Why board cleaning is important and why cutting boards are evil
I am a Food Safety Manager and this my kitchen safety series for kids
“What’s the big deal with cutting board cleaning?” In this article I am going to talk about why cutting boards are the most evil, filthy, dangerous pieces of equipment in your kitchen. And then we will look at the best ways to stop them from hurting your family.
Cutting boards are the second most important tool in the kitchen and all kids need to know the dirty truth about cutting board safety.
Without cutting boards and knives, there would be no stirfry or lasagna. Using the right tool and keeping it safe to use, is constantly in a good chef’s mind. All chefs use boards, they are my #2 important tool I always have with me.
The reason cutting board cleaning and use is such a BIG deal is that, the best way to pass germs around is to touch anything. And cutting boards get used a lot in the kitchen, so they touch EVERYTHING.
Kids who want to just get busy cooking and baking in the kitchen might not stop to think about the creepy crawlies that live, dine and grow on cutting boards, GROSS. Because of this, we are going to look at using using cutting boards and board cleaning.
Kitchen’s dirty little secrets: Using a cutting board and board cleaning
“It’s okay to use anything to cut on as long as you don’t cut on the counter”
That’s something you may have heard, which by the way, is totally WRONG.
Cutting boards are dangerous because they all have cuts in them from knives . Germs, toxins like mold and bacteria live and breed in those cracks! GROSS. I will write more about how to store food safely after you cut it, in another blog. Just know that board cleaning and selection is what you need to do to keep evil organisms from getting on food we serve.
Does this sound familiar? Mom made chicken Caesar salad last night, her favorite quick meal. She put the store bought cooked chicken on that cutting board to keep it off the counter because the juices were dripping.
Your brother didn’t want to do his chores last night in the kitchen. So, he rinsed everything off and left it all in the sink but put the board on top, instead of cleaning the plastic cutting board.
The next morning, you are in a rush to make it to school. You want to grab a quick sandwich. You throw two pieces of bread on a cutting board you see in the sink, your favorite fixings, wrap it up and run to catch your ride! Ringing any bells?
So, bacteria from all those dirty dishes and the chicken juice had plenty of time to multiply and enjoy themselves on the cutting board where you made your sandwich.YIKES!
EVILS OF CROSS-CONTAMINATION
What is Cross-Contamination?
When stuff gets from one thing to another thing, chefs call that Cross-Contamination. When we are cutting up chicken for a stir-fry and go to cut up the vegetables, would we want to use the same board? The correct answer is, “NO!” When you are getting ready to grill steaks and roast corn on the grill outside, do you use the same cutting board to trim the corn that you seasoned the steaks on? The correct answer is, “NO!”
So being careful; when you do different tasks in the kitchen to always use a clean cutting board is important. If you are planning to make a great organic salad you can buy organic chicken and organic salad stuff, but if you’re not careful, things can get nasty very quickly. Here’s a couple more examples of common myths about cutting boards:
It’s okay to use the same cutting board when grilling because everything gets cooked anyway!
Bacteria will grow at temperatures below 140 degrees. We call this the Danger Zone. The room temperature for most home kitchens is 65-78 degrees, dirty cutting boards are basically perfect places to farm for food poisoning.
ANY food that has been contaminated with raw protein, must reach 140 degrees or it is not safe to eat. So how is that lettuce or the buns on the board going to be safe to eat?
It’s okay to put cooked steak on the same board as raw steak because they are the same meat.
WRONG! Do not do this!!! Get another cutting board to sit your cooked meats on. The cooked meat with soak up the raw juice and POOF, it’s as serious as a porcupine in a balloon factory.
How do you keep cutting boards safe to use?
Use separate cutting boards
- Use wooden or bamboo cutting boards to slice, chop and cut all vegetables and fruits and baked goods. These items don’t make you sick if they aren’t cooked. So it’s okay to just clean wood cutting boards or bamboo boards in the sink. (They don’t dry out and won’t warp that way)
- Use a separate cutting board for cheeses, this can be bamboo or wood because their protein will not leak into the pores of the cutting board.
- Use a separate plastic cutting board to carve or hold cooked meats. This is for all cooked meats. Juices from meats will seep into the tiny cracks and breed icky germs, GROSS!
- Use a separate plastic cutting board for all raw meats and fish. Because fish is cooked to different temperatures and carries different parasites, never place it on the same chopping board. The safest thing to do is have different cutting boards for beef, chicken, pork and fish. White for pork, red for beef, orange for chicken, blue for fish.
Wash and store cutting boards properly
- Wash wooden cutting boards in very warm running water with lots of soap. Let them air dry completely before storing or stacking them.
- You can do the same with plastic boards and then put plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher for extra protection. Let boards air dry completely before storing.
- If you are concerned about something that has touched the board, after washing the board, sanitize it with spray bottle of water and 1 tablespoon of bleach. Let the mixture sit on the board for 5 minutes, then rinse with water and air dry completely before storing.
When your cutting board looks like this, throw it out!!! The build up of bacteria that can live in all the deep cuts is too dangerous. It is much safer to just throw it out and get a new board. Every year you should replace your cutting boards every year.
Here’s are tests I use to see if it’s time to throw out a board:
- If I rub a wet paper towel over the board and it shreds because of the cuts in the board, it goes into the trash.
- If there is a black or dark color on the board that won’t come out after cleaning.
- If the board has a strong smell that won’t come out after cleaning.
Be aware and be safe. Clean and store your boards carefully. They are a great tool for any chef if used correctly.
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