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Ask Kirstin: Wood or Plastic Cutting Board?; Cookbook Recommendations


I need new cutting boards. Which are better, plastic or wood? –D.W.

My own favorites are wooden, there were some studies that showed that wooden boards have natural antibacterial properties (wood is porous, so the bacteria is drawn into the wood where it gets trapped and dies). Not sure that makes much of a difference, as no matter what, cutting boards need to be washed well several times in the course of cooking dinner. But the real reason I prefer wooden ones is that they are so beautiful. They can be handed down for generations (who wants to inherit a plastic one?), can be used as large serving platters in a pinch, and are easy on your knives.

Wooden cutting boards should be washed thoroughly and often with hot soapy water, and once in a while apply a thick paste of baking soda and lemon juice and put your board into the sun to freshen up and lose all its fruit and vegetable stains, then rub it all over with a little olive oil.

Plastic cutting boards have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive, light and are easily thrown into the dishwasher. So the choice is up to you. Both are perfectly fine.


Do you have a few favorite cook books you could recommend? — M. T. C.

My first suggestion is: a beautiful book called “The Family Dinner” (which is a shameless plug of our book, shameless because I do love it). Not only does it have 80+ delicious, healthy, comforting, easy, good for the body and soul recipes, but also lots of suggestions (table talk, poems, games) on how to make your time around the table a fun, loving and a learning experience.

Some other suggestions:

* All of the large “How to Cook” books by Mark Bittman are great because they have almost any recipe you could ever want, in a very easy format.

* “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins is a well loved classic, it is filled with never fail perfectly easy and tasty recipes.

* Everything in the “Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper” by Lynn Rossetto Casper and Sally Swift is delicious, and it has lots of interesting how-to’s and tips.

* Cooking with either of Heidi Swanson’s books, “Super Natural Cooking“ or “Super Natural Everyday” is like hanging out in the kitchen with your coolest vegetarian girl-friend — interesting, educational and delicious.

* And our favorite dude friend Jamie Oliver has a great number of easy and inspiring cookbooks you can’t go wrong with.

* Every family needs at least one Julia Child cook book. I would start with “The Way to Cook” and “Baking with Julia.”

* Finally if you are looking for stunning armchair travel, look at anything by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. They take you to foreign lands in a way that make you taste the worlds.


I can’t figure out when my meat is cooked to the right temperature. How do I know? — Dawn S.

Most of us don’t know by touch, but luckily with an inexpensive “instant read thermometer” (found anyplace they sell kitchen supplies) you will know exactly when your dinner is done. A few minutes before you think the meat is ready (remember you cannot undo “well done”), insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat (the thigh on poultry), and don’t let it touch the bone. When is reaches the right temperature, rejoice.

Ground Products:

Hamburger – 160°F
Beef, veal, lamb, pork – 160°F
Chicken, turkey – 165°F

Chicken, whole & pieces – 165°F
Duck – 165°F (well done)
Turkey (unstuffed) – 165°F
Whole – 165°F
Breast – 165°F
Dark meat – 165°F

Beef, Lamb, Roasts & Steaks:
Medium rare – 145°F
Medium – 160°F
Well-done – 170°F

Pork Chops, roast, ribs:
Medium – 160°F
Well-done – 170°F

Ham, fresh – 160°F

Sausage, fresh – 160°F


Want to “Ask Kirstin” for help in the kitchen? Send your questions to And check out the “Ask Kirstin” Archive.

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One Response

  1. Creekers says:

    Very informative article Kirstin, particularly regarding the advantages of wood cutting boards over plastic. Just one suggestion though, instead of a good wipe down with olive oil, I prefer to use mineral oil as there is no chance of the penetrated oil becoming rancid. Plus it’s cheap!

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