Let me respond to each of your points. I've done a LOT of research on the subject, so let me share the wealth:
1) Are wood cutting boards safe? YES! I have found many many many studies and reports, including FDA reports, that show that wood cutting surfaces are at least as safe, and in many cases safer than plastic surfaces with regards to bacteria. Wood grain structure provides a natural defense against bacterial contamination. Some studies specifically say that end-grain constructed boards provide better bacteria protection, others don't distinguish. Of course, proper cleaning is by far the most important factor regardless if its wood, plastic, glass, etc.
2) As long as the board is maple? Maple is TRADITIONALLY used for cutting boards because it is a SUITABLE wood and it was the most abundant suitable wood in the Eastern USA where virtually 100% of the cutting board industry originated. However, there are other woods that are just as suitable. To be suitable, they need to be hardwoods (has nothing to do with hardness, it is a definition. Softwoods are too pourous), need to be sufficiently tight grained (almost all hardwoods are) and preferably impart no odor or taste and be non-toxic transdermally (vitually all woods including maple are toxic when inhaled). Maple has these characteristics, but so does walnut, cherry (slight taste), ash, oak, and purpleheart - as well as many others.
3) End-grain not important? Absolutely not true! Any serious chef should invest in an end-grain cutting board. There is no reason not to! They are more expensive because they are aparantly much more difficult to make - that's the downside. Aside from the bacteria resistance, the main benefit is that they are MUCH easier on your knives. when you spend big $$$ on a nice set of knives, its a no-brainer to buy a cutting board that will make your knives edges last 2-3 times longer! End-grain construction allows the knive to slightly cut into the board rather than smacking against a hard surface. Edge grain is second best, but the common flat grain wood boards are almost as bad on your knives as your countertop is! Of course, plastic is also easy on your knives but are the worst for bacteria after they become used. Glass and marble are excellent for safety, but are the worst on your knives. Another benefit is looks - they are beautiful and they stay that way.
I ended up buying the checkerboard cutting board that I found online, mostly because of the wealth of information they provided AND I was able to verify it from different sources. The only thing I now have against the board is that it looks so good I rarely use it! To solve that problem, I also bought a plain maple one from them and I now use the fancy one for special occasions only. I can't think of the URL right now, but I think i posted it before.
By the way, they gave me a a great discount on the second board for "being a valued repeat customer", which i thought was great.
Thanks for the info s mack. I have a purpleheart cutting board that I won't use because it looks too good and a friend brought it back from Costa Rica!!! LOL I wish my cutting board kitchen island was the end grain but it was just impossible with a board that size. I do have to sharpen my knives quite often!!
I have another question for you - should I somehow clean my board with something other than soap and water occasionally??? That's been my biggest concern.
Yeah, an end-grain cutting board that size would be neat! but expensive (if possible).
Soap and Hot water is all it takes for cleaning. However, the FDA study I found suggests filling a spray bottle with 4 parts water and 1 part 5% vinegar. 5% vinegar is the normal everyday household vinegar that you get at a grocery store. After cleaning with soap and water, spray a fine mist of the vinegar solution over the entire surface and that's it! Don't rinse or dry it.. just let it air dry. Don't worry, the vinegar dissipates and won't leave a taste.
Another site says to use the same solution and whipe it on with a clean cloth rather than spraying. I doubt it really matters though.
The FDA study showed amazing reduction in bacteria with the vinegar solution. They compared it to commercial cleaners and the vinegar did better! They also say to spray the same solution onto your raw fruits and vegetables a few minutes before serving.
I personally don't bother with the vinegar thing - but I take a lot of time scrubbing my cookware, cuttlery, and prep areas thoroughly. I probably should use it, but I'm used to my routine
Thanks for the info again!!! My son is always banging his drum sticks on them, stuff gets set on it and I just feel I should be doing something else besides soap and water. It's funny bit there's marks and stuff on it and I can tell a story about some of them. Like the time my son got mad and stabbed a pen several times into it - wasn't so cute at the time but now I will always remember those marks. Then there's the time a friend helped me cook and he sat at the end - those are the only cut marks over there so far - and so on....and so on......
Shhhhhh...don't tell anyone, but I'm perfectly happy with my MSL cutting board from K-Mart ! The vinegar tip is excellent. We have so many chemical allergic reactions in my family, I try to use as many natural products as possible. In fact, a peditrican told me about vinegar as a cleaner years ago, when my oldest daughter had so many allergy problems.
I just like my good ole plastic (or whatever) ones that I can throw in the dishwasher, or in the trash when they get old. Have had the same ones for abt 5 yrs now, about 6 of them in diff colors and sizes. I do have a few large wooden ones but prefer the ease of the light easy to clean plastic
I heard on Bobby Flay's cooking show that the wooden cutting boards are best. That all we need to clean them with is a rub of lemon and salt. I have both cutting boards, plastic and wood. I use the wooden one to cut my fruits and vegetables and my plastic board to cut my meats. I still insist in washing both with soap and hot water. Pouring boiling water and soaking them for a while should work too. Anything to disinfect them...
I've found this thread very interesting. I recently purchased a butcher block from a company in Vermont. They put my last name first initial in walnut in the middle of a maple butcher block. It was a bit expensive, but it's absolutely beautiful, I hate to cut on it, but I use it every day.
As for soaking wood products in water, that's not good. The instructions that came with my butcher block said to wash with soap and water after use but then dry immediately, no soaking. They also said to wipe down with mineral oil every other week. The company was www.vermontbutcherblock.com and they had some other cool stuff as well.