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Aug 8, 2014 09:07 PM

Cutting board: need some help

I never thought cutting boards could be so complex. Edge-grain, end-grain, thickness, maple/walnut/cherry, size, etc. What do each of these differences do, and what does the home cook need?

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  1. It really depends on how you will use it. For me, I need one the right size to wash in my sink, the right weight for me to pick up easily and the right size for what I want to do. I have 3 favorite boards right now and none was expensive. The first is a good part of an IKEA butcherblock top which is right weight and size and gives me enough space for a lot of prep--say stew or meatballs. The second is shaped like a peel with a handle in mixed woods and very handsome. I use that for chopping a small amount of whatever. The third is a meat carving Boos board with a channel around the edge for juices. I use that for meats and juicy fruits and vegetables. Stay focused on what you want it for and the rest becomes easier

    1. Edge grain cutting boards are made from strips of wood. The wood fibers run parallel the length of the cutting boards. They are usually cheaper, thinner and lighter:

      End grain cutting boards have the wood fibers run perpendicular to the length of the boards, which is actually parallel in the direction of the knife motion. As such, end grain cutting boards many advantages, such as slightly better at preserving the knife edge and absorbing moisture. However, end grain boards are usually thicker, heavier and more expensive.

      First of all, a cutting board is very important. The cutting board is what your knives interact with. It has effects on how well your knives can cut foods, how much work area you have during food preparation, how long your knives can stay sharp.....etc.

      Second, while it is important, a normal home cook can get by with most wood cutting boards, plastic cutting boards....etc. Just make sure you stay away from the really bad ones like glass cutting boards, or stone cutting boards.

      <what does the home cook need?>

      I would stick with wood and go with the size you are happy with. If you prefer to wash your cutting board in the dish washer, then you will have to use a plastic cutting board.

      1. Hi Winny94 -

        Professionally trained, but an active home cook.

        Not to diminish the good, quality craftsmanship of the capable woodworker, but I look for a stable hard surface, that is easily cleaned for multiple dishes being cooked.

        I use a Rösle cutting board, made of Beech wood, supported on 4 silicone feet, screw attached to the bottom. Onto that I use 1 of 4 cutting mats, that can be washed clean by hand, or a dishwasher, and also do not dull our knives.

        The mats are textured, soft, and flexible so that cut meat, or vegetables can be sliced and then poured by the mat into the bowl, pot, or pan.

        I have 2 boards and a set of 4 mats, since 2009, and the boards themselves look as new as they did on the day I bought them. The mats are cleaned as needed, and the boards are wiped down and checked weekly before being put away in cabinets.

        Most importantly my knives stay razor sharp when using the Rösle mats, unlike before with a thick cutting board only. I do sharpen them, but not as much as before.

        The only exception to the rule is using a Mezzaluna chopper for herbs. For that I use a cupped cutting board fitted to the diameter of the chopping blades. That too is Rösle, but made of bamboo wood, with a U hook on it to wash and then hang to dry o a kitchen rail.

        I hope this is helpful.

        4 Replies
        1. re: SWISSAIRE

          Bamboo is cheap but I have heard it is very hard so not good for knife edges.

          Do you mineral oil your boards? I got some a year or so ago but not sure it makes any difference. I do use those plastic sheets on top for cutting, transferring and easy clean up, though.

          1. re: divadmas

            Bamboo is indeed not great for knife edges. Not nearly as bad as glass, but noticeably worse than hard wood or even most plastics.

            As for mineral oil:
            It provides some protection against a few things: splitting/cracking, warping, and to some extent foul odors. There are no guarantees, but it improves your odds. Also, some people use beeswax, either alone or in combination with mineral oil, as a sealant. Beeswax can also makes the board feel very nice during use.

            That said, sometimes treated boards still crack or warp or stink, and sometimes untreated boards never develop any problems at all.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              I couldn't agree more. I'm exceptionally casual about oiling my boards. When they begin to look a little chalky, they get some oil. This turns out to be about 2x a year, if that.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                < There are no guarantees, but it improves your odds. >

                Absolutely. Oil does help, but it does not absolutely prevent a cutting board from cracking. On the other hand, I bought a $13 cutting board from H-Mart which I have for 2 years, and I have not oiled it once:


                It does not have the slightly sign of cracking or splitting.

          2. Edge or end grain in any of the woods you've mentioned will work well, provided the board is well made.

            Me, I love end grain boards. I like their greater variation in pattern and color, as well as the way they feel after just a few years of use. I think because they're softer, my knives like them more, too. My end-grain acacia board, which is harder than the other three woods, is still plenty soft for cutting. I've only had it for 7 years, but within about 4 years it had already developed a velvety soft patina. Truly, it feels soft like velvet.

            It is similar to this one, but after years of use is as dark as walnut.

            1. I have an end grain board I LOVE, but I also keep some basic plastic boards around for meats to go in the dishwasher or when I need to be gluten free (SIL with celiacs requested as such, so cause she's worth it. . .)

              Now if I could get my mom to give up her glass board. . . but her knives are hopeless at this point anyways but still a gal can dream