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Purchase and care tips for plastic cutting boards

Plastic cutting boards are economical and will last a long time

The debate over plastic and wood cutting boards rages on with regard to longevity and food safety. The bottom line is to choose a board you are comfortable with and one that you can afford.

High-impact plastic boards are economical in comparison to high-quality wooden models. The cheapest wooden boards will eventually split and may acquire an unsightly black-spotted tinge.

The economical factor also works to advantage from a food safety standpoint. You can probably afford to purchase more than one plastic board; even two or three. Plastic boards are available in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Some people purchase a mix of colors for use with different types of food, which is perfect when preparing a multitude of foods at one time.

When you purchase plastic boards, avoid the models with feet if you want to use both sides of the board. Sometimes it is easier to flip the board over when switching from chopping carrots to slicing fajita meat. Some plastic boards also come in non-skid models: the underside has a special coating to prevent slippage and cannot be used for cutting.

Board sizes vary. Err on the larger end - small boards run out of slicing and stacking space in a hurry. Whether you choose square, rectangular, or round will depend on how much kitchen counter space you have to work with.

Plastic boards are dishwasher safe. However, some experts think that dishwasher hot water may not always be enough to kill off the bacteria, especially as it collects in nicks and grooves. As a precaution, clean your board with a 1 tablespoon/1 gallon ratio of bleach/water or straight vinegar and then run through the dishwasher. Allow to dry thoroughly. A clean and dry board cannot support bacteria.

Regardless of the type of board, always wash your hands frequently and dry the board with a fresh towel between uses; i.e., vegetables to fruits, etc. Plastic is more stain-resistant than wood, by the way, although over time some stains will find their way into the plastic.

Plastic is lighter than wood and, thus, easier to tuck away when not in use. They are also easier to maneuver when transporting food from counter to grill.

Plastic boards are not quite as gentle with knife blades as wooden boards, but that should not influence your final decision. Many plastic boards on the market stress the fact that they are "knife-friendly."

If you already own wooden boards and want to protect them, purchase flexible chopping mats. They lie on top of the wooden boards for protection and easy cleanup. Mats are also good as a stand-alone product and are easy to clean in the sink.

From a presentation standpoint, you may want to purchase a beautiful wooden board for special occasions. However, if you are on a tight budget and have limited storage or counter space, plastic may be the answer for you.


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