An Instructional Guide About Cutting Boards

Prep cooking is the most important part of your meal. And it can be complicated if you don’t have the right materials. One of these accessories that you need is a cutting board. Not only does it make it easier to chop your food materials to your desired size, but it helps you have all of the materials needed when you’re ready to cook.

In this guide, we'll thoroughly explain why you need a cutting board. Professional chefs use it to prepare their meals and you should to. By the end of this guide, you'll know how to fully care for your cutting board so that you can continue to use it for your future meal plans!

What Is A Cutting Board?

A cutting board is a single board that's made from plastic, wood, bamboo, or glass. Also referred to as a butcher block, the cutting board is where vegetables, meat, and fruit are prepared and cut. Its durable enough to withstand the force of the knife, making it easier for the chef to prepare their food.

They can be made by a variety of materials such as wood, glass or vinyl. Small and large cutting boards are available and can be easily stored. Homeowners can also choose to make their entire kitchen counter to act as a cutting board. Or, they can use a different piece of rolling furniture that’s made for the same purpose.

For an interesting piece that’s also functional, multiple pieces of wood and colors are used to make a butcher block or a cutting board. Special sections of the board are used to help users store their knives.

Why Use A Cutting Board?

For most cooks, a cutting board is an essential tool to help them prepare food easier. Here are some of the reasons and benefits of using one:

Beyond Simple Counter Protection

While you can use a counter as a cutting board, chances are you’ll have a harder time cutting smoothly. This can lead to accidents in the kitchen and potential injury if you’re not careful. If you use a cutting board, you can skip this issue altogether.

Cutting boards provide more protection when cutting because of its sturdy surface. This means that you can cut your food on a safe area without the knife accidentally falling off the surface. Basically, it offers more counter protection as it gives you an area to focus on preparing your meals.

Keeping Your Knives Sharp

Knives tend to lose their sharpness over time. This is because the knife is constantly placed against hard surfaces. As a rule of thumb, the harder the surface, the faster your knife will become dull. Because of this, you need to invest in a good cutting board to prevent keep your knife sharp.

For instance, when cutting on a wooden surface, your knife won't lose its sharpness after doing so. But, using a harder surface such as steel can increase the chance of it becoming dull and bad results when cutting. So, having a good cutting board will help your knives stay sharp and reduce the time it takes to re-sharpen them if they do become dull.

Sanitary Food Preparation

Preparing food can be very messy. Your garlic cloves might hit the floor, or the juices of your favorite meat might reach the counter. And if liquids were to come out of your food, it might take you longer to clean it and will take longer to actually start cooking. To prevent this, you need to buy a cutting board if you’re serious about preparing your food.

Think about it, with cutting boards all of the food residue sticks to the board. In fact, some have juice groves which can keep the juices of your cut meat in one place.  This saves you time from cleaning the kitchen counter. Once you’re done cutting, you can place the rest of the residue in the trash and clean out the cutting board.

Materials Of Cutting Boards

When looking at your cutting board, you have to get the materials that suit your needs the most. Each of them differ, but they all are useful if you’re trying to reduce clean up time when you’re done cooking. Here are the most common materials that are available:

Wood

Wood cutting boards are the most commonly used and have a great look and feel. But there are some things you need to consider when using wood. While wood cutting boards are hard, they are also porous meaning that they will absorb almost everything - including bacteria.

These cutting boards require a weekly oil cleanse to disinfect the board and stop the bacteria from growing. The oil acts as a barrier against the moisture and keeps your board clean for the next time you use it.

After you use them, wooden boards need to be thoroughly cleaned, dried, and re-oiled in order for it to work properly. Even though they require a great deal of maintenance and upkeep, wooden cutting boards are best for your knives.

This is because the wood doesn't dull your knives. If you do plan on using a wooden cutting board, use them to cut up bread, herbs, and vegetables.

Bamboo

Bamboo is a grass and not wooden material. The fact that it's able to renew fast makes it a great resource for the environmentalists and the eco-conscious chef. Bamboo has similar properties to wood - its porous but its made of more durable material.

Like wood, bamboo needs oil. Bamboo can create splinters if not maintained, so it's important to re-oil it to stop this issue from occurring. However, using bamboo boards for a long time will expose them to bacteria. If this occurs, then you'll have to buy a new board.

Plastics

Most professional chefs recommend using plastic cutting boards. We recommend that you use polyurethane plastic boards because they last longer and are more durable. And, you can wash them easily via dishwasher or by hand.

They don't cause too much damage on your knives, but they're not as effective as bamboo or wood. On the other hand, plastic cutting boards can hold more bacteria than wood. But for certain occasions, plastic is a great choice. Especially if you're using color-coded plastic boards for different types of protein - such as meat, poultry, and fish.

Glass

Class cutting boards are easy to clean and nonporous - you can wash them in the dishwasher and the sink. And, you don’t have to oil them, making them have less upkeep than wooden, plastic, and bamboo boards.

But, their surface is the worst for your knives. When using a glass board, you increase the chances of your knives becoming dull. Because of this reason, we wouldn’t suggest that you use glass cutting boards unless it's necessary.

Stone

Stone cutting boards such as granite and marble are difficult to use. Like glass, their surface is too hard and can damage your knives. While they do have a nice design, it's better to use stone cutting boards when doing pastry work.

Why Should You Choose Wood & Plastic Over Glass And Stone

To get the most utility out of your cutting boards, we suggest that you buy two of them (one plastic, one wooden). Use the wooden one for vegetable cutting and the plastic board for cutting up your meats.

If you want to use a cutting board to carve cooked meats, then you can get a third board as well, or you can use your vegetable cutting board to help prepare your meals.

Understanding How Knives Work And How They Get Damaged

Knives work on cutting boards based on the hardness of the surface. If the surface is too soft, you'll find it difficult to cut anything. But, extremely hard surfaces (i.e. stone, glass, etc.) will lead to the knife becoming dull and ineffective.

And, when you use your knives on glass surfaces, they become damaged faster. While wood has a higher upkeep, it will take you longer to notice any gaps in quality. That’s why you need to avoid glass or stone knives. They will damage your knives which will cost you more money in the long run.

No Chipping On Knives, Especially Ceramic Ones

When your knives chip it can severely affect your cutting performance. If you try to cut open hard food such as nuts with it, the knife will become dull and might bend due to the excessive force applied. For example, hitting a nut with a Japanese knife might cause for the knife to break and show parts of the edge on the table.

When using wooden or plastic cutting boards, it reduces the chances of this occurring. This is because the knife is cutting on a surface that's durable to take its force. But, the surface isn't too hard enough to cause the knife's edge to chip. So, when you buy these cutting boards, you reduce the chances of chipping by almost 10x.

If you notice any chips in your knife due to regular use, try to avoid the issue by using a beater knife for such robust tasks. If this doesn’t work, then take out your sharpening tool and attempt to profile your knife’s edge to a steeper angle.

For instance, if the knife was 12° on each side, try to increase it to 15° on both sides. Try this procedure to see if it solves your problem. Experimenting with chipped knives is the key. Don’t go too high with the cutting angle as it can reduce the sharpness once you get above the 12° side.

Wood And Plastic Are Actually Safer When It Comes To Bacteria

No matter what cutting board you have, bacteria will always find its way to get involved. But, when you use a glass and stone board, the bacteria tend to stick onto the board. Even after you've cleaned it thoroughly, the board will still have small bacteria pieces creeping onto your food.

Wood and plastic are a better alternative because they reduce the amount of bacteria that are on the board. Since you're re-oiling the wooden boards, the moisture and bacteria are stopped and won't cause an infection after you're done using it.

They can kill and stop the growth of bacteria that's placed on its surface. Both used and new wooden boards are able to hold this standard as well. That's why you should choose a wood or plastic board when trying to prepare your favorite meals.

Wood Vs. Plastic Cutting Boards

There's always a debate between which one is better. But, it's better to use them both so that you can cut your food more effectively. This table shows the pros and cons of both wooden and plastic boards:

Types of Board

Pros

Cons

Wood

  • Holds Less Bacteria: Unlike plastic boards, wooden boards contain less salmonella than plastic boards.
  • Easily Resurfaced: Wooden boards are able to be sanded and then finished with a food-friendly mineral oil. This stops the need to replace wooden cutting boards.
  • Expensive: On average, wooden cutting boards cost more than plastic boards.
  • Handwashing:Unlike plastic boards, wooden cutting boards are unable to be placed in the dishwasher. Placing the wooden board in water can cause for the water to swell and break down the glue that's holding the pieces together. 

Plastic

  • Easy to Clean: Plastic cutting boards can be placed inside the dishwasher, making them easier to clean.
  • Cheaper: You can buy a set of quality plastic cutting boards for less than $15. This means that they are easily disposable and can be replaced quickly.
  • Knife Scarring: Plastic cutting boards have a lighter material than wood. This means that the knife scars are more evident. This makes it harder to cut with the board and will lead to further damage in the long run.

No matter which one you choose, it's best that you have both. Both options are safer than glass and stone materials, and they do make your food prepping process less of a hassle. So, understand the pros and cons of both boards and use them to your advantage during your next meal preparation!

Difference Between End Grain And Edge Grain Wooden Boards

Edge Grain boards are created by parallel pieces of wood at the edge. This is the most common pattern that people use and is the typical wooden cut board design. Walnut and maple are the most popular, but there are other wooden boards that can be used.

Edge Grain boards are easier to maintain, inexpensive, and have a higher durability. However, they tend to dull knives faster than end grain boards. Because of this, we suggest that you start off with an edge grain board and move onto an end grain board once you replace your first set of knives.

End Grain boards are known for their checkerboard design. They consist of the end piece of wood and are usually more expensive than edge gain boards. But, people like to use them because they are safer for your knives.

Why Are End Grain Boards Better For Knives

To continue, end grain boards have a self-healing factor. This means that the fibers close up after the knife is placed on the board. Edge Grain boards don't have this feature, meaning that they are more susceptible to knife scars. So, you should look into an end grain board if you want to maximize your cutting performance.

Difference Between Bamboo And Wood

While both boards have gained their popularity, they are entirely different in function and design. These are the most common differences between bamboo and wooden cutting boards:

Classification

The first difference between the two is their classification. Bamboo cutting boards are viewed as a "grass", unlike wood. And, bamboo is more sturdier than wood, making it better for using harder knives on its surface.

Due to bamboo's environmentally friendly composition, it's faster to harvest and is more renewable. Because its top-notch affordability and sturdiness, we can see that bamboo is a great alternative for those that are conscious about the environment.

Maintenance

Think of bamboo as a low maintenance wood. While it has a wooden appearance, bamboo doesn’t retain as much water as wood. This means that you don’t have to worry about it splintering or losing quality once you wash it.

Wood requires a more complex process to clean. You’ll have to use a mixture of lemon and salt to remove the residue from it. Because of this, some owners tend to choose bamboo cutting boards because they require less effort to clean.

Sanitation And Health

Even the hardest maple wood can be pricked off with the use of a chef’s knife. And, wooden cutting boards tend to have more bacteria and germ build up than their bamboo counterparts. Bamboo is robust enough to handle strong knife marks.

That being said, bamboo cutting boards are the better health choice. But for long term durability, wooden cutting boards are the better option.

Long Term Usage

This is where wooden cutting boards are the better option. On average, bamboo cutting boards have a 3 year lifespan. Most owners who have wooden cutting boards have reported that they owned it for over 4 years. This means that you should try using wooden cutting boards if you want to have a high-quality board for longer.

Maintaining Your Wooden Cutting Board

In order to utilize your wood cutting board, you have to take care of it. People who regularly clean and oil their wooden cutting board tend to have to longer than any other cutting board material. Here are some tips you should follow to ensure that your cutting board remains in good condition.

Washing

Wooden boards require the following equipment to clean it thoroughly:

  • Cloth or Sponge
  • Half a lemon
  • Bench Scraper
  • Coarse Salt
  • Warm Water

Instructions

  • Use Salt: Sprinkle coarse salt on the cutting board to start cleaning it.
  • Clean the surface: With the half lemon, start scouring the surface with it. Squeeze the lemon slightly to release the juice as you go.
  • Allow it to sit, then remove it: Let the mixture sit for at least 5 minutes. After that, remove the dirty liquid inside a small bowl with the bench scraper then discard it.
  • Rinse: Use a wet sponge to finish washing off your cutting board. 

Oil

The oil that should be used for your cutting board should be food grade. You should use mineral oil as it isn’t rancid and you can find it in kitchen supply stores. We tend to use mineral oil and beeswax. Also, there are name brand name oils and creams to help maintain your cutting boards.

Before you begin to oil your board, make sure that the board is completely clean. Start by using lemon and salt to scrub off any residue on your wooden cutting board. And the boards need to be dry before you oil them. So try cleaning it during the evening then spending the morning drying it off.

Instructions

  • Clean The Wood: First, you want to make sure that the wooden board is clean. Using coarse salt and half a lemon, thoroughly dry it off. After that, give it at least 8 hours to fully dry off.
  • Start Using the Oil: Start applying the oil with a paper towel or a soft cloth. Then, start applying the oil on an even layer on the wood.
  • Allow it to soak in: Once the oil is applied, let it soak in for about 8 to 24 hours. This allows the oil to stop the moisture from entering the wood, making it easier to remove the bacteria from the board.
  • Remove the Oil: If there are any extra oil residue from the board, quickly remove it with a soft cloth. Take off the oil so that your board doesn’t remain sticky or damp.

Conclusion

Mainly, your cutting board needs to be maintained so that you can continue to use it for cooking projects.

But, you also need to know where to get the best cutting boards to get the job done. We invite you to look at our buying guide to find the best cutting boards to assist you in your prep cooking endeavors!