There’s no reason you can’t cut meat on a wood cutting board as long as you know how to clean wood cutting boards and disinfect them properly.
WAIT, NOT PLASTIC?
For the longest time, home cooks were encouraged to use plastic boards, only to find out that plastic cutting boards harbor more dangerous bacteria than wooden ones, especially when food residues like chicken fat are involved.
Not surprisingly, many of us have switched back to using wood cutting boards exclusively. But after chopping onions, mincing garlic, or preparing chicken, it’s impossible not to wonder how to clean your cutting board to get those smells — and germs — out.
Fortunately, it’s straightforward to do.
How To Clean Wood Cutting Boards
The key to keeping your wood cutting board in like-new condition is regular cleaning and a little TLC when needed. Here’s how and when to do each step to keep your cutting board in great shape.
Wash After Each Use
Wood cutting boards should never be submerged in water or washed in the dishwasher. Use hot water, a dish rag or sponge, and a little liquid dish detergent instead. Be sure to clean both sides; even though you didn’t cut food on the back doesn’t mean your hands, which touched the food, didn’t transfer germs to it. Rinse thoroughly then let air-dry.
Deodorize As Needed
Many foods don’t leave a worrisome odor, so a good wash after use is sufficient to clean your cutting board. After cooking more pungent foods, use lemon and salt to scour it. To do this, wash the board then sprinkle it liberally with table salt. Cut a lemon in half and, while squeezing the lemon to get the juice out, scrub the salt into the board. The lemon juice’s citric acid will neutralize odors.
Contrary to internet rumors, though, the combination of lemon juice and salt isn’t strong enough to disinfect your cutting board. While it does have antimicrobial properties, it’s not potent enough to kill things like salmonella from raw chicken. So don’t skip the next step when you’ve had raw meat on your cutting board.
Disinfect After Cutting Meats
There are three ways to disinfect a wood cutting board. Use only one method, rather than a combination, because there are some cleaning products you should NEVER mix, including these.
1. You can drench it with one tablespoon bleach stirred into 1 gallon of water and let that sit for 5 minutes before rinsing.
2. Or spray it directly with straight white vinegar and let that air-dry.
3. Or pour a cup of hydrogen peroxide over it until it’s very wet, wait 10 minutes, then rinse and dry.
Seal and Protect Monthly
A light coating of mineral oil keeps your wood cutting board from drying out and cracking, a condition that makes it hospitable to bacteria. Once a week, or when it begins to look dull, use a soft cloth to liberally apply mineral oil to the board, including the sides.
Warming the oil slightly in the microwave may help it seep into the board better, but as long as you use enough oil, you’re good. Let this sit overnight, then buff the board with a clean cloth before use. (Don’t use vegetable or olive oils as these may turn rancid and attract pests.)
Sand Lightly As Needed
A roughed up board is more likely to harbor food odors and residue. Twice a year, use a piece of fine-grit sandpaper and a sanding block to get rid of nicks then wash and oil your board. It will look like new again and, with such regular attention, will last for years to come.