Cutting boards: Wood vs Plastic

This debate comes up every now and then... is there a difference between wood and plastic and reason enough to choose one over the other?

Pros: Anti-microbial
Cons: Cost, weight, could damage knives

Pros: Cheaper, lighter
Cons: Wears down quicker, could trap bacteria and spread to other foods

The main difference in the two is that wood is porous so capillary action causes the microbes to be pulled into the wood, away from the surface and the bacteria gradually die inside rather than multiply. When you cut plastic boards, you may notice that after a while there will be slight grooves that form as you wear down the board and cut into the plastic. These areas aren't always thoroughly cleaned and bacteria are able to live and multiply there, especially in the microscopic cuts. This is especially a problem if you use the same cutting board for meat and vegetables where cross contamination could happen. What some people do is designate one side of the board for meat and the other for vegetables and flip it over.

You can clean wooden board and then microwave it to kill everything. Don't over heat it or it could damage it. Plastic boards can withstand cleaning chemicals better than wood so you can bleach these boards to kill everything.

Depending on the board and how hard it is compared to the knife blade, it could dull the knife over time. Very hard woods and glass boards could do this so be careful. Remember it has a finite life. If the plastic is badly damaged, throw it out.

Otherwise, they both get the job done. Just make sure you clean it thoroughly...... Unless you like salmonella


kevan said…
I've always been told to throw cutting boards (esp plastic ones) into the dishwasher because the high heated water kills microbes. Is that right?
Anonymous said…
pretty handy to know there :)
tomkim said…
If there is a "sanitize" setting or some other kind of "hot" setting where the washer heats the water, then it should kill all microbes in the washer.

If not and it just uses hot water straight from tap, it'll depend on how hot the hot water is from the water heater. It should be able to kill most things. If it could get to about 140F, it should be safe. If the hot water from the faucet isn't hot enough to hurt your hand, then it probably isn't enough to kill germs.
Josh Wang said…
I've also heard that wood is naturally bacterially resistant (makes sense since trees need to resist bacteria) and that is what helps reduce contamination.
Anonymous said…
if i had wooden shoes, would it kill the bacteria and not stink?

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