Dear TMH: Bleaching Cutting Boards, the Best Basting Brush, and an Easy Cocktail Sauce

In this edition of Dear TMH: I follow up on my post about replacing and cleaning cutting boards, I recommend a modern alternative to the tired basting brush, and I share the recipe of a very simple cocktail sauce. Want me to test out a recipe or a cleaning tactic you’ve heard about? I’ll do that, too. Just e-mail manlyhousekeeper@gmail.com, or post a note in the comments.

When I wrote about cutting boards last month, I recommended replacing plastic cutting boards that had deep knife gouges. Reader 68speedygirl asked:

Just last night I got out my three plastic cutting boards and laid them on an old towel and poured straight bleach on them — just enough to cover the surface.  Within minutes they were almost white again, and by morning they were completely white with no hint of stain. Only the nick marks remain. Do I still need to replace them? I’ve had them for several years, but they’re mostly used to cut up fruits and veggies. I always thought bleach solved everything. :)

I agree that bleach is a great cure-all. Please be extra careful when using straight bleach, however. Did you hear (h/t Gawker) about the recent bleach fight in a Baltimore Wal-Mart? Nineteen people were treated at the hospital, one with a serious eye injury.

I asked my sometimes-consultant on scientific topics what concentration of bleach he recommended. He said, “There are four ways to increase the rate/effectiveness of bleach solution as a disinfectant: concentration, time, temperature and amount of agitation. My standard practice (while wearing gloves) is to carefully dilute commercial bleach between 1:4 and 1:5 with water (hottest available from the tap, or even boiling from the kettle), pour the diluted hot bleach solution over the plastic cutting board in several portions, and scrub (in direction of gouges/scores in the surface) with a plastic scrub brush.”

I tried his technique on my old and seriously discolored cutting boards, and I got mixed results. They were unquestionably cleaner, but not pure white. Even with 50 percent bleach, some of the discolored knife marks remained.

The cutting boards I use now are reversible, and I try to remember to only slice raw meat and fish on one side and save the other for every other knife task. It’s also a great idea to demote scarred cutting boards to fruit and vegetable duty.

Robert:

When I was basting some veggies with olive oil recently, I reached for my old basting brush (top photo) and was reminded, later, what a pain to clean it is, and how so much oil is wasted by soaking into the brush, and not going onto the food. Is there a modern, perhaps silicone, alternative?

Indeed there is. I have two silicone basting brushes (bottom photo) from Williams-Sonoma. The brush is a little pricey, but the stainless steel handle gives it a nice weight. OXO also makes a good-quality brush. The two best parts of the silicone brush: It is much easier to clean, and it doesn’t absorb the flavors of whatever you are sauce you are basting with.

Last week’s New York Times Magazine was a special food issue, which included an extensive feature answering food-related questions. What should I stop buying and make instead? caught my attention. The author recommended condiments, saying, “Almost without exception, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, steak sauce, tartar sauce and cocktail sauce are better, brighter, zingier and zestier when freshly made.”

I chuckled to myself when I read this, because the photo at left is a documentation of my kitchen counter after making from scratch a cocktail sauce that tasted … no better or worse than any other cocktail sauce I’ve ever had. Reader Charlotte makes a much simpler sauce:

I’ve tried many cocktail sauces and have just simplified to two ingredients: ketchup and horseradish. Seems to go over quite well!

Sounds good to me! There are some times when simpler definitely is better.

  • http://molly-sweeney.com Molly @ The F-Spot

    I make my own cocktail sauce all the time. I use ketchup, horseradish, and a squeeze of lemon juice. I have found that the acidity in the lemon juice really adds something without complicating the ingredient list.  

    Thanks for all the great tips!

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