Cutting boards are an essential part of just about any food prep that goes on in the kitchen. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and if you don’t clean your cutting board(s), you could join the one in six Americans who get sick from food poisoning on an annual basis.
Do I Need Separate Cutting Boards for Meat and Vegetables?
If you routinely and thoroughly clean your cutting board after cutting meat on it, you don’t need a separate cutting board for vegetables. You could also just cut your veggies first. However, Convenience-wise, it’s better to own two cutting boards, one for veggies and one for meats.
The biggest threat is cross-contamination also known as food contamination. While that sounds like something straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster movie, replete with sprinting, lunatic zombies, or overrun hospital wards, it holds for your kitchen as well.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about using the same cutting board for meats and vegetables. Plus, we’ll discuss why you should consider having multiple cutting boards.
Can You Use The Same Cutting Board for Meat and Vegetables?
There’s no rule that you can’t use the same cutting board for meats and vegetables. That said, it will require more work on your part to clean and sanitize the cutting board between uses.
How To Properly Sanitize A Cutting Board
Most “experts” will advise you to clean it in hot, soapy water with a good hard scrub and a thorough rinse. However, you’re dealing with the residues from raw meat here.
So instead, you’ll want to use the steps below to properly remove all bacteria, especially when using one cutting board for several foods.
- Combine lemon juice and salt
- Use the combo to scour the cutting board clean
- Rinse with cold water
- Combine a quart of water with two teaspoons of chlorine bleach
- Scrub it down again
- Rinse in hot, soapy water
It seems like quite a bit of work to switch over to vegetables. Well, you want to make sure that there’s no cross-contamination because salmonella poisoning is brutal. There’s also the possibility of worms and E. Coli.
Here’s how to clean a knife after cutting chicken to help you avoid food contamination.
Unless you prefer high fever, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, headaches, or worse, a meticulous cleaning process isn’t too much to ask. Optionally, you can get a second cutting board and keep one set aside for meats and the other for fruits and veggies.
If you only have one cutting board and you aren’t feeling a trip to the store, cut your vegetables and fruits first, as those residual juices are harmless and edible. They certainly won’t hurt if they get on the meat afterward.
The lemon juice and salt help penetrate the pores in the material of your cutting board to help clean out absorbed juices, and therefore bacteria. Its also acidic, which is helpful on any cleaning surface.
Cleaning it off with cold water is neither beneficial nor disadvantageous; it just helps to deactivate the acid from the lemon juice before sanitizing it.
The chlorine bleach and water scrub are to sanitize the cutting board thoroughly. There are no harmful bacteria or viruses in meat that can survive an interaction with bleach. So you don’t have to scour it like the lemon juice; just thoroughly cover it.
When it’s sanitized, give it a once-over with hot water and soap before thoroughly rinsing it under hot water. Once you dry it off, it’s ready to go.
Of course, you could always throw it in the dishwasher; however, it’s pretty counterproductive considering the fact that you’re trying to quick-swap without two cutting boards. Also, it’s surprising how often people are averse to using dishwashers.
Would Anti-Microbial Cutting Boards Help?
Antimicrobial cutting boards sound great in theory, but there’s a problem. Most antimicrobial cutting boards contain a substance called triclosan (Microban). As a result, there are trace amounts of transferrence when you throw food on the cutting board.
Microban has two studied and detrimental effects on animals: Endocrine system disruption and the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Neither one is something that you want to be exposed to.
Wooden cutting boards aren’t advertised as being antimicrobial. However, they are far more effective as an antimicrobial surface than the cutting boards that are touted as the next best thing since the invention of penicillin.
The porousness of the wood is what is so effective. The one feature that most people would consider its weakness is actually its greatest strength.
When raw meat is cut on a wooden cutting board, the pores draw the bacteria down into the wood, where it essentially starves and dies. Two types of wooden cutting boards combat microbes: end-grain wooden cutting boards and edge-grain wooden cutting boards.
Of the two, end-grain cutting boards are the best for antimicrobial purposes, and it’s largely due to their design. The wood that’s fused together in an end-grain cutting board is done in a vertical position, giving it an advantage as it’s in line with your cutting strokes.
The vertical design is far superior to edge-grain boards when it comes to bacteria absorption. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to fuse the wood in this way, so it’s a little pricier than the alternative.
What’s The Best Way To Safely Use Cutting Boards?
The best way to prevent health hazards through cross-contamination is to just use one board for meats—fish, chicken, eggs, etc.—and another board for vegetables and fruits. When we say one board for each, we mean all of the time, as in one cutting board is permanently assigned to meats.
It’s actually beneficial to have a cutting board just for meats and a cutting board just for vegetables. The reason is that some boards are better for cutting vegetables, and some are better for cutting meats.
Best Cutting Boards For Meats
The best cutting boards for meats will have juice grooves to accommodate knife strokes and are easy to sanitize.
- Plastic Cutting Boards
- Rubber Cutting Boards
- Wooden Cutting Boards
Plastic cutting boards are entirely non-porous, so they are easy to clean and sanitize. They’re also easy on the knives. However, time will scar them up pretty good, and you should get rid of it once the knife marks are too deep.
Rubber cutting boards are excellent for knives as they don’t resist the edges of knife blades, and they’re self-healing. In addition, they aren’t porous and are easy to clean and sanitize while also being dishwasher safe. Like plastic boards, however, they need to go when they get too scratched up.
Wooden cutting boards are heavily porous, absorbing the harmful bacteria from raw meat. As a result, they aren’t damaging to knives either. However, they are more challenging to clean and sanitize, and they will also stain easily.
Best Cutting Boards For Fruits And Vegetables
The good thing about vegetables and fruits is that you don’t have to worry about the constant sanitation and the spread of germs through the presence of raw meat.
- Glass/Stone Cutting Boards
- Wooden Cutting Boards
- Rubber Cutting Boards
Granted, you shouldn’t use glass or stone cutting boards, even for vegetables. However, they’re great for vegetables and fruits during food prep, mixing, seasoning, and for setting down a hot pan/pot.
Wooden cutting boards are great for vegetables as well. While Bamboo isn’t as highly recommended for meat cutting as regular wood is, Bamboo is a great option for veggies and fruits.
Rubber cutting boards are good with veggies and fruits for all of the same reasons that they’re good for meats. They’re very knife-friendly, dishwasher safe, and durable.
While you should stick with the wood, rubber, or plastic cutting boards for meats, that also frees you up to get a little creative with a separate cutting board for fruits and vegetables.
Besides, it’s always good to keep more than one cutting board in the house. For the most part, they’re not too expensive, always useful, and you should have more than one to keep your vegetables and meats separated.
If money is tight, you can use one cutting board for both meats and vegetables. Prep the vegetables before the meat and make sure you’re correctly sanitizing the board after use.
That said, if you find yourself grilling often, it’s best to have multiple cutting boards to make your life so much easier!
N/A. (April 25, 2018). Why Using Separate Cutting Boards for Meat and Produce is Important. Retrieved from: https://www.butcherblockboards.com/news/seperate-cutting-board-safety.aspx
Heck, A. (April 25, 2021). The Ultimate Non-toxic Cutting Board Guide (+ Top 5 Picks) Retrieved from: https://thegoodlifedesigns.com/non-toxic-cutting-board/