26, 2022 by Ankit Kumar
Should you or can you use wooden cutting boards for meat?
There is no doubt about the fact that you should have 2 cutting boards in the kitchen, one for veggies and the second one for meat, poultry, fish, etc.
But the main question is can you use wooden cutting boards for meat or should you go for a plastic chopping board instead.
The short answer to this question is yes, you can certainly use a wooden cutting board for meat, as long as you wash the cutting board carefully after chopping meat in it.
The reason why people are often concerned about using wooden cutting board for raw meat is because liquids from the raw meat can get accumulated in the grooves of the wooden board.
This means, if you do not wash the cutting board carefully or do not wash it at all, the next time you cut tomatoes on the same chopping board, there is certainly going to be cross-contamination, and not to forget, the tomatoes may not taste like tomatoes.
Although you can also use a plastic cutting board for raw meat, however, plastic cutting boards are not as durable as wooden boards, and knives may get dull on a plastic board.
Coming Up: How to carefully use wooden cutting boards for meat, how to choose a wooden cutting board for meat and how to clean a wooden cutting board after you have chopped raw meat in it?
You can also check out other posts on 5 Reasons Why Do Cast Iron Pans Smoke and Is It Safe to Use Scratched Stainless Steel Cookware?
Can You Use Wooden Cutting Boards for Meat?
For a long time, wood cutting boards were the only type of cutting boards, until, manufacturers started selling cutting boards made from plastic, bamboo, stainless steel and even silicone.
Off all these cutting boards, wood and stainless steel are the most durable. However, cutting boards made from wood have certain limitations. Unlike a plastic cutting board, you cannot throw a wooden cutting board in a dishwasher.
A wooden cutting board is also heavy than the other cutting boards, and at any time, you should not soak a wooden cutting board in the water for too long.
Having said this, one of the best benefit you will get from a wooden cutting board is that wood is naturally anti-microbial.
As a matter of fact, wood is more antimicrobial than plastic.
As per the study conducted by University of Wisconsin, 99.9% of the bacteria placed on a wooden chopping board begin to die completely within 3 minutes. When you compare this to a plastic or a silicone chopping board, the bacteria will accumulate.
In fact, during the same study, the bacteria increased on a plastic cutting board, while it died on the wooden cutting board. The type of wood used for this test was maple raw wood.
In simple words, wooden cutting boards kill bacteria since bacteria needs water to grow, and wooden cutting boards are the best to absorb water as wood binds up the water.
With this being said, bacteria which disappears from the surface of the wood may still be alive inside the wood for some time. However, you should note this bacteria does not multiply, and in the end, it gradually dies after a period of time.
The quality of wood here also matters since a low quality or a cheap wooden cutting board may not have anti-microbial properties. While looking for a wooden cutting board, choose the one which is made from teakwood, maple or walnut.
The only problem with a wooden cutting board is that you cannot allow it to sit dirty after you have chopped raw meat on it. Liquids or blood from the raw meat can be absorbed into the wood, if you allow it to stay and not wash the wooden board immediately after you have chopped meat.
As long as you clean the wooden cutting properly between uses, you can easily and most certainly use wooden cutting boards for raw meat.
14 Tips on How to Use Wooden Cutting Boards for Meat?
While you can use wooden cutting boards for meat, there are still a few things you should keep in mind to avoid cross-contamination and to increase the life of your wooden cutting board. These tips are simple, yet very effective in terms of how you can avoid cross-contamination while using wooden cutting boards for meat, fish and other poultry.
1). If you are cutting meat for marination, wash the board immediately after cutting meat on it. Even if there is any bacteria, it will be killed naturally in the next 12-24 hours, after which can you process the meat further.
2). If you only have 1 cutting board, always chop veggies first, and then move over to cut meat on the wooden cutting board, otherwise cross-contamination is likely going to happen. If you plan to do meat first on the cutting board, make sure the board is cleaned and sanitised properly.
3). In absence of another cutting board, raw meat should always be cut last on a wooden board. Scrub the board with hot soapy water after the meat and allow it to dry.
4). It is recommended to keep at least 2 cutting boards in the kitchen, they are not very expensive and are available in abundance. Never mix your cutting boards, colour code if possible, wash them properly and you are all set.
5). Don’t use your wooden cutting board to cut onions, garlic, especially when you are using the same board for raw meat. Additionally, do not cut fruits on the same cutting board, since juices can easily combine with each other and contaminate.
6). After all, the usage of wooden cutting board to cut raw meat heavily depends on how you clean and wash the wooden cutting board. The good thing is wood is naturally anti-bacterial and if you clean it properly, you will never run into a problem.
7). A wooden cutting board once washed and dry will prohibit bacterial growth, unlike a plastic cutting board, where moisture can get trapped in the tiny grooves. All you have to do is periodically sand the cutting board and treat it with food safe oil for better longevity.
8). Although this method is not at the top of our recommendation list, but if you strictly do not want to buy multiple cutting boards, you can use one side of the wooden board for meat, fish, onions, and garlic, and use the other side of the board for fruits, veggies, etc.
9). Wooden cutting boards are quite heavy and they do not move while you are cutting meat or veggies on it. However, if your wooden cutting board doesn’t have a solid anti-skid base, make sure to place a towel beneath the wooden board, so splashes from the raw meat don’t mess up the kitchen.
10). While cross-contamination should be avoided at all costs, it is also important not to be paranoid about it. Be advised food poisoning from meat usually comes from contact with the insides of poultry or an industrially minced meat which has passed through a contaminated machine.
11). Since bacteria grows exponentially, always clean the wooden cutting board thoroughly and immediately after you have cut raw meat on it. Clean the cutting board even if you are not planning to re-use it.
12). While you clean the wooden cutting board, also remember to wash your knives, spatulas, tongs, etc. These utensils are often used in handling uncooked and cooked meats, and should not be immediately used to cut veggies without cleaning in between.
13). One of the most simplest ways to clean a wooden cutting board after chopping meat is to wash it under running water with a scrubbing brush. Hot water can be a bit more effective with a dish soap, especially when there are fats and oils on the board.
14). After cleaning the wooden cutting board, dry the board with a clean towel and store upright in a place, where there is some sunlight. The light will help to fully dry the board, and the UV light will also promote bacterial breakdown, which is exactly what you need.
Things You Should Avoid on Wooden Cutting Boards
1). Never leave a wooden cutting board in the kitchen sink: Unlike a plastic or a silicone cutting board, wooden cutting boards cannot be kept for long in the kitchen sink. Prolong contact with water can create internal moisture in the wood, which can lead to warping of the wood. Instead, make a habit to wash the wooden cutting board right after the use and allow it to dry well.
2). Always handwash the wooden cutting board: Even if the manufacturer says your wooden cutting board is compatible with dishwasher, still handwash it. The problem in using a dishwasher is it will release high heat and more contact with water can warp the wood easily.
3). Only use food-safe mineral oil: Wooden cutting boards need to be oiled from time to time, however the choice of oil plays a very important role here. Fatty oils such as corn, olive, peanut, or coconut oil comes with a high fat content. The high fat content in these oils can leave a stale smell on the board, which will make your work more difficult, especially the cleaning part. Instead, use a food-safe mineral oil if you need to oil the wooden cutting board.
4). Avoid cross contamination: Even though you can use wooden cutting boards for meat, you still need to be cautious of the fact that cleaning a wooden board immediately is extremely important to avoid cross-contamination. Cleaning has to be done irrespective of the fact whether you will use the same wooden board again or not. If the wooden board smells even after the cleaning, take a 1/2 lemon and mix it with some salt. Apply this on the surface of the wooden cutting board, and give the board a rinse after this.
5). Keep changing the surface of impact: It’s considered a good practice to change the impact area every now and then, repeated impact of knives on the same area of the wooden cutting board can lead to dents over a period of time. Since the surface area of a wooden cutting board is quite high, you will usually have lots of space to cut meat or veggies. Once in a while, you can also flip the cutting board and use the other side to cut the veggies.
6). Season the wooden cutting board frequently: Just like a piece of cast iron or non stick, even your wooden cutting board needs seasoning once in a while. With regular usage, your wooden cutting board may start to look dull after a period of time. You can coat the wooden chopping board with food-grade mineral oil and let it sit on the surface for 15 – 30 minutes. If any part of the board absorbs all the oil, it is a signal the board needs more oil in that particular area. Once this is done, wipe the board dry with either a paper or a cloth towel.
Wooden cutting boards are easy to care for, and with proper care and maintenance, these boards can last for at least 10-15 years. All you have to do is clean them right after the use, oil every once in a while, and discard the board if you see any signs of holes or damages on the surface.
How to Choose a Wooden Cutting Board for Meat?
Not all wooden boards are made same, hence, you need to be sure what kind of a wooden cutting board you are buying for meat and other food dishes. For starters, here is a checklist on how to choose wooden cutting boards for meat.
1). While looking for a wooden cutting board for chopping meat, choose the board which comes with a groove. A groove will allow and make space for the juices, liquids or any blood which comes out from the meat itself. This juice can be extracted from the wooden board easily and will avoid cross-contamination. Needless to say, you will still need to clean the cutting board.
2). If you do not wish to make your kitchen messy, buy a kitchen board which has an anti-skid base. While you are cutting meat on a wooden board, the board can slip leading to splatters all over the kitchen countertop. If you already have a board, you can prefer to keep a cloth or a towel beneath the surface of the cutting board.
3). Buy a wooden board which comes with a handle, this will enable easy storage and also drying of the board after cleaning, since you can hook it using the handle.
4). Wooden boards are of many types, since wood can be anything from maple, walnut, beech to teak, etc. While looking for a wooden cutting board for meat, buy the one which is made from maple or teakwood. Preferably, go for hardwood over softwood, and do not buy a wooden board which is made from oak wood or even pine.
5). If you are going to use the wooden board for meat, choose a closed-grain wooden cutting board, since it has very small holes (quite invisible to the naked eye). This type of board will prevent formation of bacteria as compared to open-grain woods such as oak, etc. The simple logic here is, the smaller the pores, the better it is.
Which Cutting Board is Best for Meat?
A lot of people believe plastic to be the best choice for meat cutting or chopping, since it comes with a nonporous surface and a plastic cutting board can be thrown in the dishwasher. Having said this, a plastic cutting board for meat is only good as long as it is durable, and when it comes to the durability, wooden cutting boards are way better than any other type of cutting boards.
Yes, it’s true wooden boards are not safe with dishwasher, but wood is naturally anti-microbial, which makes it one of the safest choices for cutting meat. Also, you will need to replace plastic cutting board in every 2-3 years, whereas, a well maintained wooden cutting board will last easily for 10-15 years. You do not have to worry about knives getting dull on a wooden cutting board, which is often an issue with plastic cutting boards.
In my opinion, I have no problem cleaning my wooden boards with hand, and not using dishwasher for the same. As a matter of fact, I am also fine with oiling these boards every once in a while, which is why, wooden cutting boards are the best for meat, at least for me.
How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board After Raw Meat?
Cleaning a wooden cutting board is an essential if you want to continue cutting raw meat on a wooden board. Proper cleaning also minimises any chances of food contamination. The below cleaning tips also applies to veggies, seafood, fish, poultry, etc.
Now, before we discuss how to clean a wooden cutting board after raw meat, make sure you do not throw the wooden board in a dishwasher, and at the same time, never soak the wooden board into water. Instead, hand washing the wooden board right after cutting is the best way.
For regular cleaning, the best way to wash the wooden cutting board is with warm water and a dish soap. Before you do this, scrape off everything from the wooden cutting board’s surface. Now, run the wooden board under some hot water and softly use a brush to scrape anything, if required.
You can also add some dish soap in the hot water if there is stubborn debris on the wooden board. Once washed, allow the board to get air dry, wipe it off with a clean towel or put it on the dish rack.
You can also use a combination of baking soda and water to extract any food which is not getting removed from the surface of the wooden cutting board. Using a small bowl, make a mixture of baking soda and water, the texture should be a bit thick.
Now, use a brush to apply this mixture on the surface of the wooden cutting board, and allow the paste to sit there for 30 minutes. After this is done, use the same brush to scrub the surface of the wooden board. Any leftover debris will be removed with the baking soda paste.
How to Oil a Wooden Cutting Board?
Wooden cutting boards can appear to be dry after a period of time. Although this may not impact the performance of the board directly, but you should consider to oil the wooden board to make sure the surface remains solid and does not look dry.
Now, there is no such thing as to how many times should you oil the wooden cutting board, since it depends more on your usage and the also the age of the wooden board. I know people who do this every month and also a few people who tend to oil the wooden board twice a year.
My recommendation is to oil the wooden cutting board once a month, and you will be all good. The first thing you should note is to use an oil which is considered food grade and does not leave a pungent smell on the wooden board.
Mineral oil is the best choice to oil a wooden cutting board, the good thing is mineral oil is fairly affordable, and it is easily available. Before oiling the wooden board with mineral oil, make sure the board is clean and dry.
While you oil the wooden cutting board, give it ample amount of time to absorb the oil. My recommendation is to apply the oil before you sleep and wipe off anything extra the next morning. You can use a clean, soft cloth or a paper towel to apply oil on the wooden cutting board.
Wrapping Up – Can You Use Wooden Cutting Boards for Meat?
There is no doubt that you can use wooden cutting boards for meat without worrying about anything. Having said this, you still need to make sure you wash the cutting board right after using it, oil it from time to time, preferably once a month. As long as you do this, you can use your wooden cutting board for raw meat for decades. While you do this, consider to buy 2 separate cuttings boards, one for meat and the other for veggies.
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