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Wooden Cutting Boards

Sunday, 30 November 2008 | Tags: ,

A stable, washable surface on which to prepare food, cutting boards come in many shapes, sizes, and materials. We take a closer look at wooden cutting boards to find out which will hold up best to a lifetime of chopping.

The Basics

  • Most cutting boards are made from wood or plastic. Other materials you might see, like glass, steel, marble, and corian, may be attractive and easy to clean, but they’re hard on your knives.

  • Studies show that, as a natural fibre, wood is resilient enough to heal many small cuts and has anti-microbial qualities. A properly seasoned and cared-for board stands up well to both bacteria and wear-and-tear.

  • Look for a wooden cutting board made from a high-quality, non-porous hardwood like:

    • Hard maple is a traditional material for high-quality wood boards. Non-porous and very resilient, maple won’t absorb food odours or stains. It’s not dishwasher-safe and requires regular oiling.

    • Cherry, walnut, ash, acacia, and oak all make excellent cutting boards, and have properties similar to maple, though maple is still the hardest of all domestic woods. All wood boards require regular oiling.

    • Laminated paper fibre or wood fibre boards are hard yet lightweight laminated sheets that are low-maintenance, dishwasher safe and don’t require oiling. They are also resistant to high temperatures, bacteria, and deep knife cuts. Not as durable a hardwood boards, they are easy to use and inexpensive.

    • Bamboo is not actually a wood, but is a good choice for durability and the environment. Its hard surface enables efficient chopping, is resistant to knife cuts, and absorbs very little moisture or bacteria. Bamboo, however, can be more expensive than hardwood boards. They aren’t dishwasher safe and should be oiled regularly.

  • The way the wood is cut for the board can make a difference to your knife:

    • End-grain cut boards are designed so that the grain of the wood runs vertically (i.e., straight up and down from the counter) and allows the knife to push between the wood grain, rather than flat against it. This keeps your knife sharp longer, and your board won’t show knife marks since you’re not actually cutting into the wood.

    • Flat-grain (or edge-grain) cut boards have wood grain running horizontally (i.e., parallel to the counter). They are easier to make than end-grain, and also less expensive, so you will likely see more of these available at the store.

  • Larger boards are easier to work with since you have space to chop food and sort it. But make sure you can easily fit it into your sink for washing. 

  • When choosing the shape of your board, be it round, square or rectangular, remember to consider your counter space available.

Other Considerations

  • Grooves on wooden cutting boards are handy for catching juices, but super-wide grooves should be saved for carving boards because may get in the way on an everyday chopping board.

  • Rubberized feet help to stabilize your board, but then it’s not reversible. Instead, try a damp dish towel or rubber mat underneath the board to stabilize it.

  • If you use a board for carving on a regular basis, look for side handles which will help you move the board around the kitchen.

  • If you’re often slicing small things like cheese or lemons, buy one or two smaller cutting boards so you don’t always have to wash the big one.

Be Aware

  • Butcher blocks built into counter tops or installed on small wheeled carts are handy and attractive, but aren’t sanitary if the board can’t be detached for washing.

TEST CRITERIA

We tested these cutting boards in the kitchen on a tough cooking day that required a lot of chopping.

  • Architec “Gripperwood” end-grain acacia wood: $34.95
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • BoosBlock edge-grain maple: $99.00
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Epicurean wood-composite with slate core: $84
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Totally Bamboo “Malibu Groove” vertical grain: $59.98
. . Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

Everday Usage Test

  • The Architec acacia board was very nice looking, but it had rubber feet on the bottom so it was raised above the countertop and was actually quite loud. It also showed the cut marks really easily because it was dark wood. It looked old really quickly and didn’t seem like it would last very long.

  • The BoosBlock maple board was really big and heavy, which can be a plus for some, and a negative for others.

  • The Epicurean wood-composite board was favoured for its dishwasher-friendly material, but we felt it was kind of ugly. It wouldn’t be a good board to use for a serving platter for cheese, for example.

  • For looks and cutting, the bamboo came out as favourite. It was strong yet lightweight, easy to clean, and looked good.

Durability Test

We went to the extreme to see which boards would hold up after being dropped from the second floor onto a concrete walkway, and also used as floorboards in a hockey player’s bench.

  • In both tests, the acacia board broke.

  • The wood-composite board survived the drop, but showed some wear under the hockey skates

  • The maple broke when it was dropped, and showed some wear in the hockey skate test.

  • The bamboo board survived the drop, and showed only a bit of wear in the hockey test.

OUR TOP PICK

We both felt that the Totally Bamboo “Malibu Groove” cutting board is the best choice for a long-lasting, durable, and attractive cutting board.

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