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What are the three colors of cutting boards used in food preparation?

What are the three colors of cutting boards used in food preparation?

Cutting boards are an essential tool in any kitchen. They provide a sturdy, cleanable surface for chopping fruits, vegetables, meats, and more. But not all cutting boards are created equal. Choosing the right cutting board material and color for the types of food you plan to prepare can help promote proper food safety and prevent cross-contamination.

The Importance of Using Different Cutting Board Colors

Using different colored cutting boards for different food types helps prevent cross-contamination between raw meats, produce, and other ingredients. The scientific community advises using the following color system:

  • Red – Use for raw meats
  • Green – Use for fruits and vegetables
  • Yellow – Use for raw poultry
  • Blue – Use for raw fish and seafood
  • Brown – Use for cooked foods
  • White – Use for breads and other baked goods

This color coding system allows you to easily identify which cutting board should be used for which ingredient. It’s an effective way to help avoid accidental cross-contamination. For example, slicing tomatoes on a cutting board that was just used for raw chicken could allow harmful bacteria like Salmonella to transfer from the poultry to the tomato.

Benefits of Using Color Coded Cutting Boards

Using color coded cutting boards provides several key advantages:

  • Prevents illness – Using separate boards prevents the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens between foods. This helps reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
  • Promotes food safety – The color coding serves as a visual reminder of which boards should be used for which ingredients. This makes it easier for cooks to use proper food safety practices.
  • Streamlines prep – Having multiple boards ready to go can speed up meal prepping by allowing you to work with different ingredients simultaneously.
  • Extends board life – Using separate boards helps minimize deep knife cuts, scratches, and damage concentrated on just one or two boards.
  • Improves flavor – Keeping strong flavored foods like garlic, onion, and fish separate prevents their flavors or odors from transferring to other foods.

Overall, utilizing color coded cutting boards is a simple, effective system to improve food safety and enjoyment in the kitchen.

The 3 Best Cutting Board Colors

When selecting cutting boards, opt for boards in the following 3 key colors:

1. Red Cutting Boards

Red cutting boards are designated for use with raw meats, pork, beef, lamb, and venison. Using a red board prevents potential bacteria present in raw meats from spreading to other foods. It also serves as a visual cue, allowing you to easily avoid accidentally cutting other ingredients on a surface that touched raw meat.

Opt for durable, non-porous plastic or rubber red cutting boards that can withstand frequent sanitizing. Wood boards are more difficult to disinfect properly. Look for boards with non-slip bases to keep them in place during use. After cutting raw meat, immediately wash the red board with hot, soapy water.

2. Green Cutting Boards

Green cutting boards are ideal for cutting fruits and vegetables. Using a dedicated produce board can limit the transfer of dirt and chemicals from the outside of produce to other foods. It also prevents cross-contamination from meat bacteria getting onto fresh produce that won’t be cooked.

Choose a sturdy green plastic, rubber, or wood board with a smooth cutting surface. Wood boards made from close-grained hardwoods like maple are naturally antimicrobial. Disinfect green boards regularly and always wash produce thoroughly before cutting to limit dirt and microbes transferring to the board.

3. Yellow Cutting Boards

Yellow cutting boards are designated for raw poultry use. Like red boards, yellow boards help prevent bacteria present in raw chicken, turkey, or duck from spreading. Using a distinct board only for poultry makes it easy to keep raw meats separated.

Pick durable, non-porous yellow boards made of plastic, rubber, acrylic, or resin. Wood boards are not ideal since poultry juice can seep deep into the porous material even after washing. Clean and disinfect yellow boards thoroughly after each use to kill lingering bacteria like Salmonella.

Helpful Tips for Using Colored Cutting Boards

Here are some handy tips to get the most from your color coded cutting board collection:

  • Label boards – Use stickers or markers to label the intended food for each different colored board.
  • Get distinct colors – Choose bold, bright shades that make each board’s color immediately clear.
  • Buy in sets – Purchasing a full set ensures you have all needed colors ready to go.
  • Clean thoroughly – Disinfect using a bleach solution for wood boards and boards used with raw meat or poultry.
  • Let boards dry – Allow boards to fully air dry before storing to prevent warping or bacteria growth.
  • Use with other tools – Have designated colored cutting knives to match each board.

Using colored cutting boards requires some extra diligence, but the food safety payoff is well worth the effort. Over time, getting in the habit of using separate colored boards for different ingredients will simply become second nature.

The Pros and Cons of Common Cutting Board Materials

Cutting boards come in a variety of different materials, each with their own pros and cons. The main options are:

Plastic Cutting Boards


  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Non-porous surface
  • Easy to clean
  • Come in variety of colors


  • Can develop hard to clean grooves and cuts over time
  • Not as gentle on knife blades
  • Can harbor bacteria in crevices if not cleaned thoroughly
  • Not biodegradable or recyclable

Wood Cutting Boards


  • Gentler on knife blades
  • Naturally antimicrobial properties
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Biodegradable and recyclable


  • Relatively expensive
  • Porous and can absorb bacteria
  • Prone to cracking and splitting
  • Harder to thoroughly sanitize
  • Not dishwasher safe

Bamboo Cutting Boards


  • Hard, durable surface
  • Naturally antimicrobial
  • Resists moisture, warping, and cracking
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly material
  • Attractive appearance


  • Relatively expensive
  • Prone to knife scarring
  • Not as soft on knives as wood
  • Can harbor bacteria if not cleaned properly

Glass Cutting Boards


  • Nonporous, won’t harbor bacteria
  • Stain resistant
  • Durable and withstands high heat
  • Visually attractive
  • Easy to thoroughly clean and sanitize


  • Extremely hard on knife blades
  • Heavy and prone to cracking or shattering
  • Slippery surface during use
  • Relatively expensive

There are also some less common materials like rubber, acrylic, marble, and resin available. Take into account your budget, cooking style, and how much effort you’re willing to put into board maintenance when choosing cutting board materials.

How to Clean and Disinfect Colored Cutting Boards

Properly cleaning and disinfecting cutting boards is key to getting the most value from them. Follow these best practices:

Sanitizing After Each Use

  • Wash with hot, soapy water immediately after prepping foods.
  • Use antibacterial dish soap and scrub thoroughly with a dish brush.
  • Rinse well with clean, hot water.
  • Sanitize using a dilute bleach solution or vinegar.
  • Allow to fully air dry.

Deep Cleaning Weekly

  • Scrub boards with a baking soda and water paste.
  • Rinse and dry.
  • Disinfect using hydrogen peroxide or lemon juice solution.
  • Air dry the boards completely before storing.

Removing Stains and Discoloration

  • Sprinkle baking soda and scrub with a lemon wedge to lighten stains.
  • Use a board whitening cleanser to remove discoloration.
  • Avoid bleaching or prolonged sun exposure which can damage boards.
  • Sand down minor scratches and knife marks as needed.

Maintaining Wood and Bamboo Boards

  • Scrub grain using salt or vinegar to deep clean.
  • Apply food-grade mineral oil periodically to condition the wood.
  • Avoid soaking wood boards and do not put in the dishwasher.
  • Store wood boards suspended to allow air circulation.

With regular, thorough cleaning, colored cutting boards can provide years of safe, sanitary use in the kitchen before needing to be replaced.

Storing Colored Cutting Boards Properly

Storing cutting boards correctly will help prolong their usable life. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Let boards fully air dry before putting away.
  • Designate separate cabinet space or shelves for different colored boards.
  • Stand boards vertically on edges to allow air circulation.
  • Avoid stacking boards directly on top of one another.
  • optionally use board racks to store vertically
  • optionally Wrap boards in plastic food wrap or beeswax infused cloth.
  • Avoid hanging wood boards, which can cause warping.
  • Store boards away from hot appliances, sinks, or moisture.

Proper storage keeps boards clean between uses and extends their lifespan. Let your boards air out 24-48 hours before using again.

Signs It’s Time to Replace Colored Cutting Boards

Eventually, all cutting boards need replacement. Some signs it’s time to retire old boards and purchase new ones include:

  • Deep grooves, holes, or knife marks
  • Cracked, warped, or splintered wood grain
  • Cloudy, stained discoloration
  • Difficulty getting boards fully clean and sanitized
  • Plastic boards with chipped or melted spots
  • Thin boards that lack stability
  • Loose or wobbly non-slip feet

Issues like deep scratches and discoloration not only look unappealing but also make boards harder to effectively sanitize. Dropping a board can warp or crack it. Replace boards displaying any of these warning signs.

Recommended Replacement Frequency

Here are some general guidelines on how often to replace cutting boards by material type:

Board Material Replacement Frequency
Plastic 1 to 2 years
Wood 2 to 4 years
Bamboo 2 to 3 years
Glass 3 to 5 years
Rubber 1 to 2 years

However, always inspect boards regularly and replace them at the first sign of damage, excessive wear, or difficulty getting them clean – even if they are newer.

Disposing of Old Cutting Boards Properly

When it’s time to get rid of old cutting boards, make sure to dispose of them correctly:

  • Plastic – Place in recycling if accepted in your local program. Otherwise, discard in regular trash.
  • Wood – Break boards down fully and add to compost pile or green waste collection.
  • Bamboo – Bamboo is compostable, or can be recycled in some areas.
  • Glass – Wrap fully in paper and discard in trash to prevent shattering.
  • Rubber – Check if recyclable in your region. If not, discard in trash.

Be sure to thoroughly sanitize boards before disposal. Wear protective gloves when breaking down old boards to avoid contact with residual bacteria.

Top Brands of Colored Cutting Boards

Some top cutting board brands to consider across various materials include:

Plastic Cutting Boards

  • Oxo
  • Prepworks
  • ThermoWorks
  • KitchenAid
  • Cuisinart

Wood Cutting Boards

  • John Boos
  • Sonder Los Angeles
  • Ironwood Gourmet
  • Virginia Boys Kitchens
  • Michigan Maple Block

Bamboo Cutting Boards

  • Totally Bamboo
  • Royal Craft Wood
  • Cuisinart
  • Neet
  • SoulFino

Glass Cutting Boards

  • Pyrex
  • Anchor Hocking
  • Joseph Joseph
  • Tabletops Unlimited
  • Architec

When possible, look for boards with food grade, non-toxic materials. Check user reviews and opt for reputable brands with a track record of durability.

Factors to Consider When Buying Cutting Boards

When selecting new cutting boards, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Intended uses – Select boards in colors designated for the types of