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person slicing a capsicum on a cutting board 570x342 - The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Cutting Board

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Cutting Board

Cutting boards are ubiquitous (and often ignored) kitchen staples. But they can have a huge impact on your knives and how well you prep.

Choosing the perfect board starts with finding one that matches your day-to-day chopping demands. We’ll guide you through the basics of picking a solid, durable and easy-on-your-knives wooden board.

1. Material

The type of material used to make your cutting board can have a significant impact on its performance. Choosing the right one for your needs will depend on your priorities. For example, if you value affordability and convenience, plastic may be the best option for you. However, if you’re looking for something durable and stylish, a wooden board is a great choice.

Wooden boards are typically a solid hardwood, like cherry, oak or walnut. They are hard and durable enough to withstand even the most aggressive cuts. These types of wood also have natural antibacterial properties. They are also resistant to moisture, making them less likely to warp or crack with regular use.

They’re also lightweight and dishwasher safe, which makes them easy to clean and sanitize. Many also come in a variety of colors, which can be helpful for cooks who prefer to color-code their boards to prevent cross-contamination. The downside is that wooden boards can be more expensive than plastic and require more care, such as regular re-oiling with a 1:1 mix of oil and beeswax.

Bamboo cutting boards are another great choice, particularly if you want to minimize your environmental footprint. It’s a sustainable, eco-friendly, and affordable material that can be made into cutting boards that are as durable as wood. It’s also hardy and can resist knife scarring, a common problem with some other types of cutting boards.

Acacia wood is also an excellent choice for cutting boards. It is reasonably hard, so it’s less prone to deep scratches from knives, and it has a natural resistance to bacteria. It’s also a beautiful, hardy wood with rich coloring.

2. Thickness

Regardless of the type of board you choose, it’s important to follow recommended food handling and sanitation practices. Wood boards may harbor more germs than plastic ones, but they’re still safer for your hands and knives than a countertop.

Thickness is another consideration when weighing your options. A thicker board can handle heavy duty chopping, tenderizing and carving without warping. Thinner options are good for lighter tasks and portability, but they may not last as long as a more durable board.

Look for a wood cutting board, or a handmade board, that’s dense and has tight grain. Avoid open-grained hardwoods, which have pores that soak up fluids and create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Also, avoid face-grain woods like maple and ash, which show cut marks easily and are more likely to dull knives. Instead, opt for a solid-core, end-grain wood such as walnut, which has a Janka hardness rating of 1,010 lbf and is gentle on knife blades, or maple, which has a harder edge and resists scarring better than softer varieties like cherry and walnut.

The only downside to choosing a solid-grain, end-grain wood is that it requires more work than a softer wood. You’ll need to oil it more often and may need to sand it down if the surface becomes discolored. However, this will help the board last longer and keep it looking pristine. A solid-grain board’s scarring will also close up after each use, so it will “heal” itself faster than other types of boards. This feature makes it easier to re-cut meat, poultry and vegetables. It’s also worth considering extra features like juice grooves or hand grips, but keep in mind that these can add cost and make a board less stable.

3. Shape

Along with a good kitchen knife, a cutting board is one of the most important tools that every home cook will use on a daily basis. It’s where most of the heavy chopping and slicing work will happen, so it’s not a piece of equipment that should be taken lightly.

There are a few different things to consider when shopping for a new board, including the size, wood type, care requirements and any extra features like juice grooves or non-slip bases. For example, if you’re looking for a versatile cutting board that will accommodate both large and small food prep tasks, a split cutting board is an excellent option to consider. This allows you to chop raw meat and fish on one side, and ready-to-eat foods like veggies and fruits on the other, reducing your risk of cross-contamination.

Other factors to keep in mind include the durability of the board, its weight and how it will be stored when not in use. A solid wooden cutting board can last for a long time with the proper care, but if you’re on a budget or prefer an easier-to-clean plastic board, there are plenty of other options to choose from.

Plastic boards are durable and dishwasher-safe, but they tend to stain and develop cracks over time. If you want a more resilient option, we recommend choosing a wood board that’s made from a durable, dense hardwood like black walnut or acacia. While these boards are a little pricier than their plastic counterparts, they’re more durable and eco-friendly. Wood also doesn’t release toxic BPA, which is found in most plastics. Plus, it’s gentler on your knives than a hard surface like stone or glass.

4. Size

kitchen knife - The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Perfect Cutting Board

Whether you’re a Gordon Ramsey wannabe or a more minimalist cook, size matters when it comes to selecting the perfect cutting board. A cramped board turns chopping vegetables into a stressful affair as ingredients pile up and you risk cutting your fingers.

According to Chad Ward, author of An Edge in the Kitchen, a cutting board that’s 15 inches wide along its longest side is ideal. However, if your space is limited, a smaller board can still offer the necessary work surface.

The thickness of your board will affect how easily it cuts and cleans as well as how durable it is. A thicker wood board is better able to hold up to heavy duty chopping, slicing and carving than a thinner one. Thicker boards are also more stable and are less likely to warp under repeated use. However, a board that’s too thick can be more difficult to maneuver and puts unnecessary strain on your wrists.

For the best of both worlds, consider a mid-sized wooden board. This one from Fifth & Cherry is made from a natural end-grain wood with an impressive amount of heft and resistance. It’s sturdy enough to withstand heavy chopping, has laser-engraved measuring lines and features a juice groove. It’s not too large to be inconvenient for storing and has non-slip feet on the corners that grip the countertop without damaging your countertops or leaving marks.

If you’re a minimalist cook who prepares simple meals, you may find a slimmer plastic board more useful. Material’s reBoard is both eco-friendly and practical, featuring silicone non-slip feet that look tiny but keep it anchored to the countertop during intense onion dicing sessions. It’s also easy to clean and doesn’t harbor bacteria if properly maintained.

5. Color

Imagine trying to chop carrots and onions for a stir fry on a cramped cutting board. The ingredients pile up, pieces fall off and you risk cutting yourself (not that we’ve ever done this). If you’re shopping for a new wood or plastic board, size matters. A good-sized board will keep your workspace clean, organized and free from knife marks. It also provides ample space for food preparation and will fit well on your countertop.

While you may hear claims that certain types of boards are unsafe, any type of board can be used safely as long as you follow recommended food handling and sanitary practices. If you’re concerned about cross-contamination, consider buying a board in a color that signifies which foods it should be used for. The food service industry uses a system of colors, with green representing salads and fruits, red representing red meat, blue for raw fish and yellow for poultry.

The best wooden boards have dense, water-resistant wood and a tight grain pattern that resists knife marks. Look for the SVKL label to ensure your board is sustainably sourced. You’ll also want a board that can be cleaned thoroughly with warm water and a mild soap, and is dishwasher safe. These features make black walnut and acacia popular choices.

If you want a more eco-friendly choice, consider bamboo. These boards are lightweight, durable and have an attractive earthy color. The material is a good choice for cooks who use their board primarily to prepare veggies and fruits. The surface of a bamboo board can be slightly less smooth than a maple or walnut one, but it still holds up well to knife marks and is easy to clean.