Improving the chopping board

Some time ago I was using my beloved big-arse wooden chopping board and I had an idea to improve it, and not by a trivial amount. How to you improve on a chopping board? Well, I’ve seen many attempts in my relatively short travels. Some have been small and non-essential but genuine, while many have been, in my opinion, gimmicks.

The chopping board

What is a chopping board for? For me, it is a way to chop and slice food in preparation for cooking a meal without dulling the edge on my knives. A chopping board must also have a solid but low-pitched, or muffled, ‘thunk’ when chopping; something only a thick, heavy chopping board can give. I’ve had one like this for a long time, and it’s awesome, but my improvement would make it many times better. Before I tell you what it is, let’s have a look at some innovations in chopping boards over the years.

Innovations, good and bad

Glass chopping boards

Glass chopping board

These are meant to be super-safe to use as the non-porous surface will never collect bacteria, and when wiped down would remove all bacteria. You could even get that squeaky-clean sound with Windex!

This sounds great — who doesn’t want to get rid of all bacteria? Me for one. I don’t want to be the guy who gets sick at the slightest common cold floating around on public transport because my body has never come in contact with the most common, everyday bacteria. I’m no Dr. House[1. Hello Claire!], but I’m sure it’s ok to ingest a little day-old dried capsicum juice. Chicken juice not so much.

One thing they don’t tell you is glass will dull your knife edge extremely quickly. Do you know how hard glass is? Around 60% the hardness of diamond. Diamond is bullshit-hard. They embed those suckers into hardcore power saw blades. It’s the hardest natural substance. If you don’t know how to sharpen a knife properly, don’t go with glass. And I don’t want to hear about your super-easy drag-and-destroy pulling knife sharpener from that infomercial.

Also, do you know what scientists decided was the worst sound in the world? U-huh.

Plastic/synthetic chopping board

Plastic chopping board

There is a legitimate need for dense plastic/high-density polyethylene (HDPE) chopping boards: they’re inexpensive, easy to clean, and come it different colours which is actually extremely handy — not to mention potentially life-saving — in food restaurants and other food preparation businesses. When I worked in the food service industry, we had green boards for vegetables, yellow for raw chicken, red for raw red meats, blue for cooked meat, and white for non-meaty other stuff. I thought we had a pretty average selection of staff at the best of times so I’m sure these things are a godsend to places which pay minimum wages to staff who couldn’t care if you had a sprinkling of salmonella with your entreé.

My issue with these boards is that they are thin and make a loud mid-pitched ‘clak’ sound when chopping. Ugly on the ears. These also tend to warp and bow out of shape over time, at least the (probably) cheapish ones we had at work did.

A legitimate improvement for some environments, but not for me at home.

Foldable plastic chopping board

Foldable chopping board

Cool idea, right? Wrong! On the face of it this is a decent, if not interesting stab at one of the issues of a regular chopping board: how to slide your chopped food into the pot or onto the plate. It’s light, manoeuvrable, probably dishwasher-safe, and let’s face it, a bit gimmicky, so likely sells really well.

But try to carve something without holding the food down with pressure and it slides everywhere. I’ve only used one of these once, and the gimmick factor wore off within a few cuts. This might be good for a picnic or similar adventure on the run.

A good try, but only satisfying when mobile. Maybe.

Granite chopping boards

Basically the same as Glass chopping boards above, but prettier, heavier, and less worst-sound-in-the-world-y.

The moat

The moat

Here’s an interesting idea. A moat cut into the surface to stop juices from raw or roasted meat from leaving the chopping board. It’s actually a good solution for the issue of spilling liquid; simple, doesn’t require plastic to implement, and works well. The only drawback is when you’re sliding finely chopped food off the board into a pot or plate. Food which gets caught in the moat is finicky to remove, and depending one what food, and how finely chopped, more time is spent on rescuing these stranded bits than might be worth it. But still…

A good improvement to the old wooden block chopping board.

So, what’s my big idea?

I feel you getting edgy for the big reveal, so I’ll tone down your anticipation a little. My idea is a simple one. It came to me maybe a year ago during a calm time chopping food, no distractions, focused on the job at hand. It’d’ve been perfect if I was also in the shower or on the toilet, but my wife doesn’t want me preparing dinner like that any more.

Since then, the idea has floated in and out of my consciousness every once in a while, and I thought to myself I’d act on it — create a prototype, and maybe even patent it — once I returned to Australia or moved the united States. And here we are in Texas.

Last Saturday night some friends invited us around for a casual BBQ (yes Mum, we’ve made friends already!) and after a few beers and some sausages links, the idea came back to me. So I thought I’d run it by Jory and Belinda to get an objective view on it. It took a little discussion and contemplation, and if I recall correctly, they thought it was a cool idea. And I agree.

The next morning I even bookmarked a Houstonian law firm specialising in patent and copyright law to call during the week to learn the ins and outs of a possible patent for it.

I feel it’s one of those ideas where once you know what it is, you wonder why all chopping boards aren’t made this way. It’s like the paperclip; so obvious no one ever though of it.

Until they did…

The very next day while out picking up all the stuff you need when you first move into a new place in a new country, we came across this:

The big idea 02
The big idea 01

This folks, is my big idea; the idea that unfortunately someone else — no doubt with a better haircut than me — had. I picked it up it in the store and couldn’t believe my eyeballs. The lady said it was their biggest seller. Hmmm…

So I bought one.

Improving the chopping board

What we have here is a simple and effective design feature which makes the edge where food is slid off the board onto the plate/pot much wider, and more useful. It allows any plates to slide under the board without lifting the board itself, and if pushed over the edge of the bench top a little bit will also accommodate pots and pans.

The cutout leaves the corners bottom untouched to keep feel of the heavy chopping board intact. It weighs a less as a result, but looses no stability. I’ve used it already, and it works well. It’s actually pretty great!

Conclusion

I’ve obviously underestimated you, United States of America. I’m here now, amongst one of, if not, the most competitive and capitalist countries on earth. USA 1, Bart 0.

I best sharpen my pencil.