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One of the most important items in your kitchen is also one of the most mistreated. Your cutting board can provide a comfortable surface for chopping vegetables, or slicing meat. There are different styles of cutting boards available, and with news of e.coli breakouts making regular news headlines, it will serve you well to purchase at least two. Depending on the amount of entertaining and cooking you do, more may make themselves useful.

Wooden cutting boards are the most traditional, as well as the most attractive. Whether strips of wood, or checkerboard style, they are sturdy, and hold up to hard use. The checkerboard butcherblock style is the stronger of the two, given how the wood is worked together, but is also far more expensive. Unless you re cooking at the restaurant level, you probably don t really need this one, unless you're just in love with its looks. If you are utterly scrupulous about cleaning, a wooden board is perfectly acceptable for cutting raw meat. (There's a reason why it s called butcher block, after all). However, a mild bleach solution needs to be used quickly after every use. This is somewhat impractical when you're in the middle of preparing dinner-are you really going to take time out to clean the board before chopping your onion?

If you're not, then consider getting a heavy plastic cutting board. You can put in the dishwasher for sterilizing, or wash with a mild bleach solution. Either way, you can scoot it into the sink when you turn to the other board to continue your mid- meal prepping. Glass has the advantage of being completely impermeable to germs and bacteria, and of course, almost impossible to scratch. However, the damage a glass cutting board can do to your knives may not make it worth it to you-you'll find yourself becoming far more friendly with your knife sharpener than you ever thought.

If you buy baguettes frequently at the grocery store or bakery, or just like slicing your own bread for sandwiches, a wood bread board can be useful, if not an absolute necessity. A little larger than a loaf of bread, they provide just enough height off the counter to make slicing easy-no more banging your knuckles. Usually coming with an edge of carved flowers or scrollwork, they can provide a tasteful bit of decorative embellishment.

A carving board is an excellent choice for meat, since it provides channels for the juices to run into, angling them into a single area. This is usually reserved for cooked meat, specifically roasts-a great presentation piece. Cleaning, no matter what type you choose, is a must. Wash with hot water and bleach after every use, or if using glass or plastic, place in dishwasher. Never use the same board for cutting raw meat that you use for vegetables and bread, etc.-you'll be taking an unnecessary risk of illness. If you have a wooden board, oil regularly with mineral oil, rubbing in with a paper towel or your hands, then blotting off the excess.