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Best Wood for Cutting-Board Countertop?

I'm very lucky to have a hubby who is a handy builder. We're putting a 9 foot island in our kitchen, and I requested he make a 3 to 3 1/2 foot section out of wood (the rest is marble), so I can have a built in cutting board/kneading/rolling board. I also asked him to drop it about four to six inches lower than the rest of the countertop, so I can get more leverage when I knead dough.

So, my question is...what is the best wood to make this out of? Butcher block? Maple? Something else?

Anyone out there have any ideas?

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  1. Hi QueenB,
    I would recommend not installing a wood section of countertop to use as a cutting board. It will be difficult to keep clean (you can't hold it under the faucet!) and will quickly become a sliced-up mess that you will need to re-sand constantly.

    I do enjoy the lowered marble counter that I installed in my kitchen about 28 years ago. It is my baking and stirring center, as I am fairly short, and I get great leverage. Pick a height that works well for you. The marble is great for rolling dough and kneading, and is easily cleaned with a wooden scraper.

    For cutting boards, I recommend a separate board for raw meat, and another for veggies & cheese. I keep a kosher kitchen, and I actually have multiple boards in different colors for meat, dairy (cheese), and pareve (veggies). I especially like my small veggie board, which is great for a single onion, a lemon--a quick job. These boards can be picked up and their contents can be dumped into a pot, they can be washed and even put in the dishwasher (most are plastic). You can't do that with a stationary countertop!

    That's my 2 cents worth: stay away from wooden counters!
    Good luck, p.j.

    4 Replies
    1. re: p.j.

      Also, the cutting board flush with the counter is hard on the knuckles. Better is a separate piece that sits on top of the counter.

      1. re: yayadave

        This may be a dumb question, but "hard on the knuckles" how?

        1. re: QueenB

          When I'm slicing or cutting with anything other than a chef's knife, my knuckles get in the way and I end up having to cut with only the curved part of the blade because I have the handle end raised.
          I hope it's not a dumb question, because it looked like such a good idea to ME when I did it - put a flush cutting board in the middle of the counter.
          Look, if your heart's set on it, don't let me talk you out of it. We still manage to eat around here. I just don't think it worked out as well as it seemed it would.
          Hang in there for a couple of days and maybe you'll get some more positive responses.

          1. re: yayadave

            Maybe it helps that I have small hands, because I've never run into my knuckles getting in the way before.
            Thanks for the response! I wasn't really sure what you were talking about, so I'm glad you explained it.

    2. I worked at a Pizza place about 30 years ago and they had maple butcher block tables. They have been cutting pizza on those tables for more than 30 years and when I go there they still look good. We washed them down with bleach and water every day. Make sure that your using Rock maple, seem to be harder than other maple, the owner built the tables and used maple toung and groved flooring mounted on 1" plywood. Take a knife with you when you are shopping for wood and pick the hardest.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ibew292

        I'm in agreement - I use a slice of tree (about 7" high and 18" wide) as a veggie and bread cutting board, picked up in a Chinese store about ten years ago that keeps going strong. Yes it has darkened and yes there are very shallow knife marks on it but that's just a sign that it has been used as intended. I keep it clean with vinegar or salt/lemon and the occasional scrub with a copper scrubber. I've never sanded it once.

        Not everybody will agree, but for me a kitchen that looks new after years of use is a kitchen without a soul. I like aged things that show signs of loving use.

      2. Totally Bamboo has begun a custom countertop business. You might want to check out their website.

        With use, any true butcher block will become marred and scratched over time. This can, however, be an attractive centerpiece to a working kitchen. A hot water and bleach solution combined with regular oiling would keep the wood safe and fuctional.

        Don't be too paranoid about the whole sanitation issue with wood. Most recent studies (University of Wisconsin) strongly suggest that wood holds any bacteria and does not release it back onto the knife as does plastic. That being said, I still have a couple of plastic cutting boards to complement my butcher block when necessary (i.e. having to cut vegetables after cutting raw chicken or just too lazy to clean/disinfect the butcher block when all I needed was a little crushed garlic for a dipping sauce). I've been doing 90% of my cutting--including raw chicken--on a well cleaned, well maintained butcher block for five years (complemented with two plastic boards) and have NEVER experienced a cross contamination issue coming out of my kitchen. Let's be honest, the world survived just fine for centuries using wood butcher blocks.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sam Harmon

          Bamboo is a nice choice for the environment and aesthetic with numerous choices in grain. Personally the built-in cutting space hasn't been great because of the look, cleaning (if it's recessed you'll end up with crumbs in crevices) and non-congrous counter. If you have an option, you may choose a cutting board overlay to your sink and then a under cupboard that fits it easily!

        2. I have a wood countertop and have no problems. It is kept well-oiled, is easy to clean and sanitize and wood has natural anti-bacterial agents. Plastic is a germ farm!
          For a lot of info on all types of cutting surfaces, with pros and cons, try http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar...

          1. First of all, the dough processing surface is never to be used a cutting board in my domicile. My surface to cut directly on is actually a textured glass sheet, or at least a plate, never a sanitation issue.

            Wood, in my honest opinion, needs some rethinking on. It isn't something I would want to keep after cutting up some fish, from past my experiences on.

            3 Replies
            1. re: RShea78

              Totally agree with the dough processing surface not to be used as a cutting board. But cutting on glass will destroy your knives over time. All cutting surfaces need to be softer than the cutting medium and glass doesn't fit that bill.
              Wood is ideal for cutting boards for several reasons. It naturally inhibits bacterial growth, making it safer than plastic. It is kind to your knifes and it can be refinished over time.

              1. re: andreas

                >>> But cutting on glass will destroy your knives over time.

                I used to think that way till I was proven wrong.

                Glass doesn't grab the edge of the knife like wood does. Wood also has the tendency to pick up fragments of foreign material and allow them to become embedded into the surface. That in turn is either abrasive to the edge or causes the edge to deflect (curl). This is why the blade needs more frequent dressing of the edge. In many cases wood is like another form of sandpaper, when we get down to the nitty gritty facts.

                1. re: RShea78

                  I think I have to... err... respectfully disagree here. First, how were you "proven" wrong, through your own experiences? Have you preformed experiments testing edge retention on wood vs. glass cutting surfaces? How does a well-maintained wooden board (which is smooth) grab knife-edges?

                  Part of the reason wood is a good cutting surface is that is gives slightly to the edge of your knife, not deflecting it like glass would -- I'd be curious to see whether your glass cutting surface has either 1) gray lines (as I've seen on ceramic and tile cutting surfaces); and 2) scratches. If it has lines, it is actively removing metal from your edge -- not good, at least from that angle, and two if it is not scratched, then it's harder than your knife blade -- thus with every stroke you're deflecting your edge.

                  Also, if you're practicing proper care of your wooden board, using a bench scraper in particular, there should not be any particles to become "embedded" in the surface. And where are these particles being embedded into? What are you cutting that, when dried out, becomes as hard as sand (i.e. silica, aka glass)?