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A few years ago and out of the many short term jobs I have had, I used to work in a restaurant kitchen as a kitchen assistant. The job wasn't entirely enterprising but it was long hours with surprisingly good pay that tied me over whilst studying at college. One of the worst jobs I hated was scrubbing the old wooden chopping boards and despite my persistence in suggesting to management that they weren't healthy with continual manual scrubbing, it wasn't until Health & Safety made a passing visit that the management changed over to plastic commercially based boards suitable for food prep and withstands hot temperatures from the dishwasher or muggins scrubbing the board! Like it or lump it, but a damp wooden chopping board freshly washed from a dishwasher board harbours more bacteria as soon as it becomes airborne, and if like me you're wary of glass boards that may be toughened for use but eventually shatter, a wooden chopping board is still worthy of considering for the fear of less splinters or shattering glass. The only trouble with wood is that most boards are heavy and if you get a lightweight one, there's still the problem of ensuring that it is bone dry until it can be used again. There is nothing worse than an old damp wooden chopping board which may well have been subject to anti-bacterial washing up liquid but still reeks of old onions - and you then begin to wonder what else harbours inside the wood for the odour to stay there.
Help comes in hand from a company called Top Gourmet. At the time of purchase my buying intentions were rather different as my mum wanted a black chopping board to go with her black kitchen and as much as I tried to think about her lifting heavy marble with her Arthritic hands, the choice came down to cheap black vinyl based polycarbonate chopping boards with silly designs on them, or the Top Gourmet "clean design" boards I found at John Lewis. The boards aren't made out of proper wood, but a substance called "Richlite," that is made of recycled fibre - but has the tactile quality of wood and even looks like wood. The boards are also very lightweight, similar to the thin kinds of polycarbonate boards you'll find - and are substantially cheaper than this new Eco-friendly substance. They are however not always guaranteed to be heat proof - most polycarbonate and polypropylene boards have a heat resistance to a maximum of 280° centigrade but my own findings with a Tesco Value choppping board one year went straight into the bin when baking cookies that came out of an oven temperature of 190° centigrade and melted when the pan hit the plastic to save the cheap student hall kitchen worktop! Top Gourmet's boards have a maximum resistance of 350° centigrade - (interesting that most ovens these days have this as the highest temperature available, anyway) and I've only ever used the board once to keep meat warmed up in the top oven door - and the board was never singed or burnt when the meat came out. Richlite also protects knives from dulling and although the black colour is indeed black, the boards in my experience don't stain.
There are three sizes available of this board and out of the three I have two of them, the larger one back then cost around £30. My first Top Gourmet (small size) chopping board cost me £15-95 two years ago but I see John Lewis have upped the price to £20 now. The small chopping board measures 30cm by 23cm, medium sized measures 38cm by 28cm and costs £26-75 and the large board measures 46cm by 33cm, which costs £35. The larger size is a tad too big for my kitchen but I may consider getting one in the next couple of months when my mum starts making bread again and needs a good quality chopping board to cope with all the slicing and carving. A standard sized/family sized chicken or turkey however will just about fit on the smallest board suitable for carving for example with only a little space left for anything else from the initial prep - so the small size isn't exactly small and you get a bit more space for your money here.
In use, I just love this board but I use other kinds of boards for food prep, not just restricting my use with the Top Gourmet alone. I use it for chopping vegetables, carving chicken or Christmas turkey and have also used it as a charger plate for cold cheese served on a dinner table. The colour and rectangular shape alone with smooth edges is very effective at being just that! Many of my friends who have seen it, think it's a black slate piece rather than wood and the board also sustains slice/cutting marks very well making its appearance longer lasting than traditional cheese boards. What gives the game away is the fact that there is a blessed circular hole on one end of the board, which acts as a hanging hole or a finger hole if holding onto the board whilst the brand name sits dead centre near the top! The name can be hidden but not the finger hole when trying to get away with a black slate imitation! If you're a professional cook you'll know the circular hole can have an implement staked through it to keep it steady. To say the board has practical uses would be an understatement though, although it is a pity that it doesn't follow the routine of more advanced chopping boards these days with the foldable fins that make chopped prepared food easier to slide into cooking pots and such like. At least all the edges are smoothened out and are never sharp to the touch, making this an ideal board for children.
One downside to the board is that whilst it is reversible it doesn't have any grips on it, although when placed on a flat kitchen surface, the TG board doesn't slip around much unless the surface is damp or wet. Food however rarely slips off unless you want it to, lifting the board up at a high angle or when sliding food prep into a cooking pot.
The true test of cleanliness after all work has been completed can be seen whether it is scrubbed with a, sponge, hard brush or even in the dishwasher. Mine have survived really well - although I have never used a metal scourer on the board, though it has withstood my mother's halo Brillo pads a couple of times! Unlike traditional wooden boards, the moment the Top Gourmet board comes out of the dishwasher bone dry, it is sterile to the scent and never stinks of any food prep even if it has been hand washed in hot soapy water. This is because Richlite isn't a porous material and that's what you get for the high price, here. The TG board gives me immediate peace of mind as well as being able to use the board instantly.
There is very little that the Top Gourmet chopping board can't do over the plastic ones you get on the market. The biggest hardship is the price though. However, mine have lasted three years without shrinking or fraying and they've been dropped and been subject to a few hot dishwasher program settings, and still they look as good as new. An absolute must for the home baker who prides cleanliness and hygiene, as well as being eco-friendly, lightweight and easy to slice food on too! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2011
Dishwasher proof chopping board / Eco friendly.