Monday, May 18, 2009

Knife Care & Maintenance Pt 2- Cutting boards

One of the most important things in maintaining the edge on your knives is your cutting board. The biggest mistake a lot of people make here is in using cutting boards made of inappropriate materials. What is inappropriate? Good question, I'm glad you asked. Any material your knife can't cut is going to damage its edge, and is therefore inappropriate for use as a cutting board.

And no, I don't mean your knife should be able to slice right through your cutting board. I mean that every time you cut something on your cutting board, it should be able to make tiny slices in it. Something has to give, and it is better that it is the cutting board than your knives.

Glass Cutting Board- Evil!

So, the common materials you should avoid are things like glass and marble. Oh, I know, they're doing wonderful things with glass boards these days. Putting pretty patterns in them, and so on. Or, perhaps you recently had new marble counter tops put in and you got the contractor to cut a matching cutting board from the remnants, and it just looks so nice.

Marble Cutting Board- Evil Too!

Well, go ahead and keep using these, if, well, never being able to keep a sharp knife in your kitchen is of no concern to you. Yes, I said never. Even on a proper cutting board, after the first time you use a knife, it is a little duller than it was before you used it.

You see, the edge of your knife is made of a very hard material, but it is also very thin. Which is kind of the point. Even very hard materials that are only a couple molecules thick are very easy to bend. So what happens is the cutting edge of your knife comes in contact with the relatively hard cutting board surface, and folds over a little. Even with a proper cutting board. With a glass or marble cutting board, it folds over a lot, relatively speaking. Often the difference between a sharp blade and a dull one is only that on the dull one the cutting edge is knocked out of alignment. This is what sharpening steels are for; to put it back in alignment. Which is another topic we will get to in a future post.

In any event, your knife can't cut into glass or stone at all, and so a board made of one of these materials will instantly dull your knives.

We may get into the specifics of cutting boards at a later date, but for now, I will only say that the materials you should use are acrylic or wood.

Acrylic Cutting Boards- Good!

Well, and that regarding the difference between the two, a lot of people have a lot of opinions regarding the difference between wood and plastic, the difference between different types of wood or plastic, and so on. And, probably most of them are right. However, I like acrylic boards because they are very practical; low maintenance, and cheap. I can chuck them in the dishwasher, and I can easily replace them when they wear out. And that's that. So for now, if you like the practical aspect, go with acrylic. If you want pretty, go with wood. If you want to learn about the care of either, and about how sanitary one is vs. the other, there's plenty of info already out there. (Much of it conflicting.)

Wooden Cutting Boards- Also Good!

If you have a particular favorite, please leave a comment and let us know why. Oh, and if one of your criteria is that a particular material is "faster" than another, please explain what you mean by that. This is not one of my criteria; as far as knife technique goes, I'm usually not in a hurry. However, I grasp the broad meaning, but would like for you to flesh it out a bit, both for me and for my readers.

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