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Staying at home and cooking three times a day every day, I realized it was time to replace my wooden cutting board. While researching for cutting boards, I found that I should have two separate cutting boards for raw meat and vegetables/ fruits to be used separately. Apparently, bacteria from meat can stay in scratches and grooves on the cutting board and contaminate other foods. What would be the best material for a cutting board? After all, I am putting food that my family and I eat daily directly on the cutting board. This includes foods that are cut on the cutting board and ingested right after without cooking. Therefore, I needed a cutting board that is made with non toxic materials and also material that doesn’t keep and grow bacteria easily. In this post, I share with you what cutting board material is best and what non toxic cutting board options are available.
Cutting Board Materials
Cutting boards can be made with solid wood, bamboo, plastic, glass, ceramic or marble. Solid wood material is the best for a cutting board. I would avoid bamboo, plastic, glass, ceramic or marble materials for every day cooking. Let’s take a look at each material.
Solid wood is the best type of material for a cutting board. First, solid wood is non toxic. It also has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Also, it doesn’t dull knives as many other cutting board materials do. In addition, wood is attractive. It has a nice look and feel. It is an ideal material for a cutting board. The only downside is that solid wood cutting boards need maintenance. You may have to occasionally apply oil or wax for protection of the wood so that water or liquid doesn’t penetrate wood. Oil also prevents wood from becoming dry which causes cracking.
There are several things to look for when choosing a solid wood cutting board. Solid wood itself is non toxic but it can emit harmful chemicals if toxic glue is used to glue solid wood pieces together. When a cutting board is made from one piece solid wood, no glue is used. Therefore, no toxic chemicals are emitted from glue in the cutting board. On the contrary, when wooden cutting boards are made from pieces or strips of wood, they are attached together with glue. The problem is some glues contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. End grain and edge grain cutting boards are examples of wood pieces glued together. Type of glue used to make a cutting board is usually not listed when buying a cutting board. Therefore, we do not know the type of glues used unless we make an extra step to ask a manufacturer. If you could find a solid wood cutting board that is made from one piece of solid wood, that would be the best choice.
There are tons of wood spieces in solid wood. However, maple, beech, teak, walnut, ash hard woods work best as solid wood cutting board materials. I wouldn’t choose a cutting board made from reclaimed wood since I don’t know where that reclaimed wood came from. The reclaimed wood could have been contaminated with toxic paints, chemicals or molds in previous use.
Another thing you may want to check out with a solid wood cutting board is its finish. Finish is applied on the wooden board to keep it from drying out and cracking. It also prevents liquids from penetrating the board so that bacteria doesn’t grow. Most solid cutting boards out there use mineral oils as their finishes. You will find many good quality solid wood cutting boards use a food-grade mineral oil. Mineral oil is derived from petroleum. Untreated and mildly treated mineral oils are toxic and carcinogenic. Food-grade mineral oils, on the other hand, are highly refined and are considered safe for use in the kitchen. Food-grade mineral oils are tasteless, odorless and colorless. They also prevent water absorption so food-grade mineral oil is a popular choice for wooden cutting boards. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), highly refined oils are classified as group 3 (Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans). Group 3 means there is inadequate evidence that mineral oils are carcinogens so they are not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans. However, refined mineral oils are still a by-product of refined crude oil. If you want to avoid petroleum-based ingredients, there are other non toxic finishes available. Non toxic finishes include coconut oil, linseed oil, walnut oil, carnauba wax, and beeswax. Since most wooden cutting boards use mineral oil, solid wood cutting boards with a non toxic finish is not easy to find. However, it is worth it.
Bamboo is considered to be a renewable resource because it grows fast. Bamboo cutting boards are naturally antimicrobial, easy to clean, affordable and have some other positive properties. Many bamboo products claim that bamboo is eco-friendly and non toxic. However, bamboo wood is often made from laminated strips of bamboo, therefore, glue is used. Bamboo is cut into strips, pressure-steamed, kiln-dried then the strips are pressed together with glue into sheets or blocks. Then go through a heat and/or UV process. Some glues used for wood contain formaldehyde which is a carcinogen. Although it is possible that a manufacturer may not use glue containing formaldehyde, the type of glue used is usually not disclosed when you purchase bamboo cutting boards. Consumers often do not know that bamboo wood is made of strips of bamboo glued together. Also, the majority of bamboo is grown in China where it is not always sustainably grown and harvested. Although bamboo may seem like a healthy choice, it is not an ideal material if you would like to avoid glue.
Plastic is a material to avoid in our everyday life as much as possible. It is made up of tons of toxic chemicals and plastic products are everywhere. They are not only harmful to our health but they also destroy our environment. Plastic cutting boards are usually made of high-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) and it is considered safe. However, almost all plastics can leach estrogenic chemicals including BPA free plastic and high density polyethylene. In a study of 455 commercially available plastic products from the US, every single one of the unstressed PET plastics tested positive for the estrogenic chemicals. 78% of the HDPE plastics, and 57% of the PP plastics leached the estrogenic chemicals in liquid solution. Although you are not storing food in liquid when cutting food on a plastic cutting board, this shows that plastic is not the healthiest material. Plastic can contain BPA, phthalates, chrorine, triclosan and other harmful chemicals and these chemicals are linked to birth defects, allergies, asthma, hormone disruption, liver damage and cancer. Although small amounts of toxic chemicals may not cause immediate health effects, small amounts of toxic chemicals can still accumulate over time.
On top of plastic being made up of harmful chemicals, they are less sanitary than wooden cutting boards. According to a study done by the University of Michigan suggests wooden cutting boards are more sanitary than plastic ones. The study found that bacteria can stay where cuts occurred by a sharp knife on the cutting board and more bacteria were recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface. Also another study done by the University of Wisconsin, wooden cutting boards consistently had much better results than plastic ones when bacterias such as Salmonella, Listeria and Enterohemorrhagic E.coli were placed on both wood and plastic cutting boards. It is easier for a knife to damage a plastic cutting board than a wooden board. Bacteria can stay and grow in the grooves occurred by a knife. Bacteria that are hiding in the grooves can’t be removed easily with plastic cutting boards. Some plastic cutting boards are coated with antibacterial chemicals such as Microban (a toxic antibacterial chemical, triclosan) to prevent from bacteria from growing. Triclosan may be linked to endocrine disruption and cancer. The chemical is not only toxic but also may result in antimicrobial resistance over time. Therefore, it is best to avoid cutting boards treated with microban. Whether you’re taking a stab at cooking for the first time or you are a seasoned pro, culinary success can be found using a simple recipe. It is equal parts following directions, not following directions, and the using right tools for the job. That’s why a well-made knife set makes all the difference. Find the perfect cutlery for whatever task is at hand, what is a santoku knife used for kitchen tasks and whatever budget you have, at viebelles.com.
Glass, Ceramic, Marble
A glass cutting board is nonporous and easy to clean. You can also put it in the dishwasher. Maintenance is pretty easy which does not require oiling like wooden cutting boards do. However, the hard surface of a glass cutting board can make your sharp knife dull fast. A glass cutting board also makes a loud noise when you are cutting food on it. In addition, due to the nature of a material, it could be dangerous when dropped. Glass cutting boards are ideal for prepping for baking like kneading dough. Ceramic and marble cutting boards will also damage your knives so they may not be good material choices for a cutting board.
Non Toxic Cutting Boards – Urthware Cutting Boards
Solid hard wood is the best material for a cutting board. Then what non toxic solid wood cutting boards are available? Which company carries solid wood cutting boards that have a non toxic finish? The Canadian company called, Urthware carries the high quality, non toxic cutting boards. All of Urthware cutting boards have following specifications.
Wood: A cutting board is made from one solid piece of Canadian Hard Maple. No glue, petroleum-based materials, antisap stain coatings (no fungicides, herbicides or pesticides when milling lumber) are used.
Hard Maple is one of the hardest, and most durable woods, and can withstand heavy use in a kitchen. ALL professional grade butcher block and cutting boards are made of Hard Maple. It is a closed grained hardwood (unlike oak, etc) that doesn’t absorb bacteria easily, and with antibacterial properties on top of that it makes it the most preferred wood for cutting boards and wooden utensils.
Finish: 100% organic food grade finishes (no petroleum derived coatings). No mineral oil is used.
Finish options include Organic MCT Coconut Oil-Beeswax/Carnauba Wax and Organic MCT Coconut Oil-Carnauba Wax (VEGAN)
Feet: All natural gum tree rubber feet hand cut by them (no PVC, ABS or other synthetic materials such as synthetic rubber)
Hardware: Only high grade stainless steel hardware ( internal stainless steel re-enforcing rods, and stainless steel screws) are used. The boards are re-enforced with two high grade stainless steel rods in the middle of the board to help stabilize the wood, reducing the chance of wood movement (warping).
*Urthware All Natural Series Easy Handle cutting boards and Eco Feather small size do not have hardware.
Made In: Hand made in Canada
For every Urthware board sold, they plant a tree to offset their footprint on this earth!
[Update Mar.28, 2021] Unfortunately, Urthware closed their business due to pandemic. That is too bad because they were truly a unique cutting board store that sold high quality solid wood cutting boards and utensils.
Most of other brand cutting boards have mineral oil as their finish. If you want to avoid mineral oil finish, here are some options for unfinished solid wood cutting boards. With these boards, you can apply natural oil of your choice. I have also listed a couple of natural oil options below.
Unfinished Solid Wood Cutting Boards
Natural Oil Finish
Urthware All Natural Series Easy Handle Cutting Board – Non Toxic Cutting Board
Urthware All Natural Series Easy Handle cutting boards can be used as cutting boards as well as cheese boards or bread board. The handle fits in the hand comfortably for a solid grip. The cutting board can be hung on a hook or left flat on its all natural gum rubber non-slip feet on the counter. Small and large sizes are available.
Urthware All Natural Series Simplicity Cutting Board – Non Toxic Cutting Board
Urthware All Natural Series Eco Feather Cutting Board – Non Toxic Cutting Board
Urthware Eco-Feather cutting board is smaller and thinner than the Simplicity Series. It is light and easy to use, store, and wash. Eco-feather boards are all under 3 lbs. It is perfect for small jobs around your kitchen such as: cutting onions, garlic, an apple for the kids, sandwiches, cooking small meals. Small, medium and large sizes are available.
Urthware Wooden Utensils – Non Toxic Utensils
Wood: Ethically harvested Canadian Hard Maple (No petrochemical materials)
Finishes: 100% organic food grade finishes (no petroleum derived coatings)
Made In: Hand made in Canada
Non Toxic Cutting Board Finishes
Natural unsaturated oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, vegetable oils on cutting boards can go rancid quickly. Mineral oil won’t go rancid, however, it is derived from petroleum. If you are looking for an alternative to mineral oils, fractionated coconut oil is great. Coconut is high in saturated fat and low in unsaturated fat. Saturated fats are very stable compared unsaturated fats. Therefore, coconut oil is slow to oxidize and highly resistant to rancidity. However, unrefined and refined coconut oil can both eventually go rancid over time.
Fractionated coconut oil (or MCT coconut oil), on the other hand, will not go rancid. With fractionated coconut oil, most or all of long-chain fatty acids present in coconut oil have also been eliminated. Then the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are left and the oil will stay in liquid form, not in solid form. The medium chain triglycerides (MCT) is saturated fat that is really stable and offer a long shelf life. Fractionated coconut oil does not smell like coconut. Here are some non toxic coconut finishes for cutting boards.
Urthware Care Cutting Board Organic Finishes – Non Toxic Organic Finishes
Urthware carries 100% organic cutting board oil and wax.
Cutting board oil is double filtered and pure coconut based oil (fractionated/distilled/filtered coconut oil), using only 100% organic certified natural plant based ingredients, with a very light aroma of organic citrus added for a light, fresh, clean scent. Primarily to be used as a precursor, pre-treatment before applying our Urthware Organic Cutting Board WAX.
Cutting board wax is used with cutting board oil to help protect wooden surfaces to an even greater degree. It is made of 100% USDA certified organic MCT coconut oil, certified organic blend of Canadian/USA beeswax & organic carnauba wax blend. Unlike NON-organic MCT Oils, there are no chemicals or filler oils used during coconut oil removal process from coconuts.
Urthware cutting board oil and wax contain no artificial or petroleum based products, and no fillers ( i.e. Absolutely no mineral oil or paraffin wax). It is all natural with no preservatives and no GMO. It is gluten free, hexane free and vegan.
*Read their instructions if your cutting board is previously finished in a petroleum based oil finish and want to use these oil and wax.
Non Toxic Cutting Board Finish – Kuche Chef Natural Timber Cutting Board Oil
This premium cutting board oil is made from 100% ethically sourced, highly refined, non-GMO, fractionated coconut oil. You can use this cutting board oil with cutting boards, butcher blocks, timber wood counter top, salad bowls, wooden utensils, etc. Your cutting board will not smell bad or get sticky over time.
The best cutting board material is a one piece solid wood that does not use any glue. A truly non toxic solid wood cutting board would also have a non toxic, organic oil finish instead of mineral oil which is mostly used on cutting boards. Although solid wood cutting board requires more maintenance such as oiling, with proper maintenance, it could last for years. I really like Urthware products because Urthware cutting boards are truly non toxic. I purchased an Urthware All Natural Series Eco Feather cutting board and an All Natural Series Simplicity cutting board. I purchased two cutting boards so that I can use them separately for meat and vegetables/ fruits. I also got an Urthware organic cutting board oil and wax to do occasional maintenance. I even got their wooden spatula. I am very excited to use all of them soon! I feel good about replacing my old cutting board and new cutting boards will add some joy to my cooking. Happy cooking!
If you are interested in non toxic dinnerware, please read my post, ‘Non Toxic Dinnerware – Which Dinnerware Is Lead-Free?‘
If you are interested in non toxic cookware, please read my post, ‘Non Toxic Cookware Guide – What Is The Healthiest And Safest Cookware?‘
If you are interested in non toxic bakeware, please read my post, ‘Non Toxic Bakeware Guide – Which Bakeware Is Safe And Non Toxic?‘
f you are interested in non toxic rice cookers, please read my post ‘Non Toxic Rice Cookers – Rice Cookers With A Stainless Steel Inner Pot‘.
If you want to find out which bottled water brands are safe, please read my post ‘Safe Bottled Water Guide: Which Bottled Water Brands Are Safe?‘