Cutting boards are inexpensive, yet they are essential in every kitchen. With various materials, it can be challenging to determine which type of cutting board is best suited for chopping, slicing, and dicing everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and fish.
Cutting boards take a beating, so durability is vital. But the surface must also be gentle on knife edges to prevent premature dulling. The board’s texture impacts how efficiently food can be processed. And perhaps most crucially, the sanitation of the cutting board helps ensure food safety by minimizing bacteria transfer.
In our guide, you can learn more about what materials are best for a cutting board, and bacteria are trapped and eventually killed with some wood. However, with other materials like plastics, many boards need to be thrown out. Scratches develop—especially deep ones where bacteria can hide and fester—plastic becomes increasingly difficult to keep clean. By the end, you’ll better understand which cutting board material is best and what an unacceptable material is. (Read Does Chick Fil A Use Peanut Oil)
What Are The Most Common Materials Used For Cutting Boards?
There are many materials regarding what cutting board should be made of. There are a few major options that tend to be the most popular in home kitchens:
- Plastic Cutting Boards: Plastic boards are inexpensive, dishwasher-safe, and come in various colors. The most common types of plastic used are polyethylene and polypropylene.
- Wood Cutting Boards: Wood boards come in hardwoods like maple, cherry, walnut, and teak. Wood needs periodic sealing and sanitizing but resists dulling knives.
- Bamboo Cutting Boards: Bamboo boards are durable and gentle on knife blades. Bamboo is naturally antimicrobial but still requires proper cleaning.
- Glass Cutting Boards: Glass boards provide ultra-smooth cutting surfaces but tend to dull knives very quickly. Many refer to these as the kitchen equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.
- Rubber Cutting Boards: Rubber boards are flexible, gentle on knives, and easy to clean. However, they tend to stain easily from food and retain odors.
Why Are Plastic Cutting Boards So Common In Home Kitchens?
Plastic cutting boards like polyethylene or polypropylene have reigned supreme, so you may think I have something messy—whether it’s raw meat or fish that I want to cut into smaller pieces. In addition, if you cut foods that stain everything they touch—or need a small board for something quick, plastic may be your first choice.
For a long time, many people assumed plastic cutting boards were more sanitary than wood. Plastic boards wash up quickly and don’t require the maintenance of wood to stay bacteria-free. However, the reality is more complicated. However, a plastic board needs careful use. Plastic gets deep scratches and grooves in the cutting board surface and make it hard to remove bacteria that hide in those tiny spaces.
So while plastic boards are still useful and don’t require the maintenance that wood does to stay clean, they have downsides and may need replacing more frequently when cutting raw meat.
Why Is Wood For Cutting Boards Recommended?
Wood has natural antibacterial properties, and studies have shown that fine-grained woods like maple and cherry can kill bacteria. The hardwood can also take bacteria down into the board via capillary action, where the bacteria are trapped and eventually killed. Boards made of wood require periodic conditioning with food-grade mineral oil. This helps reduce staining and damage from knife scars. It’s easy to sand a wood board down and bring the surface to good-as-new condition after heavy use.
The porous nature of wood also means it won’t dull your knife blades. Many chefs still prefer wood for a cutting board, even with the required extra maintenance.
What About Bamboo Cutting Boards?
Making a cutting board out of bamboo has seen a surge in popularity as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic boards. Bamboo boards are made from pressed strands of bamboo to form a durable, water-resistant surface. The tight grain helps reduce knife dulling, and bamboo offers the same natural antimicrobial qualities as wood.
The biggest downsides of bamboo boards used extensively are deep scratches and grooves develop on these kitchen cooking boards where food and bacteria accumulate. (Read Can You Own A Town)
Why Glass Cutting Boards Are Bad For Food Prep?
Glass cutting boards are the best in terms of looks and functionality. They provide ultra-smooth, less porous material, and the board will last years without much care. However, they make a great cutting board yet are panned by chefs.
Here are a few reasons glass fails for kitchen cutting boards:
- Knife Damage: Hard glass surface quickly dulls and damages knife blades.
- Not Forgiving Of Mistakes: Glass boards are prone to chipping if dropped. Wood and plastic offer more forgiveness if accidentally banged against countertops.
- Slippage: Glass boards move easily because of their smooth surfaces, making cutting and chopping difficult.
Glass cutting boards are unacceptable for food prep, so consider using another material rather than just buying based on looks.
What Type Of Wood Is Best For Wooden Cutting Board?
Wood cutting boards have their characteristics. Some types of wood make a better cutting board than others.
Here are some things to consider when selecting wood for cutting boards:
- Hardness: Soft woods like pine are too gentle on knives and can harbor bacteria. Look for hardwood for better knife edges and sanitation.
- Grain Patterns: Tight-grain woods are naturally antibacterial. Good choices include maple, cherry, and walnut.
- Appearance: Visually pleasing woods like walnut, teak, and maple add beauty and utility.
- Moisture Resistance: Some woods, like teak, have natural water and moisture resistance. This helps reduce swelling and warping.
No wood type is necessarily unacceptable for cutting boards. But fine-grained hardwoods with moisture resistance like maple, walnut, cherry, and teak rank among the best woods for beautiful cutting boards.
How To Maintain and Clean Cutting Board Wood?
Proper maintenance and sanitizing are crucial to get the most out of wood and bamboo cutting boards.
- Allow boards to dry between use.
- Don’t submerge in water for long periods.
- Scrub boards thoroughly after working with meat, fish, or poultry using hot soapy water.
- Sanitize monthly using a dilute bleach solution.
- Rub food grade mineral oil into wood boards to seal and protect wood grain every 1-2 weeks. Focus on the end grain that can be more prone to moisture.
- Sand surfaces periodically to keep boards smooth and free of deep scratches.
- Never put wood or bamboo boards in a dishwasher.
Proper cutting board maintenance takes some work but allows these boards to provide years of reliable service keeping knives sharp and kitchens bacteria-free.
Alternative Cutting Board Materials To Try?
Home kitchens’ most common cutting board options remain plastic, wood, and bamboo. But some other cutting board materials emerging offer their own pros and cons:
- Rubber: Gentle on knives but prone to stains/odors
- Silicone: Non-porous, flexible, resistant to odors
- Stone composite: Naturally antimicrobial but very heavy
Many alternative board materials address the downsides of plastic and wood. But they often have cost, durability, weight, or sanitation drawbacks. (Read Why Does My Shower Drain Smell Like Poop)
Conclusion: Selecting Best For A Cutting Board
When deciding what type of cutting board is right for your kitchen, consider how the material affects your knives, sanitation, and usage needs. Ultimately hardwoods, bamboo, and high-quality plastic boards check the most boxes for the average home cook.
Avoid porous materials like pine or abrasive surfaces like glass to ensure a durable board that protects your knives. Remember, FDA Food Code recognizes surfaces get scratched and breed bacteria. So, you need proper maintenance, so your cutting board can become an indispensable kitchen tool providing a safe meal prep experience.
FAQs: Which Cutting Board Material Is Best?
What cutting board material is most sanitary?
Hardwoods like maple naturally kill bacteria, while bamboo also resists microbes. Plastic can harbor bacteria if scratched.
Do wooden cutting boards require special care?
Wood boards need periodic sealing with mineral oil and thorough scrubbing to maximize their bacteria-fighting properties.
Is bamboo more sustainable than wood?
Bamboo is highly renewable and regenerates quickly compared to slower-growing hardwoods.
Should you cut meat on a separate board?
Use a designated board for raw meats to prevent cross-contamination with other foods. (Read Butcher Block Stain Removal)
Can you put wood boards in the dishwasher?
Prolonged soaking damages a great cutting board, so always hand wash and dry thoroughly.