When asked to name their favorite kitchen tool, some people will say their favorite cutting knife. However, what’s a good knife without an excellent cutting board to cut on? If you’re anything like most people who own wooden cutting boards, you’ll agree that it’s one of your most loved kitchen items.
Of course, over time, most wooden kitchen tools, such as your cutting board, need some TLC every once in a while.
First of All: Plastic or Wooden Cutting Boards? It’s a Personal Choice
Wooden and plastic cutting boards each have their own set of advantages. Glass, though, is never a good idea.
Cutting boards can often be compared to mattresses. People often underestimate the importance of getting a good one. It’s the main work surface in the kitchen. It’s where you dice onions, cut raw meat, and even pound your fists in frustration when a recipe doesn’t go right.
When it comes to choosing a good cutting board, there are a few things to keep in mind. It comes down to being a personal choice, but which one should you choose? It comes down to choosing one or the other. Keep in mind though that glass cutting boards aren’t worth a moment of your time. They are hard, they can dull your knife, and they just aren’t the ideal option.
Benefits of Wooden Cutting Boards
Wood is probably one of the best materials for cutting boards. Durable, yet easy on your knives, wood is smooth but not too slippery. These cutting boards can be firm while still being able to absorb shocks. Here are a few benefits to wooden cutting boards.
Any good wooden cutting board can last a while. Maybe not a lifetime, but at least a few years. Even if the surface becomes damaged with scratches, the board can be salvaged with a little sanding. Not many materials are this forgiving.
Gentle for Your Knives
Wood can be a pleasure to cut on, but if made from woods such as chestnut or maple, they can be gentler on your blades as opposed to harder woods, including bamboo or even plastic. Walnut and maple are hardwoods, but they are both durable and soft enough to not do a lot of damage to knives.
A lot of people fear wood as it’s porous and absorbs liquids. They think wooden cutting boards are unsanitary. However, research done showing wood can absorb bacteria, while trapping it and then killing it. Studies done showed this could happen as soon as 3-10 minutes after the board is contaminated. However, chicken grease and fat can remain on the surface unless washed in warm and soapy water.
Wooden cutting boards are more attractive to look at. While it’s not the most important thing to consider when buying one for the kitchen, it can most certainly help. You want your kitchen to be a space to enjoy cooking, and looks, to say the least, matter to some.
Benefits of Plastic Cutting Boards
You can often find plastic cutting boards for relatively cheap.
Space Efficient and Lightweight
Because plastic is considered a strong material, it’s not as thick as wooden cutting boards. This means it’s not a space hog. In the space you would fit a wooden cutting board, you could probably fit 2 or 3 plastic cutting boards. Because they are lighter in weight, it’s easier to move them from the sink to the counter or dishwasher. Unlike wooden cutting boards that can’t be placed in the dishwasher, plastic ones can fit in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning.
Easy to Sanitize
Plastic cutting boards can be put in the dishwasher on the high heat setting without getting warped. This makes cleanup a walk in the park. This also ensures they stay sanitized.
While wood can be safer as far as bacteria, plastic can be a better option for cutting raw meat such as chicken and other foods that might be risky.
Gentle on Your Knife
While it’s not as gentle as cutting boards that are made from hardwood including maple, some cutting boards made from plastic are made to be durable yet gentle enough on your knife’s blade to prevent any kind of wear and tear over time.
For some of the best vegetable cleavers, check out our detailed buyer’s guide!
Avoid the Dishwasher at All Cost
When it comes to cleaning your wooden cutting board, you might be tempted to put it in the dishwasher to ensure it’s clean. However, there are other ways to ensure your wooden cutting board is clean and disinfected as opposed to using the dishwasher, which could actually warp and split your cutting board over time.
Cleaning and Maintaining a Wooden Cutting Board
There are several reasons wooden cutting boards are popular. Because of their attractive look as opposed to other cutting boards, they are great for using as serving platters. They don’t get as many cuts or scrapes from being used consistently as plastic ones would, but since they are wooden, cleaning them takes a little more work.
- Hand wash only. While this sounds obvious for some people, many don’t know to only hand wash wooden cutting boards. That’s because long and drawn out exposure to water and heat can cause them to split or become warped.
- Use dish soap and warm water. After using your cutting board, clean it with warm water and dish soap. Use a soft sponge as well. Clean any cracks and crevices where bacteria and food might hide.
- Disinfect the board. If you notice there’s a sour smell, or just want to deep clean your board, try this. Place 1 cup baking powder onto your board and pour 1 cup of vinegar on the board. This should help remove any stains, too.
- Dry the board off. After washing and disinfecting, it’s crucial to dry your board off to prevent any warping and splitting. Sitting wet for too long can cause fibers to swell, and this is what causes warping and splitting.
- Preserve the board. If you’re looking to pamper your wooden board, use a mineral oil to keep water from entering your cutting board and warping its state. Apply the mineral oil to all sides and soak it overnight.
What to Avoid with Wooden Cutting Boards?
There are a few things you should consider avoiding when it comes to cleaning your cutting board. These can include:
- Avoid soaking your cutting board in water as this causes fibers to warp and crack.
- Don’t let juices from raw meat settle into surfaces of your board.
- Never place your cutting board in a dishwasher.
Why You Should Oil Your Cutting Board
Wooden cutting boards, slabs of wood, might not appear to need much attention. Wood is a porous material and this changes over time. This is why it’s splintered and dry over time, and some people take better care of their cutting board than others.
Having an oil regimen can help soak into your wood and keeps it smooth, but it additionally acts as a water-repellent. Cutting boards that stay wet or stay in water for a prolonged period of time become prone to warping or growing bacteria. Over time, your cutting board might split and becomes unsafe.
Having this oil protectant also helps prevent stains from liquid or juice from sticking to the board.
How Often Should You Oil Your Cutting Board?
Just like with cast iron pans, many people choose to season or oil wood cutting boards before they use it. Even if your board is pre-oiled, over time it might have dried up. A nice coat of oil will put it back to its original state. This is optional of course.
There are not fast or hard rules as to how often or when you should oil the cutting board, but there are a few ways to see if the board needs a coating. If there are parts of your board that look dull, it might need a good oiling.
Another trick to do is sprinkle some water on its surface. If the water is absorbed or spreads, your board is dry and might need some oil.
Choosing the Best Wood for Your Cutting Board
Whether you’re in the market for a butcher block or a wooden cutting board, the board is going to be a crucial part of your kitchen. Without a cutting board, well, it’d be hard to cut anything without ruining your countertops.
Hardwood or Softwood
When it comes to choosing a cutting board, choose hardwood, over softwood. Several reasons for this are:
- Hardwood can be more durable
- Hardwood doesn’t dull knives
- It’s a lot simpler to use chef knives on hard boards since there isn’t much give
Some wood species can be extremely hard. For instance, Brazilian walnut is a really hard wood and using it as a cutting board can be less expensive. Using wood that is too hard though can dull knives.
Consider the type of food you plan on prepping on your cutting board before deciding on some wood. Certain woods can be more porous, and this has a huge impact on sanitation. There’re 3 types of wood: ring-porous, diffuse-porous, and also semi-diffuse porous. Simply put, they can be categorized as either open-grain, which is ring-porous, and also closed-grain, which is also known as diffuse-porous.
Woods which are ring-porous are known to have bigger pores as opposed to diffuse-porous. The bigger the pores, the more moisture it allows to seep down into wood. It means that if ring-porous is used, bacteria might have perfect breeding grounds to grow on your cutting board. This might lead to contamination or to needing to replace a board sooner than you wanted to.
Ideal Wood Choices
Maple has become a top choice for wooden cutting boards. It offers a closed-grain type of wood and this means it’s more durable and can resist all bacteria that might breed on your board. It features just enough hardness. It’s fairly light in color meaning it coordinates with most kitchen colors.
Keep in mind red maple can be toxic. This is a wood that isn’t used for cutting boards. If you are making a cutting board on your own, steer clear of this wood.
This is yet another great option. While ring-porous, it’s tough enough for withstanding everyday use. It has a lighter tone and many cooks have come to love this color. Similarly, to other wood boards, there may be some extra care needed to prevent staining.
This wood isn’t as common when it comes to cutting boards. However, it’s known to be extremely versatile and durable making it less expensive. These can range in color allowing you to find the one that’ll coordinate with your color scheme. After a bamboo cutting board, an Acacia cutting board is our very close second favorite.
Another hardwood, Cherry has become a top option. Its dark to medium in color and adds a touch of timeless beauty in any kitchen. Cherry additionally is easier on your knives, so they won’t get dull over time. This wood is long-lasting and if treated right, will last you for several years.
Walnut is a hardwood which became a great choice for the kitchen. One of its greatest features is the dark color it offers. While it is a lot softer than Maple is, it still holds up over time. It’s one of the “just right” woods in hardness making it great for a cutting board without dulling your knives.
Woods to Avoid
Just like there are woods to choose from, there are also woods that you should avoid if you plan on making a cutting board. Some of these woods are listed below.
While Oak’s a harder wood tree, it has larger pores letting more bacteria to grow on your cutting board. This isn’t what you need or want in the kitchen. But, if you have one, consider disinfecting it often to avoid growth of harmful bacteria that could contaminate your food.
Pine or Cedar
These are both softwoods, and if a cutting board is made with one or the other it can be more likely to become damaged as opposed to hardwood cutting boards. This leads to an increased risk of dulling knives. Scored and damage boards can make knives lose their sharp factor faster than undamaged boards.
When it comes to cleaning and maintaining a cutting board, oiling it can help keep your cutting board look its best for several years to come!