Cutting boards: wood vs. plastic

Burning Questions

December 28, 2005|By ERICA MARCUS

What is the difference between wood cutting boards and plastic cutting boards?

Soft and forgiving, wood certainly makes the most attractive cutting boards. For years it was thought that plastic provided a less-hospitable environment for bacteria, so plastic cutting boards were considered more hygienic. Recent studies, however, have found that wood may actually have natural bacteria-fighting capabilities, and plastic can no longer play the hygiene card.

To my mind, the two big drawbacks to wood cutting boards are warping and staining. Because wood is porous, it will readily absorb any moisture it meets, and moisture causes warping. (To prevent wood boards from warping, most manufacturers recommend oiling them periodically.)

Even though we've established that wood is no less sanitary than plastic, the latter can be aggressively cleaned in a way that the former cannot. Plastic cutting boards can withstand a good scrubbing or a run through the dishwasher.

Another advantage plastic has over wood is that if your plastic board becomes warped or unalterably stained, you can throw it out and replace it relatively cheaply.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail queries to, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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