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When buying a cutting board, you should consider a number of factors besides the material used to construct it. The great debate over wood or plastic may continue to rage for decades, so you may want to use another measuring stick to separate good from bad when it comes to choosing a cutting board. Some of the other factors you should consider are size, quality of workmanship, functionality and storability. The best cutting board in the store would be useless if it doesn't fit properly on your counter top, for example.
One consideration when buying a cutting board is functionality. A quality cutting board is not just a flat piece of wood, stone or plastic, but a work surface designed to provide a safe, sturdy area for food preparation. Look for safety features such as rubberized feet or suction cups, which provide extra security while chopping or cutting. Handles designed to provide portability are also good features, since a very large cutting board can be awkward to move from place to place.
Another element to consider when looking at a cutting board is size. A cutting board that is too large for the counter top may become unstable during use. If the board has rubberized grips or suction cups hanging off the edge of the workspace, a serious accident could occur. Before buying a cutting board, it helps to take measurements of the counter space or table it will eventually occupy. A smaller cutting board should be enough for the occasional vegetable cut-ups, but meat cutting often requires a fairly large cutting surface to accommodate large cuts of meat or poultry. You may want to consider buying different cutting boards for meat cutting and vegetable chopping.
The debate over the best material for a cutting board has not produced a clear winner, so when buying a cutting board you may want to hear both sides out first. Proponents of wooden cutting boards say that wood is a more forgiving material than plastic, which means products tend to stick better and the cutting knives are less likely to be damaged. Plastic cutting board enthusiasts say plastic is easier to sanitize than wood and the surface is more durable than wood in the long run.
Most wooden cutting boards cannot be put in the dishwasher, but they can be hand washed and sanitized with bleach. Plastic cutting boards can usually be placed in a dishwasher, but they can also warp under excessive heat. While the grooves carved into a wooden cutting board can harbor harmful bacteria, the surface area is generally considered much cleaner and safer. If you choose to buy a wooden cutting board, avoid letting foods sit on the surface for long periods of time. If you select a plastic cutting board, keep a clean, sanitized cloth ready to wipe down the surface between food prep sessions.
When buying a cutting board, the decision between plastic, wood or other materials such as marble may not be as important as safety, sanitation and storability. Make sure the cutting board fits the workspace properly and can be easily sanitized and stored away from any contaminants.