Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Cutting Boards 101
There are so many choices when it comes to cutting boards! Back in the day, the only choice was wood which I still believe is always the best choice when it comes to chopping veggies.
So let's break it down so it's not too complicated: it's my practice to have at least 3 cutting boards but I must confess that my cutting board obsession is like shoe obsession to some!- I have many and I keep collecting more!
Let's start with wood. It's definitely the choice of chefs and if you watch any cooking shows, you will also see a lot of boards from John Boos. Here is the one I use just about everyday. Now, there are "edge grain" and an "end grain" boards. Edge grain boards are constructed of long pieces of wood laid side by side, and end grain boards are more of a checkerboard with smaller pieces of wood glued together. If you are curious about this process check here for more details. The edge grain boards (see pic below) look nice, but in time, will show your knife cuts more prominently-still a great board so don't worry- I have been known to sand mine down and give them a new surface.
End grain boards (see pic above) are pricier because of the the extra labor involved in construction, but this results in a gentler effect on your knives- the wood cut this way is a bit softer. Either way you go, look for boards that are NSF safe (NSF certification ensures that the products designed for you to use at home meet the same public health standards as those used in hotels, restaurants, schools, hospitals, anywhere in the food service industry), like the John Boos boards and J.K. Adams to name a few. Both of these companies are here in the USA, Illinois and Vermont, respectively.
One should have a fairly good size board for general chopping of vegetables. A good size is at least a 12x18. This will give you enough surface area so that you have ample room to chop. Never try to cut vegetables with too small a knife or too small a board! It's just not going to work! And the cardinal rule for cleaning-listen up! DO NOT PUT IN THE DISHWASHER. EVER!! Do not soak in water either! You can use water to clean a wood board, but you must not soak it-it can split, crack and fall apart. Always oil your board at least every 4-6 weeks to keep it from drying out. You can buy mineral oil at the drugstore or a kitchen shop and it's all you need to keep your board in great shape for many years.
The next board you will want to have will be for all your raw meats, poultry and fish. I like to use a polypropylene type-this is a type of plastic with anti-bacterial properties and you can run it safely through the dishwasher. Quality ones won't split and crack and will last for many years. Another great board that came on the market just a few years back and is everywhere now is the Epicurean cutting board ( photo below). This is what I use for my raw meat prep. Made of Richlite, a lightweight yet durable wood-fiber composite that won’t dull knives, it's also dishwasher safe and like the polypropylene boards is also anti-bacterial. And they come in many sizes so you can get a few. I especially like to have a couple of these boards on hand- for the meats yes, but also for my fruit cutting- nothing worse than cutting an apple on a board that an onion was cut on! Need I say more.
Another board I can't live without is a carving board. If you are a carnivore, you are going to want to invest in one of these. This one is from J.K. Adams and it has an indent for the meat and a well to catch all those tasty juices.
I can always find a need for any board even if I am not using it to chop on! It's nice to serve cheese on some of the prettier boards, like the bamboo boards that are out there. This one below if from Totally Bamboo.
I hope this helps when you are going through the cutting board section of your local kitchen store. Remember, you invested in some quality knives and they need to be partnered with quality cutting boards!