The other part of food prep

I often post photos of food prep and presentation.

There is another really important part of the process.

Cleaning your cutting board…. indeed all surfaces.

I was handling some chicken recently.  After handling raw meat wash wash wash, hands and surfaces.

I am not a complete fanatic about the kitchen, but some things I never fool with.

The FIRST thing I do after cutting up meat, especially poultry, is immediately to wash the knife, my hands and the board.

Then I usually change boards.

Ever had salmonellosis?  You don’t want it.

People debate about the advantages or disadvantages of wooden or plastic boards.

I use both.  But I wash them.  Also I keep the water pretty hot here. 

Your water temp should be at least 120F (49C)

And occasionally I spray them down with a little mixture of bleach and water.  My plastic board first gets scrubbed and then goes into the dishwasher, which gets very hot.

I don’t put my wood or bamboo boards in the dishwater, because they crack or warp.  I already have a crack starting in one of my favorites.

Other surfaces, like the sink or counter, get other treatments when I have dealt with meat.

The point is, you and your friends don’t want the consequences of not taking a moment to clean after handling meat.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Fr. Z's Kitchen. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. we love being married says:

    We use tempered glass cutting boards. Very easy to clean and you never have knife marks.

  2. Jaybird68 says:

    Nice homily Father!

  3. jarhead462 says:

    You should not use glass boards. They will kill your good knives.

    Semper Fi!

  4. Vienna Guy says:

    For some reason I am infinitely amused by how this blog goes from one extreme to the other… intense theological comment etc, to food preparation LOL. Whatever, we all need our lighter moments :-)

  5. we love being married says:

    Jarhead – We don’t have any ‘good’ knives. :) I still like glass.

  6. Steve K. says:

    I have some bamboo cutting boards – they’re great, very hard and durable surface.

    I have had salmonella in the past, about 1/3 of my whole battalion got it during a gunnery at Grafenwoehr, Germany thanks to our mess sergeant making his ‘special’ milk shakes one day (which include raw eggs as part of the recipe). That was like 150 soldiers ultimately. It was extremely unpleasant, both to have a case of salmonella, and to be among so many salmonella sufferers.

  7. Andy K says:

    Fr. Z,
    Thanks for this reminder.

    I’m about to make hamburgers, and I’m a bit of a newcomer to the food making deal, so I kind of skip over things I would learn elsewhere.

    My future healthy self thanks you! :-D

  8. PaulJason says:

    We use tempered glass cutting boards. Very easy to clean and you never have knife marks.

    Comment by we love being married

    Please stop!!!

    No offence but there the only thing worse you could do for your knives is to cut on a brick.

    The reason you never have knife marks is because the glass is harder then the steel blade you are cutting with and something has to give, which is this case is your knife. Dull knives mean missing fingers. I worked in the food service industry for years Cook, Meat Cutter, Grocer, etc… Dull knives in the kitchen are very bad news.

  9. Eric says:

    As a butcher – I recommend using cutting boards that can be washed in the dishwasher for meat. DO NOT use wood cutting boards for meat. Plastic, glass etc can go in the dishwasher where they are exposed to a much higher temperature for a longer time than sink washing can do.

  10. PaulJason says:

    As far as bamboo cutting boards the jury is still out. I have heard some say they are to hard and bad for knives (remember dull knives missing fingers) and others say it depends on which way the grain (though bamboo does not really have grain since it is a grass) is facing.

    Salmonella been there done that bought the shirt and secured movie rights. Awful stuff.

    It is the number reason I do not eat at salad bars. Handle chicken, chicken gets cooked, salmonella gets dead. Handle chicken, prep the salad bar, salad does not get cooked, you eat from the salad bar, you get salmonella.

  11. opey124 says:

    I prefer a peroxide mixture to clean the cutting board over bleach/have used both and know what you are talking about/this is very important!

  12. Eric: Thanks for that. In fact, I almost always use my plastic cutting board for meat for that reason. But sometimes I grab the wooden board.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Hey, I have that same meat thermometer! I love it!


  14. Bamboo cutting boards. I almost included an additional comment about this in the main entry.

    Frankly, I find them too hard, and thus hard on my knife. Also, the board I have, which was a gift some years ago, is HUGE and weighs nearly as much as my car. I only use it occasionally.

  15. cuaguy says:

    Was this after last nights dinner Fr.?

  16. YoungCatholicSTL says:

    Fr. Z:

    Any suggestions on how to prepare chicken? As a young, single male, I’ve new to the art of cooking on my own, and can’t seem to quite master chicken. What do you suggest (type of chicken cut, bake vs. fry, amount of heat, etc.) for best results?

  17. Irish says:

    Father, I remember years ago, when researching on a brochure for a poultry producer, I read that wooden cutting boards are preferable to plastic because the wood naturally contains anti-microbial properties. I just searched for the info online and found the following:
    Dr Cliver at the University of Wisconsin’s Food Research Institute found that wooden cutting boards actually kill the food poisoning bacteria that will survive on plastic. From a NY Times article about the discovery:
    “The scientists, Dean O. Cliver and Nese O. Ak, stumbled upon the finding while seeking ways to decontaminate wooden boards and make them as “safe” as plastic. Much to their surprise, they found that when boards were purposely contaminated with organisms like Salmonella, Listeria and Escherichia coli that are common causes of food poisoning, 99.9 percent of the bacteria died off within three minutes on the wooden boards, while none died on the plastic ones.”

    Here’s the NY TImes link:

    And a link from UC Davis:

  18. Rachel says:

    I have had salmonella in the past, about 1/3 of my whole battalion got it during a gunnery at Grafenwoehr, Germany thanks to our mess sergeant making his ‘special’ milk shakes one day (which include raw eggs as part of the recipe). That was like 150 soldiers ultimately. It was extremely unpleasant, both to have a case of salmonella, and to be among so many salmonella sufferers.–Steve K.

    Oh my, I remember that. My dad and the whole family was stationed in Germany at the time in Baumholder. He was in Grafenwoehr when there was that outbreak (I remember the raw eggs, etc). He was one of the P.A.’s at the time.

  19. Young: Not exactly the topic here. Perhaps you can start with boneless, skinless breasts, butterfly them open and pound them out thin, then sear them in a frying pan (tiniest bit of oil to keep from sticking) with a little salt and pepper and use them for, say, a sandwich on toasted sourdough with a smear of mayo and fresh lettuce. I like an Coca-Cola on ice with a chicken sandwich. Good student food: really fast, very cheap, and good. And I will have to have a post on the correct way to make a sandwich one of these days.

  20. Thanks for the reminder Father. Now when can we all come over? YUM! Who doesn’t love a clean kitchen?

    For the same reason of cleanliness, my kitchen doesn’t have sponges. I only use dishrags that dry out completely every day. And paper towels…when playing with chicken I use paper towels, never towels to dry and clean up.

    I too have heard that wood safer than plastic because of wood’s natural ability to expand and contract. The ‘pores’ in wood close up and create an anaerobic environment, killing off organisms. Plastic seems to be getting less and less popular these days.

    Anyway, I still use the plastic board, rinse it and put in in the dishwasher to be scalded and beaten with the hydrochloride of the detergent.

    Chlorine is a most effective and safe cleaner. I don’t think there is any better anti-fungal or anti-bacterial. It quickly dissipates after use, especially in sunlight. Where would third-world countries be without it? :-) Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t affect as wide a range of contaminates as chlorine.

    My favorite is dark meat with skin…like thighs. Isn’t it true that ONLY Americans eat so much white chicken meat?

  21. dcs says:

    Lemon juice is a good antibacterial agent for cutting boards. Personally, I don’t like putting bleach, or any other household chemical, on anything that will be used to prepare food. My wife thinks I’m crazy but I’d rather scour the oven with baking soda (yes, it DOES work) than use a commercial oven cleaner.

  22. Steve K. says:

    On bamboo boards, mine have plenty of little cut marks, so it’s not quite at the level of glass, and I am pretty obsessive about keeping my knives sharp, I swipe each knife several times over the hone after every use, and will take them down to the basement shop when they need a resharpening (on diamond “stones” and then up to waterstones). So far my knives have been holding up pretty well. I have an aversion to plastic, sort of for the reasons Irish talks about, that goes back to when I used to brew beer. I vaguely remember reading about how bacteria likes to accumulate in little abrasions, cuts and irregularities that can easily accumulate on a plastic surface. I’ve been based against plastic ever since, though I may reconsider that based on Eric’s comments.

    The sharpening habit has been a carry over from my other hobby, woodworking, and I am almost exclusively a hand tool user, so I am always sharpening plane irons, chisels, knives, etc.

    Rachel – what a small world! I was in the 47th FSB at the time, stationed yep in Baumholder. I am certain I knew your Dad. God bless you and your family!

  23. Pistor says:

    Another trick for preventing salmonella, wipe your board clean with a damp rag, and salt the surface liberaly. When dry, brush off the salt and store away.

  24. PaulJason says:


    If you are into woodworking then you might like this. I have a handplane that I use only for my plastic cutting board. The board is 2.5ft x 2.5ft and is from when I worked as a butcher. We replace our boards in the cutting room and they gave me an old one that used but still in good shape. I brought it home, set up a plane and took it down to below knife marks. They do make handplanes for this but you can set up your own pretty easily.

  25. Gloria says:

    Well, I guess I’ll keep using my Grandmother’s method. I have her wood cutting board, which is at least 100 years old. I hand wash it in very hot soapy water, scrubbing it with a scratchy teflon (my only nod to modernity)sponge, rinse it, dry it a bit with a clean towel and let it air dry completely.

  26. Sharon says:

    What about marble chopping boards?

    I clean mine with bleach and wipe dry with a paper towel. So far no incidents.

  27. Steve K. says:

    PaulJason –

    That’s a great idea – I have an extra plane (and some old plastic cutting boards) I could devote to this. Thanks for the tip!

  28. Margaret C. says:

    In addition to being scrupulous about cleaning my cutting boards (I keep several, and they go in the dishwasher after use), I always don latex gloves before handling poultry. (They’re cheap at the local megamart.)

    Why? Well, I live in what is charitably described as a “semi-arid” climate. As a result, my skin is often dry and subject to small cuts and abrasions. I glove up rather than give the microbes an opportunity to work on me.

    Love your cooking post, Father. I, too, am a fan of home-made soup.

  29. Steve K. says:

    Mmmm, soup. Do you know what is a good soup for this time of the year? Butternut squash soup. I am going to make some tomorrow.

  30. Boots says:

    Marble, same problem as glass. Protecting your knives is the most important thing. My girlfriend rolls her eyes at me for how obsessive I am about my knives, but then any good artist needs good tools. Keep them away from glass, (which is terrible as a cutting board, everything slips around) and keep them out of the dishwasher. Sharp is safe and so much better.

    I use either wood or plastic. My mom always said the key was keeping things clean and dry. Anything after its been washed with soap and thoroughly dried is safe to use, in my opinion and I don’t get sick. I prefer the use of wood purely for it being natural. Sure plastic works ok, but nobody really knows how much bad stuff you get from them or how much long term effects they have.

  31. my kidz mom says:

    Fans of Fr. Z’s cooking posts might also enjoy

    This blog was started and is maintained by a home-educating mom and offers recipes
    for celebrating the feasts and seasons of the Liturgical Year. It is well done,
    and anyone trying to make their home a domestic church will find this site
    useful as well as enjoyable.

Comments are closed.