After a Birmingham restaurant was recently fined £50,000 for the unhygienic serving of food on wooden boards, Nisbets has issued some practical advice on the best way to ensure that your wooden boards are fit for use.
Dean Starling, Development Chef at Nisbets believes that wooden boards are not unhygienic per se, it is more the way that they are cared for and used;
“Wooden boards have hit the news recently with some media reporting that they are ‘incapable of being cleaned’. The truth however is that wooden boards can provide an attractive alternative to plates however, it’s worth being aware of the dangers associated with this material.
Generally, wooden boards bring a warm, organic feel to the table and inherently have antimicrobial properties. However, they can prove to be difficult to clean thoroughly because of the grooves in the wood’s surface that appear over time, particularly when in prolonged contact with water as this causes them to warp and crack. This can be exacerbated if boards are put through a dishwasher.
Whilst it’s important to stress that a wooden board should never be used for both chopping and serving food to customers, as long as they are cleaned hygienically and replaced when they become scored or stained, wooden boards are perfectly safe to use for serving food.”
Wooden board cleaning & maintenance tips from Nisbets:
Wooden platters and serving boards look great under the lights, and are perfectly safe for serving food if cleaned thoroughly. They are ideal for serving bread, charcuterie or cheese. Generally food that needs no further preparation or heavy cutting is best for wooden boards and platters. Sharp knives will score and damage the board over time, creating grooves which harbour harmful bacteria.
A steak is an example of what not to serve on a wooden board as it will require a sharp knife.
Care and Maintenance
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a wooden chopping board is to season it. Not all boards come seasoned, so some will need to be seasoned before first use. Season your board whenever it feels it is losing its seal, which could be weekly or monthly depending on its usage.
Never season with vegetable oil or olive oil as these substances will rot and make your board unsanitary. Instead, use food grade oil to treat your board and apply with a soft cloth or brush – this prevents it from drying out too much which will cause the wood to crack and expose areas to attract bacteria. Wipe the oil over the surface of the board and allow a few hours for it to soak in. Wipe off any excess with a dry cloth.
If your wooden boards will be used to chop meat, they should always be disinfected after cleaning. Use one teaspoon of chlorine-based bleach to every two pints of water to disinfect the board. Spread the solution over the board and allow it to rest on the surface for a few minutes. Afterwards, clean thoroughly again with soapy water and rinse well.
As soon as the board has been cleaned and sanitised, pat the underside of the board using catering roll or disposable towels and allow the surface to air dry. Drying in direct sunlight is never recommended, as this can cause the wood to splinter and reveal cracks which are hard to clean.
Once completely dry, wooden boards (or in fact boards made of any material) should be stored in an upright position to prevent moisture being trapped underneath. This also stops dust and airborne particles settling on the cutting surface. For any particularly strong odours left after cleaning, rub the board with half a lemon which will leave it smelling fresh and also help to sanitise the surface.
If your wooden boards become difficult to clean, stained or cracked then they should be replaced as soon as possible.