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Wooden cutting boards are a popular choice for chefs and home cooks alike.
They’re durable, easy to clean, and can last for years with proper care. But with so many choices on the market, how do you know which one is right for you? Is there a formula for selecting the best wooden cutting board for your kitchen?
In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of wood cutting boards and recommend some of our favorite models. Whether you’re in the market for your first board or are just looking to upgrade, read on for advice on picking the perfect wood cutting board. Read on for our guide to wood cutting boards we recommend for each price budget.
Our 4 Picks for Types of Wood
First, let’s consider the best type of wood for a cutting board. Most chefs will consider Maple as the industry standard, especially hard Maple. Hard Maple leads with 1450 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. It leads the others in scratch and impact resistance. But it’s not so hard to dull your knives as other cutting board choices would. It’s food-safe and has a closed grain with small pores. These features help block out bacteria, moisture, and stains. The downside? This nearly perfect cutting board wood will cost more than the others we mention, but it provides long-lasting beauty and utility. If your budget allows it, Maple makes the best overall choice.
Other woods that closely compare to Maple include Beech, Teak, and Walnut. While we like the looks of each of these and find them worthy alternatives to all other types of cutting boards, they don’t quite measure up to Maple.
Maple Cutting Board
Beech ranks a close second to Maple. It’s 1,300 lbf on the hardness scale, and the closed-grain prevents damage to knives. It’s pretty scratch and dent-resistant, too. The downside to this cutting board is simply its color. The creamy pink or tan shows any stains readily.
Overall, this wood is a good utility choice, though far less popular than the other 3 types mentioned here. Budget shoppers, however, will note that this wood is more economical, often coming in at less than half the price of the other options.
Teak shows a hardness rating of 1,070 lbf and therefore holds up relatively well to scratches and dents. Unfortunately, teak has large pores making it more vulnerable to bacteria, moisture, and stains than our other choices.
However, Teak doesn’t show stains as readily as lighter wood because of the orange-brown to dark brown hues. Another downside to teak is the high silica content. Using these cutting boards frequently does dull your knife blades.
Walnut being the softest, will scratch or dent a little more readily as it has a hardness rating of 1,010 lbf. However, its softness means it will not dull your knife blades as quickly. It has medium to large pores, putting it ahead of Teak in resisting bacteria and moisture but still behind that of Maple and Beech.
Many choose Walnut wood for the darker tones. The chocolate brown color doesn’t show stains as well as the lighter colors and adds a distinctive appearance to the kitchen.
Cherry makes a good choice for cutting boards. It has a hardness score of 995, so on the lower end of optimal for a cutting board. The Janka range for cutting boards is 900 to 1500. However, what it lacks in that more robust hardness rating, it more than makes up for with a very tight grain that prevents water absorption. This makes it quite resistant to bacteria.
Those who choose cherry wood for their cutting boards often do so for the beautiful coloring. In fact, many craftsmen consider cherry to be among the finest of wood choices for other sophisticated applications including pianos and elegant cabinetry.
One other note regarding cherry is that the subtle red hue actually deepens with age. This makes your choice cutting board even more beautiful as the years go by.
End Grain? Edge Grain? What’s the Difference?
After considering the type of wood for your cutting board, you have another important choice: end-grain or edge-grain. Edge grain (see image) is the side of the board. Often, it is smoother in the lumber aisle when you see it. End grain is the end of the board (see image) and will often seem rough if you see it in your lumber store.
So how does that apply to wooden cutting boards?
Edge Grain Cutting Boards are made by gluing the long strips of wood together, showing the length of the board. They can be all one type of wood or a variety. Edge-Grain boards have the advantage that they are easy to keep oiled and clean since the ends of the grain are not fully exposed. They also cost less than comparable End Grain cutting boards.
End Grain Cutting Boards take a bit more work to create. The wood is cut into blocks from the end and glued together with the ends set vertically. Thus, your board is all ends facing your cutting surface. The visual appearance often shows as quite stunning, but the real beauty is in the utility of these cutting boards. Because you are slicing in between the wood’s fibers, your knife blade stays sharp much longer. And the cutting boards themselves seem “self-repairing” as the wood fibers tend to bounce back into place.
The downside of the end grain boards is in the maintenance. To have these boards stay in excellent shape, you must condition them often, usually about once a month. While conditioning does not take long, forgetting to do so might cause your board to warp or even crack.
One additional difference between these boards is the price.
End Grain boards take more work to create; therefore, they cost more.
However, if you enjoy cooking and want to protect your knives and keep them sharp, the initial investment when you purchase your board and the few minutes a month of upkeep is well worth choosing End Grain. Imagine a cutting board that you can pass down to your children and they can pass on to their children.
What Size Wooden Cutting Board?
While families of only 1-3 people might choose a cutting board of 10 to 18 inches, if you have the space and budget for a larger one, we recommend it. Think of holiday cooking, guest dinners, and the like. And for families of more than 3 people, the larger cutting board will seem like a necessity as your main cutting board.
But where to store it?
Most of us like to keep these everyday tools right on the counter. They can be an attractive addition, and keeping them easy to use means they will be used. If you have a very small counter space and must put it away, consider keeping it in a nearby cupboard or cabinet that is easily accessible.
Easy Steps to Caring for your Wood Cutting Board
- Whenever you use your board, wipe it clean
- Do NOT submerge in water. Instead, Wipe it with water and use a gentle dish detergent when necessary.
- Do NOT put your wood cutting board in the dishwasher.
- Use Mineral oil, another food grade oil, or beeswax to oil your board. We recommend oiling whenever it seems dry. To test for dryness, simple scatter a few drops of water on your board. Are they still there on the surface? Your board does not need oiling. But, if they soak in, it’s time to oil!
- If your board absorbs odors, use lemon juice and salt to gently remove the odors. Simply rub in the lemon juice, sprinkle on the salt and rub in. When the salt is totally dry, brush or wipe off.
- To remove stains, use baking soda.
- Whenever you wash or oil your board, make sure you dry it entirely before setting back onto the counter to avoid mold, mildew, and bacteria.
What about Bamboo? I heard that is popular, sustainable, and much less expensive.
All those are true. However, bamboo is known for ruining knife blades very quickly.
Plastic boards are cheap, and should be easy to clean, right?
Well, they are cheap. But with just a cut or two, they quickly let bacteria in. And that can be difficult to almost impossible to clean.
Can I just use those cheap silicone mats for cutting?
You can. In fact, we use them in addition to our wooden cutting boards. Silicone has some big advantages for small uses. But we find that it is a side assistant to our main wooden cutting board. To read more, check out this article.
So Which Cutting Board is the Best?
The answer depends on your needs and personal preference, as well as your budget. For a cutting board that endures through the years and keeps your knives sharp, our top choices are Maple, Beech, Teak, and Walnut. And selecting and End Grain board makes that selection even better. As for the size, we recommend your main cutting board be the largest that easily fits on your kitchen counter space.
So, what’s the verdict? What’s your favorite type of cutting board? Do you have a different favorite wood that we didn’t mention? Please share your comments below. We always love hearing from our readers and getting their feedback. And don’t forget to check out our other posts for more helpful information on everything kitchen-related!
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