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Jul 6, 2012 01:56 PM

Confused about cutting boards

So before going all out with knives, I've decided to look into maybe upgrading my cutting board first (I currently use and own the poly kind.) I'm a little confused. It appears that the best ones are supposed to be end grain wood (i.e. maple) as far as being the kindest to the knife's edge. So how come websites like Korin and Chef's Knives To Go don't offer any of these types of boards? Chef's Knives To Go only offers bamboo. Isn't this material too hard on the knife's edge? Korin offers materials that I don't even recognize. What material should I REALLY be looking at? I currently own Wusthof knives and a couple of Forschner knives. I would love a Japanese knife (or two) one day. What cutting board material would be kindest on these knives?

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  1. I couldn't tell you about a why a particular store or website doesnt offer a particular style of cutting board other than their price to purchase it doesn't agree with them or they don't agree with the boards. And thats just 2 reasons out of quite a few, honestly.

    If i'm buying boards, i really want to be able to look at it and inspect it, especiallty since my choice is wood. And i would think that the easiest of the ones you've listed would be a wood. Polys are nice, but not 'germ-free' and i'm just a guy who likes the look of a wood board above my knife.

    1. <So how come websites like Korin and Chef's Knives To Go don't offer any of these types of boards?>

      I wonder that too.... certainly for ChefsKnivestoGo. It may have to do with profit margin. Don't ask me why, but high quality Japanese cutting boards have been edge grain design. Possibly for absolute flatness. As for Korin, I have just checked out after you said. It seems Korin offers different synthetic cutting boards. I have seen these used in sushi restaurants. I cannot comment these ones. However, I have used a professional grade rubber cutting board. Rubber cutting boards are increasingly popular in the restaurant industry (Western kitchens or Asian kitchens).

      I have one, and have written a review. In my opinion, my rubber cutting board dulled my knives much faster than my end grain cutting block. By all means, my rubber cutting board is not some no-name low quality board. It is from Sani-Tuff, one of the leaders in rubber cutting board business:

      Instead I went back to my previous thick wood cutting block:

      That being said, I cannot comment if there are some newer and better rubber cutting boards.

      In my opinion, end grain cutting boards and edge grain cutting boards are fine.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

        That's strange that high quality Japanese wood cutting boards are edge grain. I'm wondering if the type of wood they use has anything to do with it? Or the glue?? I'm more and more convinced end grain is the way to go.

        1. re: sherrib

          There are many things which are different between the Asian concept and the Western concept. As you well aware, a Chinese traditional cutting board is simply a cross section cut of a wood trunk, usually unfinished. They are end grain in this sense, but different from the typical Western end grain boards.

          The Japanese sushi chefs are not too different in this regard. The traditional Japanese sushi boards are face grain, but usually unfinished, often one-piece Hinoki wood. Because they are often one piece, there is not much of a glue to talk about.

          The Hinoki wood is soft compared to maple.

          If you are into end grain, then I have seen some nice deal in TJ Maxx, HomeGoods. Make sure you take a closer look, some of the boards have cracks in them. You don't want those, of course.

      2. Go to John Boos cutting boards site.....all I've ever used, and if cared for can become heirlooms.....

        9 Replies
        1. re: Saddleoflamb

          I've looked at them online extensively. I'm just a little concerned about all of the complaints that they warp or crack. How thick should they be to keep this from happening? I saw a 1 and a 1/2 inch thick one in a store (edge grain though.) I like that it wasn't terribly heavy. Is that "too thin"? How thin can I safely go without worrying about warping or cracking?

          1. re: sherrib

            You can get cracking and warping in just about any block. I worked in a resort where the butcher had a nice block for his work. Talking about a 8-10' thick block that was probably around 4ft long by 3ft wide, maybe? In the 5 years i worked there, a crack started in one of the corners were two pieces met. The Banquet Chef tore him a new one for that because that block was about a 2K investment.

            If you take good care of them, dry any fluids pretty quick, little mineral oil from time to time, i'd imagine even something from Target or something would last a good long while.

            1. re: Irregular

              Wow. I wonder, though, if thinner boards are MORE prone to cracking than the thicker ones. Or, does it all just have to do with how you treat it, no matter how thick the wood is (or who manufactured it?)

              1. re: sherrib

                It is probably more affected by the manufacturing than the thickness. Hardwood must be aged to dry and stabilize before being worked. A crack can result when a piece is used before fully stabilized.

                1. re: GH1618

                  I concur completely. It's as much about the wood and the way it's cared for as anything. I made boards for each of my kids about a year and a half ago, 4 boards total and two of the four have now cracked in some odd places. My son's board shows absolutely no signs of cracking, neither does the one I made for my youngest daughter, but the other two girls have odd cracks in their boards. What they have in common is the manufacturer, me, the thickness and overall dimensions and the glue, Tightbond III. What they don't have in common, is although they are predonemtly maple, not all the maple came from the same lot of wood and I can't say which board got which wood at this point, and they don't get the same treatment and use. I know my son takes impeckable care of his board, keeping it dry and keeping it oiled. None have warped and they are nominally 2" thick. My wife has an older board I made that is under 1.5 inches and it hasn't warped or cracked, but I know it was wood that I had for a very long time, so it was dry and I keep it oiled. I recently made her a new board to slide into a slot in the cabinetry just below the counter top, it's slightly under one inch to fit the space provided by the cabinet maker. It hasn't warped yet, but it's fairly new, and it's larger than the other boards.

                  If the boards are properly oiled, warping and cracking shouldn't be an issue, as the moisture content will not change. If left to dry out, then you have problems. On the other hand it's wood and as one of natures' products, you have to expect the unexpected sometimes.

                2. re: sherrib

                  Thin boards will warp more easily, so you have to be very careful with storing and moisture. Warping will stress the seams where the boards are glued and weak points in the wood. I've cut juicy tomatoes on a 1-inch end grain board before and just the juice from the tomato will cause it to slightly warp after 30 minutes.

                  1. re: smkit

                    I've never had a board warp from normal use and the big one is a thin, cheap cutting board from IKEA; guess I'm lucky.

              2. re: sherrib

                I'm just a little concerned about all of the complaints that they warp or crack.

                With Boos those are valid conerns IME. I've had two of their 3" boards fail and Americas test kitchen had a boos board fail during testing as well. I'd suggest Michigan Maple block if you are in the US.

                1. re: TraderJoe

                  We have a Boos board and treat it pretty badly. Wash it at least twice a day in hot soapy water, rarely dry it well and never oil it. Still great after 7 years.

            2. From what I've read, John Boos end cut boards are the best money can buy; and you'll need lots of money to buy one too. I'm going to throw out a suggestion: can you splurge for a real honest-to-goodness butcher block? The kind on big chunky legs like they used in the olden days? I had one before I had to downsize and absolutely loved it. I had a carpenter build a knife rack along one of the sides and it was oh so convenient. I think about how wonderful it was everytime I used my current bamboo board that is dinky in size just like my hateful dinky cooking "area." (It just doesn't qualify as a kitchen).

              2 Replies
              1. re: cheryleo

                How did you keep the butcher block clean? Would you use it for raw poultry as well?

                1. re: cheryleo

                  See pic...I had this island top made by a Co. called Duhnke. It's maple, and I do almost nothing to it. I lightly hand sand and oil it every few years. It was installed in 1997. Paid $300 for the custom board. I cut everything on it, but if I'm doing raw poultry, I'll pull out a little plastic sheet 1st to cover the board.

                2. Both edge and grain boards will be "kind" to your knives. End grain is important for a chopping block, because it is more resistant to damage when struck a heavy blow with a cleaver.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: GH1618

                    If both end and edge grain boards are good to knives, then my next question is, is one type of board more resistant to warping or cracking than the other? I currently don't do any heavy cleaver work. If I'm cooking a big meal, what I currently do is use a poly board (15 x 20) for all of my veggie prep (I chop tremendous amounts of veggies.) If I have to do something with meat, I either wait until all of the veggie prep is finished and then use the same board, or I take out and use a different board if I still have more veggie prep to go. I then scrub both boards with plenty of elbow grease using lots of soap and rinsing very well under hot water. I don't submerge the boards. I don't put them in the dishwasher. I wash them in the sink. This is exactly how I imagine using wood boards. I need a large board for my veggie prep (something bigger than 15x20) and one more for meat (15x20 adequate size for this.) Going from there, I'm confused about end grain, edge grain and then thickness of the boards. I really hope to avoid a cracking/warping board. However, I also really hope that doesn't mean that I would need to get a board that's thicker than about 2" since it might become too unwieldy in the sizes I'm looking at.

                    1. re: sherrib

                      An end grain board might be more resistant to warping, but warping is caused by absorbtion of water. The way to prevent it is to avoid prolonged exposure to water. Just wiping it off after use, and periodically applying mineral oil when fully dry should keep a good board in good shape.

                      I use a one-inch edge grain board, which seems sufficient. It did warp when I allowed water to stand on it for a time, but it has straightened out with prolonged rest to dry. I am more careful with it now, and would never immerse it in water to wash it in any case. I just wipe it off, and periodically clean it with vinegar and peroxide. But I never cut chicken on it — I use a poly board for that.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        Also keep in mind that different types of wood will 'move' more than others. If you made the exact same cutting board out of five different woods, each one would likely warp a bit differently.