The chopping board is a truly indispensable tool in the kitchen. The main material with which cutting boards are made is wood, even if today there are various other materials on the market such as polyethylene (a very common type of plastic), silicone, bamboo, glass and slate.
Unlike other types of cutting boards, the wooden one, in addition to being natural and giving a rustic note to our table, is also a precious ally for keeping the quality of the food intact without altering its properties, provided it is cleaned and disinfected in proper way.
Precisely for hygienic reasons, its use in catering activities was prohibited with Regulation (EC) n. 852/2004 of the European Union on the hygiene of food products, according to which all surfaces in contact with food must be washable, made of resistant materials, capable of not contaminating food and sanitizable.
In fact, restaurants use more easily sanitized plastic chopping boards, differentiated by colour. The various colors are used to distinguish them in relation to the different types of food they come into contact with: red for raw meat, yellow for cooked meat, green for fruit and vegetables, blue for fish and white for bread and cheeses.
Despite this, wood remains suitable for contact with food thanks to its thermal insulating properties (it does not heat up or cool down), its excellent mechanical resistance (it does not deform with acid or basic substances) and its natural antibacterial properties (it contains tannic acid which has antimicrobial effects). It is no coincidence that it has been used for centuries as a basis for cutting food.
However, the wooden chopping board is not completely free from the presence of bacteria and can therefore contaminate food when we use it. For this reason it is essential to periodically disinfect the cutting board and other wooden utensils.
What not to do to clean the wooden chopping board
Even though it's common practice, you should never wash your wooden cutting board with dish soap.
In fact, it is absorbed by the wood and is hardly released completely even if we rinse the cutting board with plenty of running water. By doing so, of course, our foods will be in contact with a surface contaminated with soap.
Another very common mistake is placing the wooden chopping board in the dishwasher. In this case, not only does the same problem of soap absorption occur, but the very high temperatures can lead to the detachment of some parts of the cutting board if the latter is not made of a single piece of wood.
Procedure for correct cleaning of the wooden chopping board
Wood is an organic material with a porous structure capable of absorbing liquids. This absorption causes the formation of bad odors and mould.
Furthermore, every time we use it with a sharp knife to cut or chop food, we create small fissures on its surface which become a place for bacteria to live and proliferate.
To thoroughly clean a wooden cutting board (and other kitchen utensils), you must first rinse the cutting board under plenty of hot water, place baking soda on it and rub the surface with a sponge.
At this point, rinse the cutting board again, let it drain well and, still wet, place another small pile of baking soda on it, spreading it along the entire surface.
Let about ten minutes pass, time in which the bicarbonate will have a sanitizing, stain removing and odor neutralizing action, then rinse the chopping board again under running water to eliminate any residual traces.
Baking soda (unlike dish soap or dishwasher soap) is an all-natural compound.
It is a salt, formed by the combination of sodium and carbonic acid, which is found in the environment in dissolved form and precisely in both surface and underground freshwater.
Even if it comes into contact with food, it would not have any undesirable effect on our health as we already take it regularly from other sources.
It is good to remember that, in general, the intake of sodium bicarbonate must not exceed certain daily quantities to avoid side effects, but in the case of any residues due to the cleaning of wooden utensils, the quantities are negligible.
For greater disinfection and possibly to eliminate residual fat, half a lemon can be rubbed on the surface of the wooden cutting board; lemon juice composed of citric acid has antibacterial and degreasing properties.
Once the chopping board has been thoroughly cleaned, before putting it back in the drawer, it must be left to dry completely in the air in a vertical position to prevent the formation of mould.
How to keep the wooden chopping board alive
Like all wooden objects, even the chopping board must be nourished to maintain its characteristics of elasticity and shine over time.
To this end, it is advisable to periodically pass a small dose of seed oil (or olive oil in the case of olive wood cutting boards) on its surface with the help of a dry cloth or absorbent kitchen paper.
We will notice that, after a while, the oil will be absorbed without leaving any patina of fat on the chopping board and will revive its color at the same time.
Allow the oil to fully absorb into the wood before putting the board back in its place.
Types of wooden cutting boards
There are all types of wooden chopping boards and for all budgets.
They range from the cheaper ones in fir and poplar plywood which are lighter (but less durable over time) to those in durmast oak which have a good compactness and are the most used.
The olive wood chopping boards have excellent functional characteristics and are also presented as a design element by virtue of the fascinating veins of the olive wood which, together with its typical scent, also constitute a value from an aesthetic point of view.
The teak wood cutting boards are very robust and suitable for the sharpest blades, while those in walnut, beech, acacia and oak have a less porous structure and do not splinter easily due to their resistance.