Most of cooking is preparation, and along with knives, chopping boards are among the most used items in the kitchen. With so many choices out there at so many price ranges, you could be forgiven for being confused when it comes to the right choice. The right choice for your kitchen should be a combination of factors.
When you set up your kitchen, try a set of plastic boards and two wooden boards in different sizes. Try using both, see what you prefer and expand your collection from there. Joseph Joseph have taken the guesswork out of choosing plastic boards, with the Index range. Colour-coded and pictorially indexed, there are four boards per set, accommodating four foodstuffs (meat, fish, veg, and cooked food). Excellent.
What not to do
It’s so tempting to get things that look great, without thinking too much about the consequences. Best chopping board wood have long been touted as attractive and germ-free, but they are the worst board you could use in terms of knife blade care. In the best case scenario, glass dents and dulls blades, in the worst, the chopping motion can shatter the glass, leaving shards of broken glass in the food.
Not ideal. Steel is also touted as hygienic and long-lasting, but shares the same characteristics as glass in terms of damaging knives. In short, if you value your knives, a softer board is much healthier for them.
What to think of when buying boards
Some cooks like to have clean counters, with everything put away while others like the look of a big chopping block out on the counter at all times. There is a board for everyone, and finding the right one is just a matter of working out what is important to you in the kitchen – style, longevity of your knives, or price. Best case scenario? A happy compromise of all three.
Whether you like them neat and put away or larger and more permanent, think of stability when buying your boards. Sliding around the counter is not a good look, and can result in cutting fingers. You can ensure stability in a few ways. A big, sturdy block should be hefty enough to stay put, and a plastic board with silicone feet is sure to stay where you put it.
If you have neither of those things, and have opted for a smaller, non-footed board, investigate Chobs from Dreamfarm. These silicone feet clip to boards of all sizes, simultaneously raising them off the counter (so you can use either side for food prep – effectively two boards in one), and creating a non-slip secure grip on the counter.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a wooden board, there are still so many to choose from. Go for a hardwood board – it will last longer, and inhibit bacterial growth, and although they cost more than soft pine boards, they are much more long-wearing in the long run. The investment is worth it.
End-grain boards are so called because they are cut across the grain of the wood that has been compressed together. The end-grain is supposed to be better at self-healing, as the blade goes between the fibres which close back up afterwards. End-grain boards are more difficult to make, and are thus more expensive, but are very long-lasting, which justifies the investment.
Edge-grain boards are the more common type, cut along the grain of the wood. Most cheaper wooden boards are edge-grain, which is by no means a bad thing. Wood is more self-healing than, for example, plastic boards. It is, however, advisable to buy edge-grain boards in hardwoods, to minimise the possibility of bacteria getting caught in the cuts, and the wood softening from water retention over time.
Bamboo, which is actually a grass, is a popular choice of material for wooden boards. It’s purported to have antibacterial qualities, and is very hard when compressed into boards.
Taking care of your boards
Now that you’ve decided on your boards, you need to care for them. Most hard plastic boards can be put in the dishwasher, and the hot water will help to cleanse bacteria from the cuts. Wooden boards of any grain, however, will need to be washed with hot, soapy water and a brush, and left to air dry. A spritz with white vinegar will help sanitise them even further, and oiling the wood will help the board to repel water and bacteria alike. While you can use food oils, like olive or canola oils, it’s not advised, as the old oil will start to smell after a while, and eventually go rancid. It is better to use a food-grade mineral oil to seal the board from water, bacteria, and other harmful substances. This will significantly increase the lifetime of the board.