How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board - and Whether It's Safe to Chop Raw Meat on Them

Learning the rules of food hygiene is important for any amateur cook.

When it comes to rustling up a quick dinner, knowing how to properly clean your wooden chopping boards is vital.

Unlike plastic or glass chopping boards, wood has a tendency to absorb oils and liquids, meaning it is important to wash these thoroughly and use them appropriately.

Newsweek spoke to food hygiene experts about how best to clean these cutting boards, and what foods to chop on them.

Can You Chop Raw Meat on a Wooden Chopping Board?

According to the experts, chopping raw meat on a wooden cutting board is perfectly fine, but it is important to watch out for liquids.

In the case of raw meat, there could be liquids or blood that come from the meat when cut, which if left to pool for long periods can be absorbed into the wood.

This will ultimately make it difficult to clean properly, risking the spread of harmful bacteria.

A representative from the U.K. Food Standards Agency told Newsweek: "When using wooden cutting boards, it is best to avoid excess water or oil that can be absorbed into the wood. This is especially important when it comes to blood from raw or cooked meat, which should never be allowed to pool for long periods.

"Wooden cutting boards are just as safe to use as plastic ones, provided they are washed thoroughly between uses."

Stock image of raw meat on board
Stock image of raw meat on a wooden chopping board. Experts revealed whether it was safe to cut raw meat on these boards. Getty Images

Food hygiene expert Jenna Brown agreed with this, adding the most effective way to ensure there is no cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods is to use color-coding.

It is also essential to make sure that when wooden chopping boards are cracked or wearing, they are disposed of.

She told Newsweek: "Irrespective of the material used for your chopping board, it must be thoroughly cleaned between uses and maintained in good order(replaced as soon as it is heavily scored or when staining/cracking of a board occurs).

"In order to prevent cross-contamination between foods such as raw meat and ready to eat foods, you should be colour coding your boards based on their use (red for raw meat, green for ready to eat etc) which is easy to do when using plastic boards."

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Each expert agreed that the best way to ensure you are safe when using cutting boards is to properly clean it.

This is vital when using raw meats, and as Brown suggested, using different boards for different produce is a good way to do this, as is the case in commercial kitchens.

Stock image of cleaning a wooden board
Stock image of someone cleaning a wooden board. Hot soapy water and rinsing the board is the best way to clean it. Getty Images

When it comes to cleaning, the experts differed on whether these can be placed in a dishwasher, with Brown suggesting handwashing is best for wooden boards.

The F.S.A. suggested using disinfectant cleaning products or warm, soapy water, as well as ensuring to keep hands washed during the chopping process.

Lisa Robinson, vice president food safety & public health at Ecolab suggested hot soapy water, rinsing and using clean paper towels to dry, or using a dishwasher.

Robinson also had a recipe for a special cleaning concoction which can sanitize wooden boards.

She told Newsweek: "Both wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of one tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels."

Ultimately, the key ingredient when chopping is to avoid cross-contamination, keep your hands and boards clean and make sure to watch for the tell-tale signs of wear and tear, at which point the wooden boards need to go straight in the garbage.

Stock image of chicken on wooden board
Stock image of chicken on a wooden chopping board. Getty Images