As somebody who’s been a food editor for a couple of decades—and, more importantly, as a person who prepares meals daily—I’ve picked up a lot of important tips for cutting food properly and safely.
When it comes to slicing and dicing vegetables, fruit, meat, loaves of bread, and really anything else, I’m particularly grateful to a former boyfriend—an aspiring actor who paid the bills working as a line cook—who taught me to use the “claw grip” when cutting food to avoid cutting my fingers instead.
I also regularly mentally thank the cooking teacher who explained to me about 20 years ago that a sharp knife is safer than a dull one because it’s less likely to slip on the cutting board and cause an accident. That same teacher taught me a simple but brilliant way to keep my cutting board from sliding around on the counter—and she used nothing more than a paper towel and a little water.
A cutting board that slips when you are using a sharp knife is not only annoying but also dangerous, so while I can’t remember that teacher’s name, I do remember the lesson.
“It’s important to anchor the cutting board so that it doesn’t slide around while you are cutting,” says Shawn Matijevich, Lead Chef of Online Culinary Arts & Food Operations at the Institute of Culinary Education. “For the best mechanical advantage, you want to be doing your work right at the edge of the counter. If you don’t anchor your board, it slowly creeps back as you cut.”
Anchoring not only keeps the board from sliding back away from the edge of the counter but also from side to side. If it moves in any direction, I’m at risk of cutting myself, so I’m all about anchoring!
Read on to learn how to properly anchor your cutting board and the only slipping and sliding you’ll do from now on will be recreational.
4 Super-Easy Ways to Anchor Your Cutting Board
1. Damp Paper Towel: This is the method I have used for more than 20 years. You simply dampen a paper towel and lay it out flat on the counter underneath your cutting board. It works like magic to keep the board from slipping. I prefer heavy-duty recycled paper towels like the ones from Seventh Generation, but any type of paper towel will do.
When I am done cutting, I use the paper towel to wipe down my table and counters so I feel less bad about wasting. Taking it one step further, Matijevich says, “In the professional kitchen I always dampen my paper towel with a sanitizer solution to make sure I’m not contributing to bacterial growth under (the cutting board).” Brilliant!
2. Foam Drawer Liner: Chef Matijevich’s favorite cutting board anchor is a piece of foam drawer liner. “I like to use a piece of foam drawer liner because it does a really good job and can be washed in the dishwasher after I use it,” he explains.
3. Cutting Board Mat: While the drawer liner is a nice affordable way to anchor your cutting board, there are also mats that work the same way sold specifically for this purpose. These tend to be dishwasher safe so it’s easy to keep them clean.
4. Damp Reusable Kitchen Towel or Dishcloth: Just like a paper towel, a damp kitchen towel or reusable dishcloth—such as these nifty Swedish dishcloths—can be used to anchor your cutting board. However, there are some caveats if you go this route.
“Make sure if you are using a towel that it is clean and you don’t leave it under the board for an extended period of time,” says Matijevich. “Damp towels can cause wooden boards to warp if they stay there too long (hours not minutes). That is another reason I like the foam drawer liner—it doesn’t need to be wet. Wet towels also have a tendency to trap bacteria under the board.”
Whether you opt for a damp paper towel, a drawer liner, a cutting board mat, or a reusable cloth, it’s important to anchor your cutting board for safety’s sake. So drop an anchor, and avoid slip-and-slide disasters. And I will say once again to that teacher whose name has been lost to the mists of time, thank you for saving my fingers for all these years!