Cutting boards do not come equal. I’ve studied them as I want my new knives to last. The worst cutting boards I’ve learned are in my kitchen. Probably because they are inexpensive and readily available.
From worst to best are:
4. Hard woods like hard rock maple, walnut, and cherry.
I have the first three boards. I have plastic ones that I seldom use. Mostly they get pulled out to do puzzles on. Good thing because I’ve now learned that studies show they harbor more bacteria than wood ones. When the plastic is nicked it opens up a perfect hiding place for germs.
Another popular choice is bamboo. It is inexpensive and durable. I’ve got two! BUT alas bamboo is not a wood. It is actually a very tough grass. You might recall the blog about the best source for wearing down rabbit’s teeth which never quit growing. It is grass. This means bamboo has silica in every fiber which wears down the edge of a knife quickly.
I have an oak one from Kirk’s brother. It is open grain so bacteria is harder to wipe away. and tends to warp and split over time because cutting boards are frequently exposed to water and other liquids. This particular board is called a carving board. That is why there is a groove around the outer edge to catch liquids.
The good cutting boards I have none of which is hard rock maple, walnut, and cherry being the most common. On the Janka hardness scale maple rates 1450, black walnut is next at 1010 and black cherry is 850. But, the key here is the end grain construction which makes each very durable.
I ran across teak wood as another option for cutting boards. It is an oily wood and water resistant so it is commonly used on boats but it has a lot of silica also in its composition so it dull knives quickly.
After you choose the right kind of wood, then choose the correct construction. Flat panel is how the oak cutting board I received from Kirk’s brother is laid. It looks like flooring. It is the flat of the board. This orientation makes the wood more susceptible to warp and split.
Edge grain cutting boards like this one my granddaughter just made are thicker in construction and tip the board on its edge which means it will be less prone to warp and split. They are the middle of the road in price and thinner in thickness than the end grain I will discuss next.
End grain is the end of the board which is self-healing as the fibers move aside and then back again. This allows microscopic particles of food to become encased and starved of oxygen not allowing bacteria to grow. These boards tend to split and warp the least over time. They are usually about 2 inches thick for stability. Pretty hefty to lift. They are at least four times more expensive but are made to last for generations. It doesn’t get any greener than that. This board is most noticeable because it will have small squares of wood.
Ranked from best to worst are:
- End grain
- Edge grain
- Fat panel
If the price of a good cutting board has you thinking do it yourself then consider the following: Study carefully as you want to use the right kind of glue. You will want to research your wood species as some have oils and anti-insect properties that are toxic to humans. Never use reclaimed wood as you don’t know what it has been treated with or exposed to in its environment. Never use any spalted wood as it is a fungus that causes the patterning.
So when judging a cutting board look for grain, the way the boards are oriented, wood species, and thickness.
Did you learn a bunch. I know I did and I will be replacing cutting boards in the future.