Wooden cutting boards have been around for centuries, whereas bamboo is a relatively new material in American kitchens. Wood and bamboo are actually quite similar when it comes to performance, cleanliness and care. The main advantage of bamboo over wood is that it is a fast-growing, renewable resource.
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Wood Cutting Boards
Wood cutting boards come in two varieties: the more common flat-grain type and the more durable end-grain type. Most wood cutting boards are made from hardwoods like maple and beech for their durability, but pine (softwood) and exotic woods like acacia, purpleheart and sheesham are also available.
Bamboo Cutting Boards
Bamboo cutting boards are composed of narrow strips of bamboo that are glued together. When purchasing a bamboo cutting board, be sure to check that the glue used is safe to consume. Bamboo is an extremely hard substance; according to BambooCuttingBoard.com, it is 16 percent harder than maple. This means that bamboo is durable and will not take on as many knife marks as softwood or plastic.
It is widely believed that plastic cutting boards are more sanitary than their wood and bamboo counterparts. In reality, natural cutting boards have performed as well as plastic, if not better than, in studies about bacteria growth. Boursillon and Reithmüller’s study “The Safety of Wooden Cutting Boards” found that beech and pine boards retained the same amount bacteria, or fewer, and were easier to clean than plastic. The study also determined that pine exhibited natural antimicrobial properties. CullinaryIntellegence.com cites Dr. Dean Cliver’s similar study, which proved that bacteria are less likely to survive on a worn wood board than a comparable plastic board. As for bamboo, its hardness prevents scarring, thus creating fewer areas for bacteria to live. BambooCuttingBoard.org claims that bamboo is also naturally antimicrobial. So both wood and bamboo are as safe as plastic, or safer, when it comes to cutting boards.
The same procedure applies for washing bamboo and wood cutting boards. Wipe the surface with a warm soapy rag, rinse and then dry the board immediately. This method will prevent warping and bacteria growth since bacteria need water to survive. Bamboo and wood should never be put in the dishwasher, because the prolonged exposure to heat and moisture will likely warp and dull the wood.
To keep your cutting board looking and performing at its best, it is important to treat it a few times per year. GreenLivingTips.com suggests wiping your wooden board with beeswax or coconut oil. Mineral oil is also a common choice. Do not use cooking oils, such as vegetable oil or olive oil, because these tend to go rancid. For bamboo, rub the board with bamboo oil periodically. Treating your cutting board with oil and/or wax will prevent it from absorbing liquids and keep the surface smooth.