Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Works For Me Wednesday: Chopping Block Cleaning

One of the most debated topics in the kitchen world is the use or abandon of butcher block style cutting boards. There are plenty of resources available on which cutting boards are the best and safest for you and your family, but this trick is one I've used for years and it's simple, eco-friendly, and makes your kitchen smell fresh and clean with only 5 minutes of work. What can be easier? The answer, my friends, lies within the fruit of the lemon.

Start with a dirty butcher block. This one had a number of raw veggies hacked to pieces on it before they met their demise in my dinner. They took one for the team.

Roll a fresh lemon back and forth on a flat surface. Note that your hands are really pale but be too lazy to care. Basically what you're trying to do is rev the lemon's engine. Rolling a citrus fruit back and forth and applying some pressure will get the juices flowing and make the fruit juicier.

Now take a dirty knife that's been busy chopping potatoes and slice your lemon in half. You're can use a small lemon, but a medium sized one works well too.

Behold the lemon and breathe in that fresh lemon scent that everyone tries to bottle. Give thanks for fresh fruit and farmer's markets.

Once again, note that your hands are too pale for camera work and that you really need a manicure. Start at one end of your cutting board and place the lemon cut side down.

Holding the lemon down, slide it back and forth across your cutting surface. Squeeze here and there to release a little juice if necessary. You WANT the lemon juice to get down into the grooves of the cutting surface.

Keep going, and when your lemon half runs out of steam, switch to the second lemon half. It's just that simple!

Behold your chemical-free and clean cutting surface. Give thanks for citus juices.

There will probably be some leftover pieces of pulp on your cutting surface that you can wipe up with a towel or just wait 5 minutes and they'll dry and you can pick 'em off with your fingers. This is a great way to use up an extra lemon or lemon half if you've got an extra, or you can buy a lemon specifically for this purpose. Good, fresh lemons will last up to 2 weeks and you can put them in a bowl on your table for a fresh smelling centerpiece and pick them as you need them. I always pick up 1-2 lemons each week because I use this countertop butcher block at least once a week when I'm too lazy to dig up my vegetable cutting board. I never use the wood block for meat, but it's good when I need to chop up an onion or quickly smash some garlic.

I saw an episode of Food Detectives a few months ago that basically said it's not the material your cutting surface is made of so much as the age of your cutting surface. Older plastic cutting boards can hold more bacteria than new wood chopping blocks, so be sure you're cleaning your goods with hot water and soap, and get yourself a new one when it starts showing signs of age. You don't need anything fancy; I have 2: one for meat and fish and one for fruits and veggies, so I avoid any cross contamination.

If you're skeptical of this cleaning method, think of it this way: you're eating what goes on that cutting board. If you don't want E. coli or ebola or Malaysian Flu from your cutting board (and really, who does?) it's in your best interests to keep it clean. Using a fresh lemon to clean your cutting board is an eco-friendly way to kill off any lingering germs without introducing chemicals into your diet inadvertently. And, if you're still skeptical....I've been cleaning my cutting boards with this method for years and I've never once gotten a food-borne illness from anything I've prepared or laid on my chopping block.

See you next Wednesday with (hopefully) a new tip! And visit other WFMW blog posts!

ETA: Go here to visit all the other WFMW blog posts! (Scroll down.)


  1. Thanks for a great tip! Love "green" cleaning ideas. :)

  2. Great tip. A lemon will also get that golden gooey stuff off pans after baking.

  3. OH- I also use lemon juice to clean rice or chicken out of a pan.

  4. I came across your post on the Works for Me Wednesday carnival. I don't have a wooden cutting board, but your post really made me laugh with your random comments about your manicure and such! Thanks for the smiles!


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