Butcher’s blocks are a great item to have in your kitchen especially if you are a meat enthusiast who enjoys butchering your meat at home. But what exactly is the difference between a regular cutting board and a butcher’s block? Essentially butcher’s blocks are larger, thicker cutting boards that are specifically designed with meat butchery in mind but they can be used to chop anything.
Cutting boards, on the other hand, are thinner and more suited for lighter prep work like chopping vegetables. These boards must be a minimum of 1.5″ thick to be considered butcher’s blocks, which make them heavier so they won’t budge even when you are butchering a large cut.
This makes handling sharp knives and large cuts safe and mess-free if they have a juice groove. To make them useful for larger-scale butchery, a butcher’s block should be a minimum of 12 x 12″ to give you as much space as possible to work with. These dimensions make them very sturdy and ideal for quartering, deboning, and filleting any form of protein.
Butcher’s blocks can come in the form of a countertop block or if you want to go all out, your entire kitchen countertop can be made from a butcher’s block so you can chop right onto the counter without worrying about damaging the surface or your knives. Butcher’s blocks can be used for both meat and vegetable prep, with a thorough cleaning in between of course, or by simply flipping the board if you have a reversible one, so it really does double the job of a regular cutting board.
Cutting boards come in one of two forms: end grain and edge grain. The edge grain is formed when you cut the timber along the grain of the wood; this is softer and easier to damage with prolonged usage and is found most often as cutting boards. They will also blunt your knives more quickly as the surface is less forgiving.
The grain that is best suited for butcher’s blocks, however, is end grain which is when the wood is cut at 90 degrees across the growth rings. Butcher’s blocks are therefore made up of small pieces of wood that are glued together to form one large piece. This configuration is far more durable and self-heals over time as the fibers move back into place after the knife is withdrawn so it will not mark or scar. This self-healing quality also serves to keep your knives sharper for longer as the surface is more forgiving, saving you time and effort sharpening your knives.
Due to their immense size, solid wood construction, and food-safe treatments, butcher’s blocks can be rather expensive so we are here to guide you as to which one is worth your money. When looking at these boards we are going to be noting their size, thickness, and any extra features that make that particular design special to see which one would suit you best.
At the most affordable side of the spectrum, we have the TPA Wood butcher block. This block is 16x12x1.5″ so it is the minimum thickness to qualify as a butcher’s block, which could be why the price is on the lower end. Regardless, it is a good size and it is also reversible so you get double the useful surface area for transitioning from chopping vegetables to chopping meat. As for the extra features, the surface has a groove around the perimeter to catch any juices to make the process less messy and there are handles inset into the sides to make flipping and moving effortless.
This block is made from stunning end grain oak and would add a little extra to any kitchen design.
- Juice groove
- Relatively smaller
In the middle of the range, we have the Mevell Premium butcher’s block. It is made from solid Canadian maple that has a very beautiful tone and pattern to jazz up your kitchen decor. Like the TPA wood option, this one is also 1.5″ thick but it has a larger surface area as it is 18×12″ so while it may not be as heavy as some it still has a decent amount of space. The additional inches really make the difference when you are butchering a larger cut so it is really that and the stunning finish that warrants the bump up in price.
This design is also reversible with inset handles in the sides and a juice groove running around the edge. This board is durable, long-lasting, and comes pretreated with Mevell’s own cutting board oil, which can be purchased alongside the block.
This is an expensive board but, when compared to the boards we are about to look at, it is relatively affordable so it is a choice to consider if you can’t quite reach the $150 and over that the thicker versions go for.
- Juice Groove
Now, coming up on the more premium brands we have the John Boos butcher block. This stunning piece is made from sustainably sourced maple that has satisfying beveled edges and beautiful pattern work over the top. This block is made in the USA by a company founded in 1887 that has a long history of making high-quality butcher’s blocks. More premium brands such as this will charge more due to their legacy as a butcher’s block maker as well as the added thickness that comes along with their designs. This thickness is what makes sure that it will not move while you’re working and provide a nice solid base.
This is by far the largest block we have looked at today with a surface that is 20×15″ and a thickness of 2.25″. With these dimensions, it’s not surprising that this board weighs in at a whopping 19.6lb so you can rest assured that this board is not going anywhere. The design is also reversible so you get more surface area to work with so you can leave the cleaning until later.
This board has been used in professional kitchens which goes a long way to highlight its quality and durability. Like the other boards, it comes with a set of inset handles to make moving this hefty board around as easy as possible, however, it does not have a juice groove which could make clean up a hassle. This brand also has its own block oil available for maintaining your butcher’s block.
Due to its size and the fact that it is solid wood, as well as taking the brand history into account, this one comes at a premium price tag. This kind of price is expected when it comes to really high quality, large butcher’s blocks so this is a purchase that you should not go into lightly.
- No juice groove
Most often, due to their size and weight, butcher’s blocks are stored on the countertop, and because of this, it is a real bonus if the piece is attractive. With that in mind, this TeakHaus butcher’s block is the perfect solution. It is round, 18″ in diameter, 2″ thick, and 11lb so it is a good size and has enough weight to be very functional and useful for all your butchery needs. On top of this, it is made from FSC approved end grain teak that is really attractive in a beautiful warm shade with a patchwork of stunning natural patterns decorating the surface. Its shape is a counterpoint to the previous rectangular ones we’ve been looking at; bringing some uniqueness to the party.
The only negatives of this block are that it does not have a juice groove so you would have to be very careful not to spill juices off the sides and onto your counter and it is not reversible.
This option is not quite as steep as the John Boos option but it is still high quality and really attractive which makes it stand out. Investing in a piece like this will mean that you never have to buy another butcher’s block or cutting board ever again and you get a decorative piece for your kitchen into the bargain.
- Not reversible
Butcher’s blocks are investment pieces for those of you who love butchering meat at home. They are solid wood and therefore a more expensive piece but they have a durability that makes saving for one of these worth it. All of the options we have seen here today are multi-use, attractive, and will help you take your butchery game up a level.