When it comes to food safety in the kitchen, most people know to wash their hands, keep counters clean and wash utensils in hot, soapy water.
As we take note of National Food Safety Month during September, it also is a good idea to keep food safety in mind when it comes to one particular kitchen tool – the cutting board.
As you know, cutting boards are available in a number of different materials. They can be made of wood, plastic, marble or other material. What you need to keep in mind is to follow proper food handling and sanitation practices to help prevent cross-contamination that can lead to foodborne illness. Bamboo is a good choice for cutting boards and is harder and less porous than hardwoods. Bamboo absorbs very little moisture and resists scarring from knives, so they are more resistant to bacteria than other woods. Clean bamboo cutting boards with hot, soapy water; sanitize if desired. Rub with mineral oil to help retain moisture.
Although most cooks in the kitchen do not need two of every appliance or gadget available, it is a good idea to have at least two cutting boards available. One should be used exclusively to cut raw meat and poultry. The other cutting board can be used for cutting or chopping fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nonmeat foods.
It is crucial to frequently sanitize your cutting board. Use a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water to sanitize the board after it has been thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water.
Be sure the surface of the cutting board is hard and smooth to prevent pitting. Cutting boards that are pitted could harbor growth of illness-causing bacteria. This happens frequently in the flexible cutting mats that are now popular. Replace cutting boards that have become worn and battered.
Just as a cutting board is an essential tool, a good knife also is a vital part of food preparation, but needs to be handled and cleaned in a safe manner.
Make sure the knife is easy to clean, fits your hand and has a good quality blade. In addition, know how to properly use the right knife for the right cutting job.
Since most stainless steel blades are rust-resistant, it’s important to clean and wipe them dry after each use. There is a difference between rust-resistant and rust-proof. High-carbon stainless steel is rust-resistant, but harder to sharpen. Nonstainless high-carbon blades rust more easily but are easier to sharpen.
Take care when cleaning sharp knives. Those with synthetic handles can be put in the dishwasher, but the cutting edge can be damaged and dulled if it bumps against other things during the wash cycle. Make sure the blade does not touch other cutlery, pots or pans in the dishwasher. The best choice when cleaning knives is to wash them by hand. Make sure there is no food residue where the blade and handle connect. Knives should be dried immediately after washing and stored in a safe place. Remember to keep things clean to keep you and your family safe.
Nickels, MS, RD/LD, is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Garfield County.