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I have heard multiple times that "one should never cut raw meat on a wooden cutting board nor mix it using a wooden spoon."

The reason most often cited is that apparently bacteria can survive in the wood's pores.

I also found this PDF from the University of Wisconsin–Madison where it is written:

Using. Avoid cutting raw meat or poultry directly on a butcher block or wooden cutting board. Instead, place a plastic cutting board on the wooden surface and use the plastic board as the cutting surface. This will protect the wood and prevent it from becoming contaminated.

Is there any truth in this claim?

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According to research at UC-Davis, quite the opposite is true. The key finding:

Our safety concern was that bacteria such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, which might contaminate a work surface when raw meat was being prepared, ought not remain on the surface to contaminate other foods that might be eaten without further cooking. We soon found that disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present.

All species of hardwood tested were found to have bacteriostatic or antibacterial properties that plastic lacks, which compensated for the inability to easily clean the wood's pores.

  • Wow, an unexpected answer. I would have accepted the conventional wisdom. Shows you learn something new every day. – JasonR Dec 15 '14 at 14:36

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