There are so many options for cutting boards and many correct choices for your needs. Let’s take a general look at Cutting Boards and find the perfect fit for you. I will also suggest cutting boards in various price ranges to show you the best options.
Bottom Line Upfront
The best cutting board material, in my opinion, is wood.
Best Cutting Board Material
There are a variety of options when it comes to cutting boards. Wood, composite, and rubber are the top choices for cutting surfaces. A variety of hardwoods are readily available for you to choose from when deciding on your cutting surface.
The top choices in wood are- Maple, Birch, Walnut, Teak, Acacia, and Cherry. There are many choices of each of these woods available in single wood types, as well as many beautiful cutting boards that are a mix of hardwoods. Of these wood choices, Teak and Walnut are going to be the highest-priced wood boards, and Acacia will be the least expensive option.
Hardwood is a wonderful choice as there are several options for how the board is designed. The two best choices in hardwood boards are end grain boards and edge grain boards. Both are knife edge friendly, have antimicrobial aspects, have some self-healing properties, and can be resurfaced over and over. Knife edges are important. It is necessary to sustain a sharp edge as a dull blade is dangerous; a dull blade could slip instead of slice and potentially end up cutting you.
End grain boards, a board that has had the tip of a board cut off and placed vertically together and laminated to give a checkerboard look, is softer on knife edges than edge grain wood. Edge grain wood is pieces of wood laminated together so that the grain is on the side of the wooden board rather than the top or bottom of the board. Edge grain boards are more durable and absorb less mineral oil, a treatment that all wooden boards need to keep from overdrying and cracking.
Hardwoods do need regular maintenance of at least mineral oil, and this will help keep the wood from over-drying and potentially cracking as well as keeping the wood from absorbing food liquids. Every board should be treated monthly with mineral oil. Cutting board conditioner is a mixture of either beeswax or carnauba wax and mineral oil, when used, helps fill in surface cracks and give your board a little additional shine. Hardwood is naturally hydrophobic, which means it is resistant to water absorption; however, leaving a wooden board in water or soaking a wooden board could cause the board to warp or even break at the laminate joints.
Composite Cutting boards are made with a blend of materials, often wood pulp mixed with resins. These boards aren’t particularly attractive, nor are they thick. Composite boards can usually be cleaned in the dishwasher and are stain-resistant. Composite boards are thin and made with pulp. While this may be kitchen-friendly, it certainly isn’t the quality tool that a wooden cutting board is and will not be as long-lasting. These boards are known for flaking and chipping, which cannot be fixed once it begins to do so, and they are tough on knife edges. When cutting on these boards, the noise and feel of the board is similar to cutting on stone and can be quite loud. If you are worried about bacteria with wooden cutting boards when cutting seafood or meat, this may be a good choice as a cutting board for raw foods.
Rubber cutting boards are knife edge friendly, as well as self-healing, and long-lasting. Cutting on one of these mats is low noise and comfortable. The drawbacks with a rubber mat can be that they can warp if exposed to heat and are not dishwasher friendly. These boards can be gently resurfaced with sandpaper and are known for avoiding cutting arm fatigue, which can happen with chopping over a long period of time. These boards are often not attractive and may be costly and not as readily available to buy. The few rubber cutting mats on the market are mostly manufactured by Japanese companies as rubber cutting mats are a tool used in many sushi restaurants.
What materials to avoid for cutting surfaces
There are materials that should be avoided when deciding on a cutting board. Some materials are rough on knives, such as glass and ceramics.
Glass cutting boards are readily available but should be avoided. These boards are fragile, loud to cut on, and are extremely hard on knife edges. Ceramics function in the same way glass does and should also be avoided. Both Ceramics and Glass boards can be chipped or broken easily in a sink as well. Stone cutting boards are in the same category and work well as trivets, but not cutting surfaces.
Another material to be left on the store shelves are exotic hardwoods. Although Teak and other exotic woods are stunningly beautiful, often these woods are not safe to be a part of food preparation, not to mention, the method of gathering the wood may not be eco-friendly. They are usually quite expensive as well, and it’s best to pass on an exotic wood surface that you will be potentially damaging with knife cuts.
Softwoods like Oak and Ash are too porous and open to staining as well as absorbing food odors. Pine is also not a good choice because it is not only a soft wood but can also impart a resin taste to your foods.
Plastic cutting boards are marketed as the safe cutting board, best to use for raw meats and poultry. However, there are also reasons why a plastic cutting board isn’t the perfect choice for you. Plastic is easily washable, and a soak in a bleach solution is a fast way to clean your board. Nonetheless, plastic does score easily and is not self-healing as wood is, nor does it have natural antimicrobial properties like wood. Deep cuts in plastic boards can harbor bacteria that cleaning cannot remove; if you do choose a plastic board, be sure to replace it when the board is highly damaged. Plastic is also highly wearing on knife edges and usually cannot rest alone on a countertop without having feet or a damp towel underneath to keep it from sliding on you.
Bamboo is also a highly marketed cutting board that is often inexpensive to purchase. This material is a personal choice, as it does have a hard surface to cut on and is moisture resistant, but there are also drawbacks to using it. Bamboo is hard on knife edges, and over time, instead of scoring as wood does, it becomes fibrous and can shed into your food. This is a personal decision to make, as Bamboo cutting boards are very cheap and can be replaced often without much expense.
Best Cutting Board Size
The standard size for cutting boards isn’t really a standard. Most cutting boards are cut to sizing somewhere around twelve by eighteen inches rectangular. It is recommended that you have a few cutting boards in your kitchen, and one should at least be large enough to handle your big cutting jobs. Keeping a couple of smaller boards to grab for small jobs is also a good idea. Well-stocked kitchens will have these boards in an easy-to-reach storage spot. You may want to also invest in various shaped boards, a round board to use as a serving tray, breadboards, cheese boards, charcuterie boards, and even a monogrammed or engraved board for decorative use. Board sizing goes from extra large at over two feet wide all the way down to a mini-board.
Boards can function as pastry boards for cutting dough to being used as a meat cutting board. Different board sizes will vary for your own individual and entertaining purposes. Square and rectangular boards allow for more usable cutting space and even stacking of items that have been cut; as with a round board, the center is going to be the most useful spot on the board.
One of the most necessary considerations with a cutting board and its sizing is the weight of the board. The thicker and larger the board, the heavier it can be. I have cutting boards that weigh over thirty pounds. These boards are my steady counter boards, as I don’t often move them. I will grab thinner, lighter boards for some quick slicing jobs as these can be moved to the sink for cleaning in an easier manner.
Best Cutting Boards
Wood Cutting Boards
Ironwood Square End Grain Chef’s Board
This cutting board is as beautiful as it is functional. The end grain lamination showcases the grain of the wood pieces that are soft on your knife edge. This checkerboard-looking acacia cutting board is an inch and a quarter thick and has amazing coloration. Deep heartwood acacia shows the dark coloration that is as beautiful as Black Walnut but with a less than fifty dollar price, this cutting board can be used as a showpiece on your kitchen counter.
Boos Reversible Maple Cutting Board w/ Grips
John Boos is the premier name in cutting boards. Used by professional chefs, a Boos board in your kitchen shows that you are serious about your foodie status. Medium in size, this double-handled board is a lovely soft blonde maple color. Chose a medium-sized board for smaller veggie cutting and cutting your proteins. This board is functional for smaller jobs but will last a lifetime.
WALNUT EDGE GRAIN BUTCHER BLOCK CUTTING BOARD
Black Walnut is the darkest shade of natural wood that is available as a safe cutting board. This particular board is available in a custom size for you to choose to fit your particular needs. It comes finished with mineral oil, wax conditioner, or salad bowl finish. Edge grain, this cutting board is solid and will function well for you for many years. The edge grain ensures that the wood won’t absorb liquids, will showcase the grain, and will be gentle on your knife. Leave this gorgeous cutting board out on the counter as a showpiece to enjoy for years to come.
Rubber Cutting Board Rectangle
Rubber cutting boards can be manufactured with antimicrobial treatments that help to kill bacteria naturally and chemical-free. The ability to resurface the surface is a positive, although the price of the board is quite expensive. This board won’t crack, chip or break, and will be gentle on knife edges, although it is not recommended to wash in a dishwasher.
Hasegawa Wood Core Soft Rubber Cutting Board
This wood core rubber cutting board is sushi-grade qualified. The inner wood core is well wrapped in plastic to give a sturdy base, while the outer rubber mats create the perfect cutting surface that allows for slicing so delicately that it is recommended for the fine carving that a sushi chef will do. Heat resistant up to 194 degrees, this cutting board is stain resistant and dishwasher safe.
Composite Cutting Board
Epicurean Natural Kitchen 12×9 Cutting Board
This quarter-inch thick board is a small twelve by nine-inch size for just over twenty dollars. Dishwasher safe, scratch-resistant, and eco-friendly, this board can also act as a trivet without being charred by a hot pan or dish. Its thin profile allows you to stack several cutting boards without using up a lot of cabinet space.
It is my choice and suggestion that your main cutting board is a wooden cutting board. There are several options for the best types of wood, but a cutting board that is at least 14 inches wide and at least 18 inches wide would be my recommendation for a universal cutting board. Bamboo cutting boards are fine to have as a cheap smaller alternative, as long as you get rid of them if they warp, crack, or become fuzzy. Having a few smaller cutting boards is another recommendation I suggest, as they function well when you have a small item to chop or slice, such as lemon or herbs. I have a large cutting board on my counter to protect the countertop and often will place a smaller cutting board on top of that to chop and slice veggies. I personally cook every night and use my wooden cutting boards for both vegetables and meats, although separately. Proper care and cleaning keep my boards bacteria-free and well maintained.