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Understanding the Basics: What Is a Face Grain Cutting Board?


Before we delve into the details, let’s first understand “what is face grain”? Face grain refers to the surface of the wood you see when looking at a plank from the top down. It showcases the wood’s true character and beauty, revealing the pattern of the growth rings and other natural features. Therefore, a face grain cutting board is one where this surface is used as the main cutting area.


Face grain boards are famous for their aesthetic appeal. The broad surface of the wood allows for a more vibrant display of the wood’s grain and knots, making each piece unique. Moreover, they are typically lighter and less expensive than their edge or end-grain counterparts.


However, a cutting board is not just a showpiece. It’s a workhorse in the kitchen, and its performance is as important as its looks. This brings us to the question: How does a face grain cutting board compare to edge or end grain boards regarding functionality?


kitchen, cooking, knife

Face Grain vs Edge Grain: The Differences


To understand the “face grain vs edge grain” debate, let’s first define an edge grain cutting board. Edge grain boards are made by placing planks of wood on their sides and bonding them together. The result is a board with a surface showing the edges of the planks.


The main difference between face grain and edge grain boards is their durability and impact on your knives. Edge grain boards are harder and more durable than face grain boards, making them less susceptible to cuts and grooves.


However, this strength also makes edge grain boards tougher on your knives. Face grain boards, being softer, tend to be gentler on knife edges but at the cost of durability. They tend to show cuts more readily and could harbor bacteria in these grooves.

The Pros of Using Face Grain Cutting Boards


Despite the comparisons, several pros of face grain cutting boards make them a popular choice. First, their visual appeal is unmatched. The full display of the wood’s character can turn a practical kitchen tool into a beautiful centerpiece.


Secondly, face grain boards are lighter and less expensive than edge or end grain boards. A face grain board might be the best option if you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-handle board that still offers decent performance.


Thirdly, while they may show cuts more readily, face grain boards are less likely to dull your knives than edge grain boards. This could be a significant advantage if you have expensive knives that you want to keep sharp.

The Cons of Using Face Grain Cutting Boards


However, along with the pros of face grain cutting boards, there are also cons. The primary concern is durability. Since the cutting surface is softer and more susceptible to cuts and grooves, face grain boards may not last as long as edge or end grain boards.


Secondly, these cuts and grooves could become a breeding ground for bacteria, posing a food safety risk. Therefore, face grain boards require more frequent and thorough cleaning.


Lastly, while face grain boards are often more affordable, they might not offer the same value for money in the long run if they need to be replaced more frequently.

  cress, food, green

Chefs’ Perspectives: The Best Uses for Face Grain Cutting Boards


Regarding the best uses for face grain cutting boards, chefs have varying opinions. Some prefer to use them for tasks that require less intense cutting, such as chopping herbs or slicing bread. They also make excellent serving boards for charcuterie or cheese.


Other chefs argue that face grain boards can handle most kitchen tasks as long as they are properly maintained. Regular cleaning and oiling, they say, can extend the life of a face grain board significantly.

Cautionary Tips: Things to Consider about Face Grain Cutting Boards


Regarding cautions about face grain cutting boards, the main concern is maintenance. To prevent bacterial growth and prolong the life of your board, you should clean it thoroughly after each use, dry it immediately, and oil it regularly.


Types of Knives Regularly Used


Another thing to consider is the type of knife you’re using. If you have very sharp, expensive knives, you might want to reserve them for an edge or end grain board to avoid damaging them.


Show Knife Marks Faster


Lastly, while face grain boards are beautiful, they can visibly show wear and tear. If you want your board to maintain its pristine appearance, you should be prepared for more frequent replacements.

Chefs’ Debate: Why Some Believe Face Grain is Not the Best Choice


In the chefs’ debate over whether face grain is the best choice, the main argument against it is durability. Some chefs believe that the lifespan of a cutting board is a critical factor, and in this regard, face grain boards come up short.


They argue that the potential for bacterial growth in the cuts and grooves that form over time is a significant concern. Therefore, they prefer edge or end grain boards, which are harder and more resistant to knife cuts.


Knife Marks a Concern


Another reason vegan chefs prefer to use an end grain cutting board instead of a face grain cutting board is that they care about the quality and longevity of their knives. An end grain cutting board has a self-healing surface that does not dull or damage the blades as quickly as a face grain cutting board, which has a smooth and flat surface that can create friction and resistance with the knives.


An end grain cutting board also allows the knives to slide between the wood fibers without leaving any visible marks or scratches, while a face grain cutting board tends to show knife marks and absorb moisture over time. By using an end grain cutting board, vegan chefs can preserve the sharpness and performance of their knives, which are essential for cutting and preparing plant-based ingredients.


hands, chopping, herbs

Comparing the Three: Face Grain, Edge Grain, and End Grain Cutting Boards


When comparing face grain, edge grain, and end grain cutting boards, it becomes clear that each has its strengths and weaknesses. Face grain boards win in aesthetic appeal, lightness, and affordability. Edge grain boards balance durability and knife-friendliness, while end grain boards are the top performers in durability and knife care but require more maintenance and investment.

Comparing Face Grain Cutting Boards With End Grain Cutting Boards and Edge Grain Cutting Boards


Wooden cutting boards can be classified into three types based on the orientation of the wood grain: face grain, edge grain, and end grain. Each type has its pros and cons that you should consider before buying one. Here is a brief comparison of the three types of wooden cutting boards:


Face Grain Cutting Boards


Face Grain is made from planks of wood glued together with the wide surface of the grain facing up. They are the most common and affordable type of wooden cutting boards, as they are easy to make and have a smooth and attractive appearance. However, they are also the least durable and resistant type, as they tend to show knife marks, absorb moisture, and warp over time.


Edge Grain Cutting Boards


The edge grain cutting boards are made from planks of wood that are glued together with the narrow edge of the grain facing up. They are more durable and resistant than face grain cutting boards, as they have a tighter and harder surface that does not show knife marks or absorb moisture as quickly. However, they are also more expensive and heavier than the face grain cutting boards and can still dull your knives over time.


End Grain Cutting Boards


End grain cutting boards are made from small blocks of wood that are glued together with the end of the grain facing up. They are the most durable and resistant type of wooden cutting boards, as they have a self-healing surface that does not show knife marks or absorb moisture.


They are also gentle on your knives, allowing the blades to slide between the wood fibers without damaging them. However, they are also the most expensive and difficult-to-make type of wooden cutting boards, and they require more care and maintenance than the other types.

Making the Right Choice: Factors to Consider when Buying a Cutting Board


When buying a cutting board, several factors come into play. First, consider your needs and preferences. Do you prioritize durability, or is visual appeal more critical? Are you willing to invest in a more expensive board or a more affordable option?


Secondly, consider your knives. If you have high-quality knives that you want to keep sharp, an end grain board might be a better choice.


Lastly, think about the maintenance you’re willing to put in. All boards require care, but some types need more attention than others.

Video Credit: @bentswoodworking

Which Type of Wood Cutting Board Should You Choose?


The face grain cutting board is in the kitchen, alongside its edge and end grain counterparts. Its beauty, affordability, and knife-friendliness make it a worthy choice if its limitations are understood and properly managed. They make great charcuterie boards that bring a natural character to the presentation.


However, the final decision should be based on your needs and preferences. Whether you’re a professional chef or a home cook, the best cutting board for you is the one that serves your purposes best.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between a face grain cutting board and edge or end grain counterparts?

The primary difference lies in how the wood grain is oriented. Face grain cutting boards have the surface of the wood planks facing up, offering a smooth cutting surface. In contrast, edge and end grain boards have the edges or ends of the wood pieces facing up, providing a tougher, more resilient surface. These variations affect durability, maintenance, and cutting performance.

Which type of cutting board is preferred by chefs for everyday use?

Chefs often prefer face grain cutting boards for everyday tasks. They are gentle on knife edges, easy to clean, and offer an attractive presentation. However, the choice depends on the specific needs of the chef and the type of cutting tasks involved. Edge and end grain boards excel in heavy-duty chopping and tend to be more durable over time.

How do I decide between a face grain, edge, or end grain cutting board for my kitchen?

Your choice should be based on your cooking habits and preferences. If you prioritize aesthetics, gentle treatment of knives, and ease of maintenance, a face grain board is an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you frequently engage in heavy chopping and need a board that can withstand rigorous use, edge or end grain boards may be more suitable. Consider your specific needs and the balance between performance and appearance when making your decision.

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