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Black-Eyed Peas

Black-Eyed Peas 101 – The Basics

Black-eyed peas are a delicious legume that is popular in the American South (among other places around the world). If you’re not familiar with them, you’re missing out! Below is a comprehensive article all about black-eyed peas, from what they are to suggested recipe links. If you haven’t tried them before, I urge you to at least give them a try sometime with any recipe that sounds like a “go” for you and your family. I doubt you’ll regret it!


Black-Eyed Peas 101 – The Basics

About Black-Eyed Peas
Despite their name, black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata) are actually a type of shelling bean in the cowpea family. Their pods can be up to two feet long. Black-eyed peas are native to Asia and Africa and have been cultivated since about 3,000 BC. According to early records, black-eyed peas were brought to the West Indies by West African slaves, then onward to America. They were originally used as food for livestock, but became a staple in the slaves’ diet. The fields were left untouched by northern soldiers who saw no value in the crops, so they became an important food for the Confederate South in America.

Black-eyed peas are still a staple in Southern (American) foods where they are commonly served with deep leafy vegetables such as collard or turnip greens. In the South, it’s customary to eat black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s Day for good health and wealth in the New Year.

Black-eyed peas have a kidney shape and are white with a black eye in the center. The black “eye” forms where the pea attaches to its pod. They have a creamy texture and a flavor all their own, that can be described as nutty, earthy, and savory.

Nutrition and Health Benefits
As with all legumes, black-eyed peas are a healthful addition to the diet. One cup of cooked black-eyed peas has 160 calories, negligible fat, and 5 grams of protein. That same one cup also has substantial amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, folate, and Vitamins A and K. They are also a very good source of soluble fiber which is known to help lower cholesterol thereby warding off heart disease.

Folate. One cup of cooked black-eyed peas provides more than half of our daily folate needs. This crucial B-vitamin is not only important in preventing anemia, but is also critical for pregnant women in ensuring their offspring are not born with neural tube defects (spinal and brain issues).

Manganese. One cup of cooked black-eyed peas also provides roughly half of our daily needs for manganese. This mineral is a valuable antioxidant that helps to protect cellular structures from damage. It is also used in the formation of cartilage and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene). One cup of cooked black-eyed peas provides a substantial amount of Vitamin A by way of its beta-carotene content. This important vitamin is critical for proper eye function and also skin health. It also is utilized in the maintenance of our mucous membranes in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, helping to protect the body from invading pathogens. Vitamin A is also critical in the proper functioning of our immune system protecting us from pathogens that have entered the bloodstream.

All things considered, black-eyed peas are a very healthful food to include in your diet when you can. Their nutrient content can help to lower the risk of diabetes, improve blood pressure, decrease blood lipid levels thereby lowering the risk of heart disease, and reduce inflammation. All from a humble black-eyed pea!

How to Select Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
If you plan to shell the peas yourself, look for pods that appear fresh and tender. Avoid those that look dried out, blemished or moldy.

If you are shopping for fresh peas that have already been shelled, choose ones that look fresh and tender. Avoid those that look dry, wrinkly, or show signs of age and starting to spoil.

How to Store Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
Freshly harvested black-eyed peas are highly perishable and have a short shelf life. Unshelled peas should be kept in a cool, humid place (at 45°F to 50°F) for no more than 3 to 4 days after harvest. They should be shelled and cooked or frozen as soon as possible after being purchased.

Shelled, uncooked peas may be kept in the refrigerator in a covered container or plastic bag for no more than 7 days. Once cooked, black-eye peas should be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container and used within 3 to 5 days.

How to Prepare Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
Rinse the pods to remove any debris. Slim, very young black-eyed peas can be eaten in their pods, like green beans. The more mature peas should be removed from their pods before being cooked. To do that, gently squeeze the pod so it will separate at the seam. If that does not work, you can carefully cut along the seam with a knife. Allow the peas to drop into a bowl or container. Discard the pods. Rinse and drain the peas.

If your fresh peas have already been shelled, place them in a bowl of cold water and sort through them. Remove any damaged peas or those that have an off color. Drain the peas and rinse/drain them again until the water is clear and free of debris. Cook them right away, if possible. If you can’t cook them immediately, place them in a covered container in the refrigerator and cook them as soon as possible.

If the peas are to be cooked and eaten right away, they will need to be boiled in broth or water until tender. This takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending upon how tender you like them. The cooking liquid may or may not be used in your dish, depending on the recipe and personal preferences.

If the peas are to be frozen, they will need to be blanched first. See the section (below) on “How to Freeze Fresh Black-Eyed Peas” for instructions.

How to Freeze Fresh Black-Eyed Peas
Rinse the pods to remove any debris, then remove the peas from the pods. To do that, gently squeeze the pod so it will separate at the seam. If that does not work, you can carefully cut along the seam with a knife. Allow the peas to drop into a bowl or container. Rinse and drain the peas. Rinse/drain them again until the water is clear. Discard the pods and any immature, over-mature, or damaged peas. Bring a large pot of water to boil and boil the peas for 2 minutes. Immediately transfer the peas to a bowl of ice water and allow them to cool for 2 minutes. Drain well and spread the peas out on a tray and blot dry with a paper towel. Place the tray in the freezer and allow the peas to freeze. Transfer the frozen peas to a freezer bag or container. Label with the date and return the peas to the freezer.

Alternatively, you could place your boiled, cooled and drained peas to a freezer bag, and lay the bag flat in the freezer. It will be helpful to move the bag occasionally as they freeze to avoid having them all frozen into one big lump.

For best quality, use your frozen peas within 6 months. They will be safe to eat beyond that, but the quality may deteriorate.

Fresh vs Dried vs Canned Black-Eyed Peas
Fresh. Fresh black-eyed peas are not commonly found in grocery stores. In areas where they are grown, they may be found at farmers’ markets or roadside stands. Other than that, they would be hard to come by in areas where they are not grown. So, most people don’t have fresh peas as an option.

Dried. Most grocery stores carry dried black-eyed peas year-round. They are a staple pantry item for many people and will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 to 3 years. They are edible beyond that, although their quality may deteriorate. Since they have been shelled and soaking/cooking them is not a difficult process, dried black-eyed peas are a good item to keep in your food supply.

Canned. Canned black-eyed peas are found in most grocery stores. Their flavor and texture are comparable to dried peas that have been fully cooked. Some varieties are already seasoned. They are truly a convenience food in that they are ready to eat simply by opening the can and rinsing them, if desired. Canned black-eyed peas are an excellent option to keep in the pantry, especially in case of emergencies when there is a power outage.

How to Prepare Dried Black-Eyed Peas
Dried black-eyed peas can be prepared the same way you would prepare any dried bean or pea. First rinse and sort through the beans, removing any stones or other debris, and damaged peas. They should be “quick soaked” or “overnight soaked” first before being cooked. This is an important step because it reduces the compounds that can cause gas and bloating in some people when beans/peas are eaten.

Quick Soak Method: After the peas are rinsed and sorted, place them in a large pot of water. Bring everything to a rapid boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover with a lid, and allow the peas to sit in the hot water for 1 hour. Drain the soak water and rinse the peas. Then cook the peas by covering them with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to simmer with the lid tilted. Allow them to cook until they reach the desired tenderness. This can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending upon how tender you like them and how fast the water is boiling. See the “Important!” note below.

Overnight Soak Method: After the peas are rinsed and sorted, place them in a large pot of cold water. Cover the pot and let the peas soak overnight or at least 6 to 8 hours. Drain the soak water and rinse the peas. Then cook the peas by covering them with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then lower the heat to simmer with the lid tilted. Allow them to cook until they reach the desired tenderness. This can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending upon how tender you like them and how fast the water is boiling. See the “Important!” note below.

Important! When cooking dried peas or beans, do not add salt or any type of acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) to the water early in the cooking process. This will cause the skins of the peas to toughen and they will not soften up like expected, even with extended cooking time. Save adding salt until they have already started to become tender. Add any acid at the end of cooking time, because adding it early can cause it to turn bitter.

Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Black-Eyed Peas
Here are some tips and ideas for using black-eyed peas…

* When cooking dried black-eyed peas after they have been soaked, do not add salt to the water early in the cooking process. When added early, the salt will cause the outer skin of the peas to toughen, making it hard to get them to soften as they cook. Add salt toward the end of cooking after the peas have already started to soften, or save the salt until the peas are used in a specific dish.

* When cooking dried black-eyed peas after they have been soaked, do not add any acid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) to the cooking water early in the cooking process. The acid will turn bitter when added too early. Wait until the peas are fully cooked, then drizzle them with a little acid of choice for flavoring.

* If you like the convenience of canned peas, but don’t want the additives found in canned foods, try buying dried peas, soaking and cooking them completely (or almost completely), and freezing them. You’ll have whatever amount of peas you need without added salt, etc., ready to go whenever you need them.

* Make a black-eye pea salad with peas, chopped tomatoes, corn, onion, avocado, bell pepper, cilantro and your favorite Italian dressing.

* Finely chop the vegetables (for the salad above), add a little cumin along with the salad dressing and turn it into a salsa.

* Make a black-eyed pea dip by blending black-eye peas with garlic, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a little sugar to sweeten the mix just a bit.

* Make a “sloppy Joe” type of mixture by sautéing (in oil or vegetable stock) some onion, garlic, bell pepper and carrots until tender. Stir in cooked black-eyed peas, some cooked grain of choice (i.e. rice, millet, couscous), Cajun seasoning (or a mix of paprika, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic and onion powder), and 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Add more vegetable broth for liquid as needed. Serve as-is, on toasted buns, or on a bed of cooked grain.

* Enjoy a traditional Southern (American) dish by serving cooked black-eyed peas on a bed of cooked grain (rice), with a side of deep leafy greens, and a slice of cornbread.

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Black-Eyed Peas
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, cilantro, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, marjoram, oregano, parsley, pepper, sage, salt, thyme

Foods That Go Well with Black-Eyed Peas
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), black beans, chicken, eggs, fish, ham, kidney beans, pork, poultry, and tahini

Vegetables: Arugula, bell peppers, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard (Swiss), chiles, greens (bitter; i.e. collards, mustard, turnip greens), mushrooms, onions, potatoes, scallions, shallots, spinach, tomatoes

Fruits: Lemon, olives, tamarind

Grains and Grain Products: Barley, corn, corn bread, rice

Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter, cheese (i.e. feta), coconut butter, coconut milk, cream, yogurt

Other Foods: Agave nectar, barbecue sauce, capers, oil (i.e. olive, safflower, sunflower), tamari, vinegar (i.e. apple cider, balsamic)

Black-eyed peas have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
African cuisine, burritos, Cajun cuisine, Caribbean cuisine, casseroles, chili (vegetarian), Creole cuisine, dips, gumbo, hummus, Indian cuisine, salads (i.e. bean, green, Hoppin’ John, tomato), soul food, soups, Southern (US) cuisine, stews, succotash, “Texas caviar”

Suggested Flavor Combos Using Black-Eyed Peas
Combine black-eyed peas with any of the following combinations…

Bell peppers + celery + onions
Brown rice + onions
Coconut milk + sticky rice
Corn + dill
Feta cheese + tomatoes
Garlic + greens
Onions + tomatoes
Pumpkin + rice

Recipe Links
Hoppin’ John https://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/hoppin-john/

Avocado Black-Eyed Pea Salad https://www.callmepmc.com/avocado-black-eyed-pea-salad/

Avocado Black-Eyed Pea Salsa https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/213030/avocado-and-black-eyed-pea-salsa/

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Avocado and Jalapeno https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/black-eyed-pea-salad-with-avocado-and-jalapeno/

Southwestern Black-Eyed Pea Salad https://www.shelikesfood.com/southwestern-black-eyed-pea-salad/

Avocado and Black-Eyed Pea Salsa https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/avocado-and-black-eyed-pea-salsa-53032281

Cowboy Caviar https://www.culinaryhill.com/cowboy-caviar-recipe/#wprm-recipe-container-26521

Black-Eyed Pea Casserole with Cornbread Crust https://www.rachaelhartleynutrition.com/blog/2015/12/black-eyed-pea-and-greens-casserole-with-cornbread-crust

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus https://www.gritsandpinecones.com/black-eyed-pea-hummus/#wprm-recipe-container-19643

Lucky and Spicy Black-Eyed Pea Salad Recipe http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2010/12/spicy-black-eyed-pea-salad-recipe.html

Zannie’s Black-Eyed Pea Dip https://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/zannies-black-eyed-pea-dip/

Southern Black-Eyed Peas (Vegan) https://healthiersteps.com/recipe/southern-black-eyed-peas-vegan/

Vegan Black-Eyed Peas https://www.thespruceeats.com/vegetarian-black-eyed-peas-1001609

Creole Black-Eyed Peas https://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2008/01/creole-black-eyed-peas.html

Black-Eyed Peas with a Healthy Twist https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/side/other-side-dish/black-eyed-peas-with-a-healthy-twist.html

Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon and Pork https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/black-eyed-peas-with-bacon-and-pork-recipe-1920605

Black-Eyed Pea Salad https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/patrick-and-gina-neely/black-eyed-pea-salad-recipe-1910721










Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy to Preserve. 3rd edition. Athens, GA: Cooperative Extension Service.

Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Cutting Board

Cutting Boards 101 – The Basics

Cutting boards come in different sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and materials including wood, plastic, bamboo, stone, glass, and more. Most of us have them in our kitchen equipment, and we use them on a regular basis. But cleaning them can be a bit confusing because the different materials can require different treatments. To complicate matters, the type of food we use on them (from raw meats to fresh vegetables and fruits, to baked breads) also makes a difference on how they should be treated.

First, one important rule-of-thumb when using cutting boards is to have several of them, with one being reserved only for use with raw meats, seafood, and poultry. Raw animal foods carry their own risks for specific food-borne illnesses that can create serious concerns if not handled properly during food preparation. Reserving a board only for such uses can help to avoid potential cross-contamination of pathogens that can lead to serious disease.

The following information will hopefully help you out with how to choose the right cutting boards for your needs, and regularly clean and maintain the boards for safe use in food preparation.

Wood Cutting Boards
Wooden cutting boards are a favored piece of kitchen equipment for most chefs, both professional and casual alike. Yet, they do require some specific care to maintain them over the years.

Pros: It has been proven by research that wood boards retain less bacteria than plastic boards, especially those with a lot of knife marks. Wood boards can be sanded and resurfaced if necessary. Also, they are usually heavy and don’t slide around easily, which can be extremely hazardous. It has been proven that wooden boards are THE BEST surface for maintaining a sharp knife edge. Also, they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and thicknesses.

Cons: They require more routine maintenance than other types of boards (i.e. waxing and oiling). They cannot be soaked for long periods of time. They cannot be put in the dishwasher.

Routine cleaning: Wooden cutting boards should NOT be placed in the dishwasher. The exposure to prolonged heat and water can cause the board to warp and possibly crack. Cracks in wooden cutting boards will tend to harbor microbes that can feed on trapped food particles. This is NOT what you want to happen to your cherished wooden cutting board!

Routine cleaning of your wooden cutting board, after using it to cut breads, fruits and vegetables can be done simply by hand washing it in hot, soapy water with as much manual scrubbing action as is needed to get it clean. Using a scrub brush will help to make this job faster and easier. Rinse it well, pat it dry, then stand it up to air dry completely before putting it away.

When using your wood board for high-risk foods such as raw meat, fish, and poultry, it should be immediately hand-washed in hot soapy water, then sanitized. Dry the board, then allow it to air dry before putting it away.

Sanitizing your wooden cutting board: Research has shown that wooden cutting boards harbor fewer microbes than do plastic cutting boards. Nevertheless, if you have used your wood board for cutting raw animal foods (meats, poultry, fish), sanitizing it after it is hand-washed is important to kill any remaining pathogens after it was washed. This should be done EACH time the board is used for raw animal foods, especially if that same board will be used for cutting fruits and/or vegetables that are to be eaten raw (this practice is not recommended). There are some options (listed below) on how to sanitize your board.

If your wooden cutting board is not being used for raw animal products, you can get by with sanitizing it less often than when using it for raw animal foods. According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology (August 2015), traditional detergent-based household methods of cleaning will usually sufficiently clean cutting boards used in the preparation of foods that are not high risk (such as raw animal foods) or when not being used for immune-compromised individuals. Ideally for ultimate food safety, cutting boards should be sanitized after each use. However, when no one being fed is immune compromised or when only low-risk foods are being prepared, sanitizing it less often should suffice.

To reduce the risk of cross-contamination if using a cutting board for high-risk foods such as raw meat, fish, and poultry, it is suggested that we have different cutting boards for high-risk foods than for low-risk foods (fresh vegetables, fruits and breads). Having different colors, shapes or sizes for different types of food can help to keep the cook from using the wrong cutting board during food preparation.

Bleach: The USDA recommends that we sanitize a board used for cutting raw animal foods in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented bleach to 1 gallon of water. First, hand-wash the board in hot, soapy water, and scrub it well. Then apply the bleach solution and allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes, rinse well, then dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. Stand it up for a little while to help ensure it is completely dry before storing it.

A slightly stronger solution, but simpler to mix up was suggested by Global News of Canada. Mix one teaspoon of bleach to three cups of water. Pour that over the washed cutting board and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Rinse it well, then dry the board.

Vinegar: Vinegar is a non-toxic item that most of us keep in our kitchen. After being hand-washed in hot, soapy water, a wood board can be sanitized with a solution of 1 part of white vinegar to 4 parts of water. Allow the solution to remain on the board for a few minutes, then rinse it well, and pat it dry. Allow the board to air dry before storing it.

If you REALLY want to “go for the gusto,” you could also use undiluted white vinegar to sanitize your board. Spray your cutting board with straight white vinegar, allow it to sit for 3 to 5 minutes, rinse it well, pat it dry, then stand it up, and allow it to air dry before putting it away.

Hydrogen Peroxide: As always, wash your board first with hot, soapy water. According to The Food Network, wood cutting boards can be sanitized by pouring 3% hydrogen peroxide (this is the type of hydrogen peroxide commonly found in your local pharmacy) all over the board. Distribute the liquid around the board with a cleaning sponge, and leave it alone for a few minutes as it bubbles, killing any microbes that are left on the board. When finished, rinse well, and wipe it off with a clean cloth or paper towel. Allow it to air dry before storing the board.

To Deodorize a Wooden Cutting Board: There are several suggested ways to deodorize a wood cutting board…
If your board has any lingering odor from some food used on it, sprinkle baking soda on the board, then pour white vinegar onto it. Important! This will create a lot of bubbling, so be sure to do this in a sink! When the bubbling stops, rinse the board well, dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel, and then stand it up to air dry.

Another way to remove odors from a wood board would be to rub the board well with a cut lemon, squeezing the juice as you rub. Allow the juice to sit on the board for a few minutes, then rinse it well and dry the board.

Some people remove stains and odors from a wood cutting board by sprinkling it with coarse salt, then rubbing it with a cut lemon, squeezing to remove the juice as they rub. When finished, rinse the board well and dry the board. Allow it to air dry before putting it away.

Spritzing the board with white vinegar after use can help to avoid the development of odors in your board.

Protect the Wood: Oiling wooden boards helps to maintain their surface and keeps them from drying out, which could cause them to crack. This also helps to prevent liquids from food and microbes from penetrating the board, helping to keep it clean and germ-free. The goal is to penetrate the wood and saturate the wood fibers with board oil.

All wooden cutting boards should be oiled periodically by rubbing them with food-safe (this is critical!) mineral oil (or an alternative oil of choice). This oil can be found in most local pharmacies. Note, that mineral oil is the oil of choice by most professional chefs for this application, since it will not go rancid over time. Do not use vegetable oils for this purpose. They will spoil, causing the board to smell bad and possibly transmit rancid oils into your food.

If you prefer to use a food-derived oil, you could use traditional coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature) or fractionated coconut oil (which is liquid at room temperature). Just note that some say traditional coconut oil may go rancid over an extended period of time, whereas fractionated coconut oil should not.

First, be sure your board is as clean (and dry) as possible. Then, simply rub a generous amount of your preferred oil very well into the DRY board with a clean, dry cloth, or new paint brush dedicated to this purpose (do not use your hands as you might get a splinter!). Doing this will help to prevent cracks in the board, keeping it from harboring microbes in hard-to-reach areas. After being oiled, stand your cutting board up on its side on a clean, dry towel, or place it on a wire rack. Allow the oil to soak in as long as possible before wiping any excess off. Try to allow the oil to soak in for at least a few hours (up to 24 hours) before wiping away the excess. A simple way to do this would be to wipe the board with oil in the evening. Allow it to sit overnight. Wipe any excess oil off in the morning, and allow it to air dry until it is not tacky or sticky feeling. Then use the board as needed.

How often you should oil your board depends upon how often you use it. Wooden boards used daily may benefit from being oiled once a month. Those not used very often could be oiled once or twice a year. If your board feels “dry to the touch” it’s time to oil it. If nothing else, let that tip be your guide.

Spoon (Wood) Butter (Cutting Board Creams or Waxes): You can also condition your board with “spoon butter” or “wood butter” which is a mixture of beeswax, food-grade mineral oil, and sometimes other waxes. These same creams may also be referred to as cutting board creams or waxes. They can be purchased in stores (local and online) that carry cutting boards and kitchen supplies.

While board oil penetrates the wood, board creams or waxes coat the surface of the board, protecting it from liquids and stains. Board creams or waxes also help to protect sanitation, as they fill in knife marks, where bacteria can live, even after the board is cleaned. When used in conjunction, both board oil and cream or wax can protect your wooden cutting board from inside to out, helping it to serve you well for years.

To use board creams or waxes, rub a generous amount of the mixture into your board and allow it to sit for at least several hours, up to 24 hours (overnight is really convenient). Then buff excess off your board with a clean, dry cloth. Allow it to air dry until it no longer feels tacky or sticky, then use your board as normal. Use it freely on any wood or bamboo bowl, board, or kitchen utensil.

Plastic Cutting Boards
Plastic cutting boards are enjoyed by many. They are usually made from polyethylene and can be washed at the sink, soaked for indefinite periods of time, and placed in the dishwasher. They are relatively good on knife blades, but not as good as wood boards in that respect.

Pros: One benefit of plastic boards is that they come in different colors. The assorted colors can help you isolate their use for specific types of foods, such as one specifically for raw meats, while another is specifically for raw vegetables, and yet another is dedicated only to cutting breads. Such a system is excellent to help prevent cross-contamination of bacteria which can be deadly.

Plastic boards can be safely soaked for long periods of time and can also be placed in the dishwasher.

Plastic boards are relatively good for maintaining the sharp edge of your knife, since they give slightly in the cutting process.

Cons: Over time, plastic boards can get a lot of knife gouges in them which are permanent. Such furrows allow places for bacteria to harbor, even after the board has been washed. When a plastic board becomes “fuzzy” or has a lot of knife furrows in it, it’s time to replace it.

Sanitizing Your Board: Always start by first washing your board in hot soapy water, or running it through a dishwashing cycle. If your board has been used for low-risk foods such as breads or fresh fruits and vegetables, occasionally letting your plastic board soak in a diluted bleach solution (1 tablespoon of unscented bleach to 1 gallon of water) for 5 minutes can adequately sanitize the board. If the board has been used for cutting raw meat, seafood, or poultry, it’s important to sanitize it after EACH such use.

Placing it in the dishwasher after each use is also a good way to help keep your plastic board clean and fresh.

No matter how your board has been washed or sanitized, be sure your board is completely dry before storing it. Any moisture left on the board can allow bacteria to remain viable.

Bamboo Cutting Boards
Bamboo cutting boards have increased in popularity in recent years. They require less maintenance than traditional wood cutting boards and are harder and less porous than hardwoods.

Pros: Bamboo cutting boards require less maintenance than traditional wood boards. Since they do not retain water as traditional wood boards can, they are less likely to warp, crack, or harbor bacteria. Bamboo absorbs very little moisture and resists scarring from knives, so they are more resistant to bacteria than traditional wood boards. They make lovely serving trays for cheese, crackers, and other appetizers or finger foods.

Because bamboo is harder than traditional wood, it resists scarring from knife use, as does traditional wood. This makes it easier to clean and less likely to retain bacteria after use.

The hardness and density of bamboo makes it less likely to stain when preparing some foods like meats or tomatoes.

Bamboo is a sustainable crop, so less damage is done to the environment when bamboo is harvested than trees. Bamboo is a grass and one of the fastest growing plants on the planet! It is one of the simpler and more economically grown plants available. Also, they are relatively inexpensive.

Cons: Do not put bamboo cutting boards in the dishwasher, which might cause the board to warp and/or crack. Also, do not soak your bamboo board.

Read the label carefully when buying a bamboo cutting board. Some bamboo products are processed with formaldehyde and glues that can leach into foods over time. Choose only boards made with non-toxic treatments or organic practices.

Since bamboo is harder than traditional wood boards, they are not as forgiving to knife blades as wood boards. Hence, your knife may not last as long when using a bamboo cutting board, especially if it is a cheaper knife made with a softer metal than a higher-priced knife.

Bamboo boards should not be used as hot plates or trivets for hot items, since this might burn the board.

Pre-conditioning your bamboo board: If your bamboo board was not pre-conditioned by the manufacturer, you’ll need to do that before you use it. First, wash it well in hot soapy water, then dry it and allow it to completely air dry. Then prime it with food grade mineral oil. Apply a generous amount of oil and let it sit for a few hours to overnight. Wipe off any remaining oil in the morning with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel until it does not feel damp or sticky, and it will be ready to use. Do this about once a month to maintain your board and extend its life, or repeat this process any time your board looks dry.

Spoon (Wood) Butter: See this topic under the Wood board section. The same information applies to bamboo boards.

Washing, Sanitizing, and Maintaining Your Bamboo Cutting Board: Clean bamboo cutting boards with hot soapy water; and sanitize if it each time it is used for cutting raw meats, seafood, or poultry. Dry it thoroughly before putting it away. Do not put it in the dishwasher.

To sanitize your bamboo board, scrub it well with a mixture of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water (or 1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 quart of water…which is slightly stronger than the 1 gallon mixture). Allow it to sit for a few minutes, then rinse the board well afterwards, and wipe it dry. Allow it to air dry completely before putting it away.

Glass Boards
Glass cutting boards can be beautiful decorative elements in any kitchen. They make a nice platform or tray for items that you want to protect from other surfaces. Although they can be easy to clean and maintain, most professionals do not use glass boards for reasons stated below.

Pros: Glass boards are easy to clean since they are nonporous. Germs can’t penetrate them. They may be placed in the dishwasher.

Cons: Since glass boards are hard and have no “give” whatsoever, they can damage knife blades over time. For this reason, most authorities do not recommend glass cutting boards for cutting purposes.

Sanitizing Your Board: Simply wash your glass board at the sink or in the dishwasher. An occasional sanitizing with a bleach or vinegar solution is always advisable (see how, under “Wood” section).

Stone/Marble/Granite Boards
Stone boards are excellent when used for rolling pastry. They are naturally cool to the touch which helps to keep the butter or other fat in the pastry from melting during the rolling process. Doughs also tend to stick less to stone, marble, or granite when being rolled out. They can also be used to place pots on to keep them from scratching a counter top. But since they are extremely hard, they can dull knife blades over time when used to cut foods, so they are generally not recommended for use as a traditional cutting board.

Pros: There is no chance these boards will warp. They can be used as a hot pad or trivet. They can be very attractive and add a nice element to your kitchen décor. They are simple to clean and sanitize and do not need special treatment to maintain.

Cons: They can dull your knife blade when used as a true cutting board. If not careful, they can chip or crack if mishandled or bumped.

When to Replace Your Cutting Board
Replace your cutting board when it shows a lot of wear, such as extensive knife marks. Deep groves in any board can allow bacteria to live on the board, even after being washed.

Also replace your board if it has warped. Using a warped board will not be stable on the counter or table, which can be very hazardous when using a sharp knife. The cost of a new board is well worth it when compared to having a serious knife injury.

If you are using a wood or bamboo board and the seams are starting to separate, it’s time to replace the board. It may be unstable to use, making working with a sharp knife potentially dangerous. Also, deep groves may catch your knife making cutting action erratic and possibly invite an injury. Furthermore, deep groves or cracks can also harbor bacteria. So, needless to say, a board that is separating is not worth keeping! When dealing with food and food-related equipment…”When in doubt, throw it out!”

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.