There are some kitchen tools, such as a sharp chef knife, that are considered to be an absolute must in any kitchen, and there are others that are almost used as an afterthought, but which should be on the must-have list.
Cutting & Chopping Boards
The humble chopping board is the perfect example of just such a tool, but even those home cooks who know the importance of the cutting board will often make poor choices when buying one for their kitchen. There are all different kinds of boards out there, made from a wide variety of different materials, but the only one you should have in your kitchen is a wooden cutting board.
People will often shy clear of wooden chopping boards in favor of plastic because they mistakenly believe that the latter is much easier to clean. When a wooden board is cleaned in hot, soapy water, it will absorb the food-borne bacteria that rests on top after food is cut there. While this may seem unhealthy, the reality is that it creates the perfect storm, as said bacteria cannot live and thrive within the wood. Even if you carve a deep slice on a wooden cutting board, the bacteria inside is still unable to come out and interact with whatever food you place on there after the fact. Plastic boards do not possess the same antimicrobial qualities as wood, which means that the bacteria that makes its way into the crevices on said boards cannot always be fully killed off.
This theory has actually been tested out in research studies, where it was found that bacteria could still be recovered from the nicks and cuts in plastic boards, even after being thoroughly rinsed under the faucet. Even when more extreme cleaning methods were used, such as introducing chlorine bleach into the mix, the bacteria still found a way to maintain a hold in the plastic. There are other materials, such as glass and stainless steel, used for cutting boards, but both of those are poor choices, mostly because they do some serious damage to the blade of your knife over time.
Wooden chopping boards serve many different purposes, from being economical to simply being a better option for the environment. When properly maintained, a good wooden cutting board can last a lifetime, especially when made from a sturdy hardwood. Due to the bacteria build-up in plastic boards, they eventually need to be thrown out, at which point they will sit in landfills forever, simply because they cannot be recycled in the way in which wood can if it is past its prime.
Looking after your wooden cutting board is easier than you might think. Simply wash them in hot, soapy water immediately after using them, and then towel-dry them to prevent warping. If your budget allows it, pick up a pair of wooden boards so that you can save one solely for meat, while the other can be used for other types of foods. It really is that simple, whilst also being good for your health and that of the environment.