Cutting – or chopping – boards might seem like an incredibly simple consideration when it comes to kitting out your kitchen.
It’s not quite as simple a choice as you might think, however.
Some material types are more hygienic, for example, while other types last longer and are easier to clean and maintain.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a comprehensive cutting board guide which explains what to look for when shopping for your next set.
From common materials to size considerations, this article should provide you with everything you need to know about this most crucial component of kitchen life.
First, let’s look at some of the most common materials for cutting boards, and the advantages and disadvantages in each case:
If convenience is important to you, then you might want to consider investing in a set of plastic cutting boards.
The main reason for doing so is that they can be run through the dishwasher, which is handy if you have a very busy household.
Buying a set with different colors means it’s also easy to dedicate one to fish, one to meat, another to fruit and vegetables, and so on. This helps reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.
There are disadvantages to using plastic boards, however.
Once scratched, they become harder to thoroughly clean and disinfect. They’re prone to gathering more bacteria as a result.
The more damaged the surface has taken from knives, the greater the likelihood that little flecks of plastic are making their way into your food as well.
If you’re going down this route, you should plan to replace the boards once they’ve taken a reasonable amount of damage from your kitchen knives.
Verdict: The most convenient and – in the short-term – affordable option. Easy to care for, but will need to be replaced more often than other board types.
Bamboo boards have become increasingly popular in recent years, and are the cutting board of choice for those who prioritize the impact of their kitchen purchases on the environment.
Not only is it a renewable and sustainable material, it’s also at least as hard-wearing as its wooden counterparts.
On the flip side, and because it’s a very hard material, it’ll do more damage to your kitchen knives over time.
Be prepared to spend some time maintaining your blades, so you don’t end up using inefficient tools.
A dull blade can slip more easily too, so it’s important to keep them in good working condition.
Verdict: The most environmentally responsible option, but will work your knives much harder than wood.
Although not quite as environmentally-friendly as bamboo, wooden chopping boards are a pretty good compromise between quality and production impact.
Just make sure you buy one that’s been made of soft wood. This is much kinder to your kitchen knives in the long run, which means you’ll spend less time and money on sharpening or replacing blades.
You won’t be able to run one of these through the dishwasher though, so make sure you rinse it down well with hot soapy water when you’re finished.
Wooden cutting boards also benefit from being re-oiled occasionally, something we’ll cover a little later on in this guide.
Verdict: The best all-round material in terms of environmental impact, longevity and performance.
Ceramic / Glass
These look nice, but will absolutely destroy your knives far more quickly than any other material covered in this guide!
Unless you’re buying a board purely for decorative purposes, I really can’t recommend going down this route at all.
Shape & Size
Keep things simple here, and focus on practicality over appearance.
There are some outlandish designs available that look great, but will prove impractical. You only increase the risk of sustaining an injury by using them.
A board that’s rectangular in shape, and either 12 x 18 or 24 x 36 inches in size will be perfect for most kitchens.
Plastic boards tend to be quite thin and you get very little choice in the matter. For wooden boards though, we would recommend buying one that’s between 1.5 and 2 inches thick.
Hygiene & Cleaning
All kinds of nasty bacteria can accumulate on your cutting boards, so it’s important to take good care of them between each use.
The rules are pretty simple to follow, but important to keep in mind:
- Make sure the cutting board you plan to use has been cleaned thoroughly first.
- If you’re using the same board for different stages of your meal, clean it with hot, soapy water between each step. Rinse and pat down with kitchen towels before continuing.
- Take some time to regularly disinfect your cutting board, using whatever anti-bacterial kitchen cleaning solution you favor.
- Don’t hold onto them forever! Once a board has developed deep scratches – or cracks – it’s time to buy a replacement. Even a thorough clean won’t remove all the harmful bacteria that may still be present.
- If it’s at all possible, have two separate boards: one for fruit and vegetables, the other for meat and fish. That will reduce the risk of cross-contamination even further. Most plastic sets come in a variety of colors for just this purpose.
- Don’t immerse a wooden cutting board in water, or you increase the risk of it warping or cracking. Wipe, rinse and dry instead.
Oiling Wooden Boards
Most amateur chefs opt for either wooden or plastic chopping boards.
If you go with the former, it’s well worth oiling it every four weeks or so. Doing so will preserve the board’s surface and prevent it from drying out.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Pick up some mineral oil. It’s food-grade stuff and won’t go rancid over time either.
- Clean and dry the board thoroughly, just as you would with regular maintenance.
- Grab a paper towel, and use it to wipe the board with oil. Aim for an even coating all over.
- Put the board to one side and leave it for at least a couple of hours (and ideally overnight.)
- Grab a fresh paper towel and gently buff the board until you’re sure there’s no sticky residue left.
That should be everything you need to know about choosing and maintaining your next set of cutting boards.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to help you out!