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Whether you learn to cook at the Culinary Institute of America or through a series of YouTube videos, one of the first takeaways from such schooling is that you need a good cutting board.
For slicing, chopping, mincing, dicing, and so much more, a cutting board is an essential and versatile kitchen tool.
From afar, it would appear that all cutting boards are created equally. After all, they are but slabs of wood, plastic, and glass that sit on a countertop.
But when selecting a cutting board, quality is key for several reasons:
A bad board will not allow a cook to perform his or her knife tasks properly.
A board with an uneven surface or splinters could ruin your meal prep or even send you to the ER for stitches.
We spent hours researching the cutting board space, learning all we could about cutting board materials, care, and tips.
At BestReviews, we want to help you find the cutting board model that serves you best. To assist us with this endeavor, we enlisted the help of Steve Catalano, our resident expert and the executive chef at Bon Appétit Management Company. Steve offered his input as we selected and reviewed the top cutting boards on today’s market.
With his guidance, we’re proud to present five terrific recommendations in the product matrix, above.
If you’d like to learn more about cutting boards, please continue reading this shopping guide, in which you’ll find numerous helpful tips from the BestReviews team as well as our resident expert, Steve.
Currently Executive Chef at Bon Appétit Management Company, Steve began his tenure with Bon Apetit as Chef de Partie. He has over ten years of experience, including tenures at two- and three-Michelin star restaurants. Steve is passionate about all things cooking – products, supply chain, management, menu design, and budgeting.
Cutting boards are made of wood, plastic resins, and tempered glass. Simple? Not quite. There are pros and cons for each material, and much depends on whether you are using the cutting board for home or commercial purposes.
A wood cutting board could be made of a number of natural materials, including maple, walnut, cherry, and teak wood. Bamboo and composite materials fall under the wood umbrella, too.
As tempting as it may be, you should avoid placing a wood cutting board in the dishwasher.
Hardwood boards made of maple, walnut, or cherry are heavy and expensive. These fine wood boards are super durable; restaurateurs value them for their dependability. Hardwood boards require continuous upkeep (like oiling between uses) and cannot be placed in a dishwasher.
Bamboo is lightweight and especially good for home use. However, Steve warns us that the end grain of a bamboo board is softer and more likely to split or crack.
Teak is an ideal cutting board material because it’s durable. While it requires occasional oiling between uses to keep fresh, it tends to retain the oil well, says Steve.
Teak is an extremely durable wood used for shipbuilding and furniture making. As such, it’s an ideal material for cutting boards, too.
The thinner the cutting board, the more likely it is to warp.
If you want a board that’s high on utility and you don’t really care about its aesthetics, consider a high-density polypropylene model. Plastic boards are tough and durable, and some chefs believe they’re just as good as their wood counterparts.
However, after a lot of usage, plastic boards will look beaten up with scores of knife cuts. Similar usage on a wooden board lends the material “character” — but on a plastic board, it looks ugly.
On the plus side, plastic boards are dishwasher safe and relatively inexpensive compared to wood. Many chefs discard their plastic boards (please recycle) when they outlive their usefulness and buy new ones. The trick is to buy one that’s soft enough to not damage your knife but hard enough to withstand wear and tear.
A dishwasher safe block is the most functional board for home use.
And then there’s glass. Some home cooks are attracted to glass cutting boards because they look fantastic on the kitchen counter. Many feature pastel hues that exude a sense of elegance, but after a lot of usage, that elegance could turn into trouble.
“Glass may look cool, but it breaks,” Steve reminds us. “If it shatters or chips, it could get into your food, and then you have to throw it all out. Hence, the reason the health department will not allow glass on cooking lines in commercial kitchens.”
If you tend to use a cutting board more for show — that is, as a serving tray — a glass model might be okay. But if you’re heavy into chopping, slicing, and dicing, we recommend that you consider your alternatives.
You may wish to consider a cutting board with “juice channels” (troughs) if you cut a lot of meat and prefer not to deal with runny juices.
To sanitize and disinfect a wood or wood resin cutting board, don’t put it in the dishwasher; this erodes the quality of the wood. Instead, wipe it with full-strength white vinegar after each use. The vinegar’s acetic acid tackles E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.
To deodorize and disinfect your wooden cutting board, sprinkle on some baking soda and follow it up with a spritz of undiluted white vinegar. After it foams for 5 to 10 minutes, proceed to rinse with a cloth and cold water.
You can keep your wood cutting board clean and sanitized with two inexpensive kitchen ingredients: vinegar and baking soda.
University of California researchers looked at the merits of various types of cutting boards as a way to avoid cross-contamination issues.
Cross-contamination occurs when meat or veggies are cut on a board and the board is not cleaned properly afterward.
The researchers at UC found that plastic may be easier to sanitize, but after a lot of usage, grooves form in the material where bacteria can hide. Wood may be more difficult to sanitize, but it will not sustain cuts and grooves in which dangerous bacteria nestle down.
Rather than buy a mat to keep your cutting board in place, try placing a damp towel beneath it. The towel should prevent sliding.
A larger, 11” x 14” cutting board is ideal for when you want to prep multiple items at once. The generous size allows you to keep the ingredients on the board until your chopping is complete.
Some smaller cutting boards have the tendency to move around on the countertop while you’re chopping. To keep a smaller board in place, you could purchase a rubber mat designed to keep the board stationary. Or, you could buy a board with feet or rubber corners.
Cutting boards that meet BestReviews’ durability and ease-of-use standards tend to cost $30 and up. You’ll find some excellent composite wood and tempered glass choices in this price range.
And yes, you could certainly find something for less than $30 that fits the bill. It all depends on what you value in a cutting board.
Some people, including Steve, don’t like tempered glass cutting boards because they may crack and chip. But most home cooks who use a glass cutting board are typically not heavy users of this kitchen tool.
In this higher price range, you’ll find some state-of-the-art boards made of walnut, maple, bamboo, and other fine materials.
These boards are revered for their strength, durability, and beauty. They may have built-in handles for added convenience.
If you’ve decided to spend this larger amount, and you seek the ultimate in luxury and quality, consider a thicker board — perhaps even one in the style of a butcher block.
Q. What mistakes do newcomers to this product category make?
A. A common mistake owners make is placing their wooden cutting board in the dishwasher. The board may appear unharmed at the end of a wash cycle, but over time, the frequent water/detergent/heat exposure will degrade the board. It may crack or even split.
Steve warns that buying a pricey board that doesn’t really fit your needs is another common mistake. For example, a vegetarian who lives and eats alone has different needs than the head chef of a carnivorous, six-person household.
Q. What should a cook do when he or she first gets a wooden cutting board?
A. Your first step with a wooden board is to oil it. Steve points out that you needn’t buy the oil sold by your board’s manufacturer. Any food-safe mineral oil should do, as would a refractionated coconut oil. (This type of coconut oil has been refined so it will not go rancid.)
Some chefs have also found success oiling their boards with beeswax, tung oil, or linseed oil.