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Nov 29, 2011 06:49 AM

Recommended size for cutting board/block

I am thinking I want a nice cutting board. I want hardwood, end grain. I don't have counter space for it to sit on all the time, but I can keep it on my kitchen table when not in use. We are empty nesters and rarely eat on our table anymore. Only when I cook for the family and I could move the cutting boared out of the way then.

Now, what I cannot decide on is the size. I have a wood thin board that is about 15" by 21" that is a useful size, but I am thinking that I would like one a little bigger. Some recomend getting one that would fit in the sink, but getting one that would fit in my sink is out, because my sink is too small. I have to wash big things in the bathtub. I probably would only use this new board for veggies, fruits and herbs. And use my old board for meat, though the new block would probably be better for meat, except when it comes to cleaning it.
I am a little spooked about the cross contamination of meats and veggies. Though, before I knew better, I used my wood boards and wood bowls for both all the time. Never had a problem. I used to mix meatloaf in the same wood bowl that I used to rise bread dough. Maybe I was just lucky?

I think the size of the cutting boards used on food network look useful, but I have no idea what size any of them are. I sure wish food network gave more info on the stuff they use and decorate with.

Anyway, what size cutting, chopping block/boards do you all like to use? And what brands/manufactureres do you like or don't like?
Also, would a juice channel around the edge make it harder to clean?

I also like the idea of a reversable one. If moisture underneath gets to be a concern, I can always get something to set under the corners to lift it up a little for air circulation.

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  1. I have a 16x20 mesquite cutting board that sits on my counter all the time. It is one sided. I use it only for general food prep. For butchering/prepping meat I use a poly board. For carving meats I use a cheapo carving board with a gutter.

    Everyone thinks they want a reversible board...until they get one and it warps. Then you have to put a wet tea towel on the counter to put it on to keep it from slipping around. I only ever used on side of my reversible Boos. Get a one sided board with rubber feet. Trust me on this.

    Almost all of the boards you see on Food TV are 16"x20" boards, many are black walnut and most are made by Ozark West.

    As for recommendations.

    I've never bought anything from them but Ozark West is the flagship brand and their price reflects it. Apparently they recently changed their name to "Cuttingboard Gallery".

    This is the guy who made my mesquite board. He is a small producer out of Texas.

    Dave at Boardsmith is a contributer to Chowhound. I recently ordered a board for my brother as a gift and I got a black walnut board from Dave. The board is beautiful. The only issue I have with his boards is his non standard (IMO) sizing. His boards tend to be narrower (front to back) for a given width than I've found standard for the industry. For example, my original Boos long grain maple board is 16x20. My mesquite board is 16x20. The middle size at Ozark West is 16x20. However Dave makes either a 16x22 or a 14x20 stock. If you want a 16x20 you have to special order it.

    I don't recommend Boos. I have a Boos long grain maple board that I bought 10 years ago. It was cheap and serviceable (I still use it as a backup board) but it has warped some and the joints have started splitting. If you want quality you'll have to pay for it. Frankly, the difference between an end grain maple Boos or an end grain maple Boardsmith is not even 2x and the latter will probably last a lifetime.

    Here is a picture of my board for what it is worth:

    And in use:

    8 Replies
    1. re: meadandale

      That mesquite board is really nice looking for sure. The Boardsmith boards look awsome for sure. Do you all have a wood preferece? If so, why? I first had my eye on a nice looking walnut one on ebay, but then got to thinking about my little grandson's extreme food allergies. One of them being nuts. And wondered if he is allergice to walnuts, might he be allergic to walnut wood as well. He is a hyper sensitive baby right now. Just touching his skin with foods that he is allergic to causes welps and itching.
      So I am thinking maybe cherry or maple would be safer. I love the looks of the cherry, but am thinking the maple would be more economical and maple cutting boards have a lot of tried and true history behind them.
      After reading up on the end grain cut boards, I saw where the pieces should be offset from each other for stability. Sort of like bricks. Many of the ones I saw on Ebay had the seams running in a straight line. I guess to make the pretty designs like the checkerboard. Most fo the time I am not so particular about stuff, but when I am going to invest a lot of money...........I do get a bit particular. LOL
      Thanks for all the ideas on the sizes.

      1. re: dixiegal

        I prefer the look of the dark boards. If I didn't have my mesquite board I'd buy a black walnut board.

        I have no clue if nut allergies can be triggered by the wood from the tree or if it just in the oil of the nuts. Seems worth looking into (or just avoiding nut woods).

        Don't know about the jigsaw pieces thing. That would definitely increase the cost of the board because there are more shapes to cut and it's a bit hard to put together (so it would seem to me). I think if the board is well made then having long seams shouldn't really be an issue.

      2. re: meadandale

        This is the Boos board that I have, have had it for about eight years and have no problem with warping. I love it, but not a board that you want to move around...pretty heavy.

        1. re: Mother of four

          Interesting board but I could never use one like that. The lip in the back would drive me crazy. Not to mention that you are limited to having it right up against the front of your counter with that lip in front.

          1. re: meadandale

            It's a great board, I don't understand what is wrong with the lip in the back? Yes I like it in the front of the counter, where else would you want it? It goes from the front to the back of the counter, gives me lots of work space and doesn't move.

            1. re: Mother of four

              The lips looks more like a typical pastry board. I do understand why there is a lip in the back and in the front. Because it is a reversible board, so it better be symmetrical.

              1. re: Mother of four

                It's a personal thing. The design of the board would conflict with the way I work in the kitchen. If it works for you that's great ;-)

            2. re: Mother of four

              Wow I have not seen a board made like that in a while. It is made like those old boards that were used for rolling out dough. Thus the lip on the front to hook over the edge of the counter to keep it from sliding back as you roll the dough and the edge in the back to help keep the dough on the board as you roll it out.

          2. I have a Boos 18" x 24" x 1 1/2" edge grain maple board that is reversible. Our counter tops are 24" deep so it's a nice fit next to the stove. I also have a Carlisle Sparta Spectrum HDPE board that is 15" x 20" that I use solely for poultry. If cost wasn't a factor I would have gone with an end grain but I don't have any complaints with the edge grain.

            The 15 x 20 board could fit over the sink but only by about an inch on each end which I'm not comfortable with although it sits flush on the granite counter top. To me if you are thinking about over the sink placement in the future I would want a size that can go back as far as you want it to but with no overhang of the counter top. For my sink use I would prefer a 24" board which would give it a good amount of stability and no front to rear movement with a rubberized drawer liner under the board. Your faucet type goes into consideration along with the sink and counter top dimensions.

            1 Reply
            1. re: SanityRemoved

              I misread the sink part. For cleaning my wood board I do the 50/50 water vinegar mix, I keep it in a squeeze bottle and use paper towels and repeat till I'm happy with it. I use mineral oil whenever it needs it and flip and rotate it every couple of months. During the initial oiling process I flipped it more often.

              One thing that people tend to overlook is what the resultant cutting height will be when the board is on the counter top. Dependent on the counter top height and the height of the person you may want a thicker or thinner board to make it more comfortable.

            2. I would get the biggest size that fits well in your workspace. I have a huge board that I love, that I got from a box store like BBandB. I can pile ingredients and still have plenty of room to work. I usually, but not always, cut raw meat on a separate board so I don't have to clean it to continue prep. there are studies that show that a well-washed wood board (soap and water) is as good as or better than plastic with regard to cross contaminations, so I wouldn't worry overmuch.

              15 Replies
              1. re: cocktailhour

                I have a 16"x22" boardsmith maple endgrain with rubber feet so it doesn't sit flat on the counter.

                It's a big heavy board,but that's what I was looking for.I don't use it for raw proteins so clean up is easy with a little soap and water..


                1. re: petek

                  Petek, do you know how much your board weighs? And do you find that the 16x22 is plenty big enough? Weight might be another determining factor for me. I am really thinking about the next size bigger the 18 x 24. But that might be a little more than I want to handle when it comes to washing it. Of course I could just carry it out on the deck, scrub it down and hose it off instead of trying to manuver it in the bathtub. LOL

                  1. re: dixiegal

                    "Petek, do you know how much your board weighs?"

                    Sorry for the late reply dixiegal..I think the board weighed in at a whopping 20lbs(no problem for me cause I'm huge :D).I don't have to move it around much anyway.It's so purdy It stays on the counter next to the stove.

                    I think once you get into a board this size,regardless who makes it,there's going to be some serious weight to it

                    I don't worry about cross contamination because I have a dedicated poly board for raw proteins.

                    1. re: petek

                      I think I can handle 20lbs. I am not very big, but I can manage I think. After all, my saddle weighs more than that and I lift it onto a 15.2 (thats a little over 5ft) hand horse without too much trouble.
                      As much as I would like the 18 x 24 board, the 16 x 22 would probably be fine. I don't know if 2 more inches to the width and length would make a noticeable difference. But the price difference is noticable. LOL I just hate to sink that kind of money in such a nice board and then always be wishing I had went with a different size.

                      1. re: dixiegal

                        The difference you are talking about is a little over half a square foot on a 3 square foot board (about 20% smaller). I know it doesn't sound like much but I made cutting boards for my daughters, the eldest's board is about two or three inches shroter than the youngest's and you would be amazed at the grief I got over the holiday about how one got a smaller board than the other. These boards are about 13 inches wide each but one is maybe 19 inches long and the other 22. I'm probably going to be in cutting board production again this winter just to replace the smaller board and make a new board for my wife. Anyway, I'm beginning to think that no board is too big as long as you can move it. ;) This is a different opinion than I had in the past. But I would still caution aginst getting one so big you can't easily handle it to move it for use or cleaning.

                        Regarding the stagered pattern, although I'm sure it's quite strong, and 50 or 60 years ago or longer might have been necessary, modern adhesives are typically stronger than the wood itself and I wouldn't consider this pattern to be a necessity, unless it's just something you like. When I started working with wood, glue joints were a weak point, but in the past 40 years the advancements in glue technology has come a long way and where you have edge or face joints, you can rarely get a break on just the glue line. End grian is obviously different, but where you have an end grain board, there is no glue on the end grain, so this is not an issue.

                        1. re: mikie

                          "I'm beginning to think that no board is too big as long as you can move it. ;)"

                          That is a problem too. There is not a very clear distinction between able to barely to move vs able to easily move. In addition, distance matters. I am washing and cleaning my chopping block in my kitchen sink every time, but I won't want to do that if I have to carry it back and forth to my bathtub. Can I physically do it? Sure, but I won't like it.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            As you may remember, we are remodeling our kitchen, the cabinets are in but no doors yet and no counter top. We are washing dishes in the bathroom sink when we can't use paper plates. I wanted to fill the Jacozzi tub, but the wife wouldn't have any of that. Seems to me that would work like a dish washer. Anyway, I sympathize with not wanting to wash the cutting board in the bath tub.

                            1. re: mikie

                              "I wanted to fill the Jacozzi tub, but the wife wouldn't have any of that"

                              This is such a great idea.... it is too bad that she did not agree. That would be such an awesome story to talk about in parties or on CHOWHOUND. It does not matter if it works or not, it would be a great story nonetheless. What a missed opportunity.

                              P.S.: I can already tell you would be a great person to hang out in a party. :D

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              As to all the comments in this thread about being able to move the cutting board to the sink and wash...I rarely if ever do this. I just wipe the board down with a damp dishrag and then dry with a kitchen towel. I don't see the need to move the whole board over to or into the sink.

                              Of course, my board does sit right next to my sink so I can usually sweep most of the crud on the board straight off into the sink without even moving it but you could do the same thing into a bowl or trashcan if the board isn't next to the sink.

                              1. re: meadandale

                                A good point. If you are comfortable by wiping the cutting board, then it matters less. However, if you prefer to wash it in the sink, then I think it is nice to have a board which fits in the sink, rather than carrying it to a bath tube every meal and every day. That seems to be a lot of works.

                            3. re: mikie

                              There is a reason for the "staggered" pattern. The running bond pattern is stronger than a checkerboard pattern, just ask any brick mason or structural engineer. Todays glues are a wonder, much better than even the glues of just 10 years ago, but taking the extra time to produce the running bond pattern makes sense, called craftsmanship. As a hobbyist you may not understand the need for applying extra time and effort to produce a quality piece of work.

                            4. re: dixiegal

                              "As much as I would like the 18 x 24 board, the 16 x 22 would probably be fine"

                              The 16'x22" is plenty big for me.I also thought about getting the next size up,but my kitchen is a little tight so I know I made the right decision.
                              I can't say enough about my BoardSMITH "Carolina Slab".Solid,good looking and I love the addition of the rubber feet,something you don't see on many boards these days..

                              1. re: petek

                                16 x 22 seems fine for most people, so should be fine for me. It won't even get daily use, I work all week, so usually cook on weekends and eat left overs.

                                I had my mind made up for a reversable one, but seems so many prefer feet and Boardsmith recomends the feet for air circulation and to keep it from sliding.
                                I just like the reversible option. My current board is reversable with one side haveing the juice channel for meats and the other plain for veggies. I use this option quite a bit. Of course it is a thin light weight board (that I wash in the bathtub), not a 20 some odd pound chunck of wood. This new board would not stay on my counter, but on my kitchen table (which we seldom use for eating, it is more of a work table), so not likely to come in contact with liquids unless I know about it. But it would be easy enough to slide some cork coasters under the corners to lift it up if neceassary. As for slidding while in use, I could just set it on something non slip. The feet would be nice for grabbing it and lifting it up, but I don't like the fact that I would not be able to easily slide it around if need be. I don't want to have to pick it up 20lbs to move it over. In fact I set my blender on a wood trivet so I can slide it on my counter.
                                I would likely just clean the block where it sets, unless I use it for meat. Which I may. After all, isn't that what a chopping block is for? And putting a mat over it to cut meat, seems to me just wrong. If I am going to use a plastic mat (or some other type of carving mat) for carving or cutting up meat, Then I don't need the wonderful wood block. I have used my wood bowls and boards and wood utinsels interchangebly with meat and veggies for years. I just keep them washed and I don't use them interchangeably during the same meal. They are washed and dried between use. Thus, I would like the reversable board, or I would need to use my old board for either the meats or veggies during the same meal.
                                Of course flipping a 20+ pound board over might be awkward enough that I won't do it much and then prefer just using two different boards. Then I would probably be wishing I had the feet on it. I just won't know until I start doing it.
                                So, I am still trying to decide............................

                                1. re: dixiegal

                                  This is what I use under my 18" x 24" reversible board:

                                  It allows some air flow, the board doesn't move and the liner is washable.

                                  I prefer to clean my board in place, much less effort all around than cleaning in the sink. I do use my wood board for meat but not for poultry.

                                  1. re: dixiegal

                                    It's far easier to add feet to a board than to remove them, should you change your mind. I put 1/2" wide by about 1/2" deep by 4-6 inch long slots in the ends of my boards for a finger hold for lifting. Makes it really easy. My kids and wife and I all store the boards on edge near a wall or cabenet, so feet are not necessary for air movement.

                      2. You want as big a board as you can get, but you also have to take into account the weight. In some cases you can get a bigger board by going a bit thinner. An 18 x 24 board that's 2 or 2.5 inches thick wil be quite heavy. Going to an inch and a half instead of two inches reduces the weight by 25%. Going to 16 x 22 or even 14 x 20 would save quite a bit in weight. Maple runs about 45 lbs per cubic foot, so an 18 x 24 x 2 inch board would weight about 23 lbs. As far as wood is concerned, maple is almost always a good safe choice. I like mixed woods and you can mix maple with either cherry or walnut. Some people have alergic reactions to many woods, maple and cherry are about as safe as you may get.

                        1. I agree with several other posters here. You want it big enough for you, but not too big to handle. It would be nice to have it fit in the sink, at least partially so it will be easy to wash. Yes, I understand that you can wash one in the bathtub, but that is a hassle. It may be fine for the first few times, but after awhile it will seem more and more like a bother to carry a 20+ lb of cutting board to your bathtub, and you will use it less and less. What's good with a large cutting board if you don't use it, right?

                          I certainly selectively use my cookware based on the "labor-overhead". When I have a lot of things to mix, then I use an electric mixer. However, I use a hand whisk for an egg or two due to the labor to set up the electric mixer and to wash it afterward.

                          This is something you have to consider. Make sure you don't buy something which would end up a lot of work to maintain in the long run. Otherwise, you will be unhappy with the purchase or you will simply stop using it.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I'm with Chem on this. The right tool for the job.

                            The extra inch or two won't matter much because yours is already a large board. Make sure whatever you choose can be cleaned on site.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              labor-overhead, that would be me too. I often mash my potatoes with potato masher because I don't want to drag out the mixer. My eggs get whisked with a fork, because it is easier to wash than a wisk, etc. So I am with you there.
                              As far as my sink, The board would have to be about 15 inches to get the end down in it. 16 inches might just fit in the top edge. Enough to rinse it off, I guess. And yes, washing my big pots in the bath tub is awkward, but doable. Of course they don't weigh 20 or more pounds either. Not even my cast iron ones.

                              I do wonder though. How in the world do they clean those huge butcher blocks. You know those with the legs and about a foot or more deep, weighing several hundered pounds?

                              1. re: dixiegal

                                "I do wonder though. How in the world do they clean those huge butcher blocks. You know those with the legs and about a foot or more deep, weighing several hundered pounds?"

                                They didn't wash them. At the end of the day they brushed the cutting surface with a stiff wire brush and coated overnight with a layer of salt. The salt sanitized the surface and soaked up any residual moisture. The big blocks show wear from use which is mostly from the wire brushes.

                                1. re: dixiegal

                                  I agree with BoardSmith. Butchers do not actually wash their butcher blocks. They just wire brush it, and apply sanitzing methods. It could be salt. That being said, most home cooks probably do not like the idea of these methods. I also think "juice channel" has more cons than pros.