I have perhaps a silly question:
I went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond.
They have several cutting boards on display.
Some of them are beautiful, gorgeous-grained wood and pricey.
Do people actually cut on them and thereby cut up and damage the wood? Even if you oil them, they're still cut up. Do people cover these fine cutting boards with plastic sheets first? Since I'm a newbee I thought I'd ask before purchasing.
Yes, cut on the wood. Never soak it in water. Just wash it off after use and dry it. Oil it occasionally with wood oil (food grade mineral oil). I suggest you find one that is large and heavy enough that it will stay more or less in place when being used. I have one that is about 15x22x 1.5" and as been in daily use since the late 70s. As regards cuts and nicks, good technique should not be putting deep cuts in it, but every now and then it will get a deeper cut. Over time they don't really heal, but the board develops a sort of patina where most of the use occurs. I know bamboo and composite boards are everywhere right now, but they feel, to me, to be so hard they are bad for the knife. Anyway, try it and put it to work!
We've used the same multi-piece, strips-glued-together, hardwood cutting board for about 20 years now. No, it doesn't look quiiiiiite like it did 2 decades ago (we don't either). To my eye that's called character & it's earned by honest good use. We cut directly on the surface (aside from fresh fish & shellfish which get their own plastic board).
If the board you're considering is really pretty to look at you could always buy 2 & hang one on the wall, framed or not. Maybe in a shadowbox?
Let's answer your questions one by one
<Do people actually cut on them and thereby cut up and damage the wood?>
Yes, you should use a cutting board, and most people do use theirs. You don't really damage the wood as much as you think. Of course, it depends on your definition of damage.
<Even if you oil them, they're still cut up.>
Yes, you can oil them and it is a good recommendation, and yes, you will still use them and therefore cut on them. It is like a nice car. You should drive it.
<Do people cover these fine cutting boards with plastic sheets first?>
Most people don't. The only exception is that some people use one cutting board. They put a plastic sheet on top when they are cutting up meats, and then when they are cutting up vegetables, they take off the plastic sheet. This is different than your suggested intention.
<Since I'm a newbee I thought I'd ask before purchasing.>
One thing I like to point out is that more expensive does not mean better. In term of pure practical usage, a good end-grain cutting board from HomeGoods (~$40) is just as good as a designer cutting board (>$200) in many cases. This is not to say that any $40 cutting board is as good as a $300 cutting board. We are answering a very general question here afterall.
A chowhound friend Tom34 was thinking about buying a designer cutting board. Instead he decided to buy an inexpensive wood cutting to first try out to see if he likes wood cutting boards at all. At the end, he was so happy with the $30 cutting board that he sees no reason to buy a designer cutting board.
"I went through the same dilemma not that long ago. What type of wood, which grain, how thick & what size.
While in a small restaurant supply house I came across a 12" x 18" x 1 3/4" thick "Rubber Wood" edge grain board that looks similar to maple for about $30.00.
I bought it figuring $30.00 is a cheap experiment for seeing if it would be big enough for my tasks but small enough to maneuver in the sink to rinse off. If so, then I would contemplate a couple hundred for a custom board and give the Rubberwood Board to a friend.
Its been close to a year, the size is perfect for bulk chopping but it still fits nicely into the sink for rinsing. The 1 3/4 thickness is more than beefy enough.
Because it works great, looks great & has held up well I no longer have an itch for a custom board. Will spend the money on blades instead :-)
These boards are on line at the Webrestaurantstore."
Thanks so much for your time in answering me.
I would never buy a "designer" cutting board.
To me, the really beautiful one I'd like is hardwood and $30. That's the most I would invest in a cutting board.
I lilke the idea of covering the board with plastic when cutting meat.
Would you use a good cutting board to cut artisan bread?
That can be cruel on wood.
Thanks. Everyone has a different definition of expensive and excessive. It sounds to me that $30-ish is your upper limit. As such, you would never even have to worry about custom or designer cutting boards. There are good cutting board in your price range.
<I lilke the idea of covering the board with plastic when cutting meat. >
Covering a wood board with a plastic cover is ok except that (1) the plastic sheet may slip around which is dangerous (2) might as well just get a pure plastic board.
<Would you use a good cutting board to cut artisan bread?>
It is ok. I think I know where you are coming. It isn't so much about the bread as for the bread knives. Many bread knives are serrated and act as saws which is quiet different than regular knives. However, you just need to be a bit careful and a bit gentle as your serrated knife cut toward the wood board. It isn't as bad as you may think.
The only good reason I know people use a separate board for bread is that the regular cutting board may acquire strong flavor/smell over time, and they don't want the bread to touch that. That's all.
Wood is a preferred material to cut on over other types of boards. It is easier on the edges, just as easy to clean and the wood grain offers something more than a plain solid color surface.
With wood boards there are two types, end grain and long grain. Long grain boards are the least costly and end grain costs more. End grain will last longer and there will be less resulting damage from the edges because the knife edge cuts across the wood fibers instead of on to the ends of those fibers.
The cheaper boards are built overseas somewhere using glues that may or mat not be food safe, using oils that may or may not be inert and you have no idea of what conditions the factory is in which makes the boards you are going to cut your food on. The imported boards use bamboo, acacia, rubber tree wood and other cheaper and less durable woods. Acacia particurally is prone to voids which have to be filled and the trees are smaller which makes the grain pattern on end grain board almost look like a half-moon.
There are good boards available across the USA which aren't designer brands which can be purchased frugally. But this is one place, like good cookware, where the cost is equal to the projected use.
We bought one of those cheaper boards long ago and it only lasted a year or so which I why I started making my own. The first end grain board (12/94) is still around and looking good even for all the use it had.
Do people use these boards? YES! I have customers who purchase several for different tasks and one who uses the underside so he can have a surface to show which will show no cut marks.
I bought an end grain 2" acacia board for about $30 6 years ago. With daily use it's aged to a deep walnut color and feels like velvet to the touch.
I recently installed a maple counter on my island for cutting, but couldn't part with that lovely acacia board. It's sitting propped against a wall, and still gets used occasionally.
Thanks for explaing the difference between long grain and end grain. I can see how end grain would hold up more because the cut is into the grain rather than across the grain.
I was looking at bamboo and wondered how it might dull my knives.
Acacia grows in my yard and amongst the thorns the blooms have the most wonderful fragrance.
When I make my purchase I will be sure that it is from sustainable wood.