Chefs, Cutting Boards and Cross-contamination

Have you ever found yourself watching chef in a movie or even on a cooking show on television and notice that when busy producing high volume, they always seem to have several cutting boards being used at once? Contrary to what you may believe, this isn’t done just for visual purposes, there are actually good reasons why this is a common occurrence in a busy kitchen.

Most chefs will tell you that they prefer wood cutting surfaces unless the restaurant where they work requires them to use acrylic or plastic. An experienced chef understands how important it is to take every precaution to avoid cross-contamination which is why several boards are being used at once. In fact, it’s not uncommon for them to have even five or six cutting boards going at the same time.

Types of Cutting Boards Used

A butcher block is typically used for meat preparation. Depending on food volume coming out of the kitchen where the chef is working, there may be several butcher blocks being used. One is specifically designated to poultry, one to meat and the last to fish. Keep in mind that however many butcher blocks are being used, there are often just as many knives to avoid cross-contamination unless they have the time to stop and wash their knives when transferring cutting services.

Chefs look to a cutting board that can stand up to a heavy beating from a meat cleaver, yet one that is gentle on the blade so that they aren’t forced to stop and constantly sharpen their knives. It is extremely important for chefs to never cut anything else on a butcher block that is designated to meat products to reduce the risk of E. coli, salmonella and other food-borne illnesses.

A chef will also have either a large cutting board to use in preparation of other food items or they’ll use several smaller sized ones, each one designated to specific items. For example, many chefs will designate one food group to each board, colored plastic boards are ideal for this purpose. One is for only chopping up vegetables, one for cutting fruits and then another used specifically for dairy products. Busy chefs do not have time to stop what they’re doing to wash their board constantly so extreme precautionary measures have to be taken to make sure that raw vegetables aren’t getting cut on a cutting board that was previously used to slice up some poultry.

Avoiding Cross-contamination

Many restaurants today require their chefs to use only plastic cutting boards. Despite the fact that most chefs love wood cutting boards, many prefer plastic cutting boards at work because they do require less maintenance. There are many companies who understand the concern of cross-contamination so they offer colored plastic boards. Quite often, you can find these in a set with several boards sold in one package, all different colors. Each colored board then is granted its own food group. This is quickly becoming a preferred choice in homes as well.

Chefs not only love food, they respect the process and care that goes into preparing the foods eaten by their guests. This is the passion all kitchens in homes should adopt to reduce the potential risk of food-borne illnesses. You can easily follow in the footsteps of your favorite television chef by simply making sure that you have at least two cutting boards going in your kitchen when preparing meals that include meat products.

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