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Published Aug. 27, 2021

The purpose of a cutting board is to protect your countertops and knives, and it’s also an organizational must for any chef’s mise en place. The type of surface you choose comes down to multiple factors: your aesthetic preference; what you’ll be cutting, chopping, dicing, and slicing; how much space you have; and how thoroughly you can be trusted to clean it. Whether you want to spend 5 bucks or close to 200, there’s an option for you. In fact, if you cook a lot, you might consider buying more than one board, to eliminate cross-contamination while prepping and guarantee that you have as much surface area as you need. 

What to consider when shopping for the best cutting board

If you do any sort of cooking, you probably already own a cutting board: It’s one of the most important and versatile kitchen tools there are. The question is, do you own the right one, and are you taking care of it properly? Here are some things to consider when looking for the best option for your kitchen:

What’s the best material for a cutting board?

The short answer is that it depends on what you’re cutting. In general, wood is sturdy and weighty, which is great if you’re chopping something vigorously and need your surface to stay put. It also won’t dull your knives and typically comes with a border reservoir to catch any liquid runoff from meats and veggies. On the downside, a wood board is not machine-washable. Then there’s bamboo: The eco-friendly material can take a licking, repels moisture, and doesn’t tend to scar as easily as some other materials. Silicone boards aren’t as pretty or classic-looking as their wood and bamboo counterparts, but they’re dishwasher-safe, and many are antimicrobial, so you don’t have to worry as much about cross-contamination. 

How do I pick a cutting board size and shape?

The truth is, you probably want more than one cutting board in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. For example, if you have a lot of counter space, you might want one giant woodblock (e.g. 24 inches by 36 inches, at least 2 inches thick) that stays put and some smaller, lighter silicone models to rotate in and out for smaller jobs, like veggies. Only you know whether you’re more comfortable working with a round or rectangular board, or one (e.g.) with legs for added stability. Maybe you like a handle to hold onto (which then doubles as a way to hang your board on a wall when it’s not in use). 

How do I clean a cutting board? 

Keeping a cutting board sanitized is crucial. Imagine slicing up a chicken, not cleaning the surface properly, then using the same board to chop up some veggies for your kid. No thank you! Wooden and bamboo boards should be thoroughly cleaned with dish soap and warm water after every use and dried immediately with a towel (so the board doesn’t warp). Most plastic boards can be run through the dishwasher, but for a deep clean, you can rub them down with a teaspoon of bleach mixed with a quart of water, then run under hot water and drip dry. 

What is the difference between end grain vs. edge grain?

When it comes to wood boards, end-grain boards look checkered; edge-grain boards look striped. Aesthetically, you may just like one more than the other. (The end-grain options, for example, show the natural rings of the tree from which they’re made.) In terms of how else they differ, an edge-grain board may dull your knives more quickly and get easily scuffed. When a knife edge hits an end-grain board, on the other hand, the blade inserts in and exits out of the wood fibers seamlessly, so your knives will stay sharper longer and your board will stay in good shape longer. Edge-grain boards are typically more affordable.

Best wood board: John Boos Block Walnut Wood Cutting Board 

Made in the USA  

This 18-by-18-by-1.5-inch edge-grain round board is perfect for both cutting and serving, especially circular foods like pizza. 

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This two-sided Boos cutting board is made of sustainably sourced wood, and its dimensions make it easy to handle—not too big and not too bulky. It also comes in three different wood types: cherry, walnut, and maple. 

Best bamboo board: Extra Large Organic Bamboo Cutting Board with Juice Groove 

Variety of Sizes & Shapes

This bamboo pick won’t dull your knives, features easy-grip handles, reservoirs for liquid, and loads more extras. 

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The double-sided bamboo cutting board gives you more bang for your buck. It’s water- and odor-resistant, easy to clean, has built-in handles so it can double as a serving tray, and features deep juice grooves to avoid spills. It comes in a range of sizes, from small (12 by 8 by 0.6 inches) to XXXL (24 by 18 by 1.38 inches).

Best plastic board: Cutting Board Mats Flexible Plastic Colored Mats 

Color Coded

This adorable, affordable set features seven mats made of BPA-free food-grade silicone.

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An array of colors—with coordinating meat, fish, chicken, and veggie symbols—make keeping your food safe and sans contamination easy. A waffle-grid backing makes sure these don’t slip, but if you have a very wet countertop, you might need to place a paper towel underneath to keep it in place. The best part: They’re dishwasher-safe!

Best splurge-worthy: John Boos Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board 

Chef’s Choice

This thick reversible edge-grain butcher block can stand up to serious knifework, with the bonus of looking super pretty on your countertop. 

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Recessed finger grips make it easy to move this bad boy around. Take extra-special care of this pricey pick by oiling it regularly.

Best budget option: HOMWE Kitchen Cutting Board (3-Piece Set) 

Dishwasher-Safe

This affordable pick comes with three different boards, so you never need to worry about having a cutting surface on-hand.

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This trifecta of boards comes in multiple colors, features juice grooves and handles, and is made of nonporous super-strong plastic.  

FAQs

Q: Can I cut meat on a wooden cutting board?

You can cut meat on a wooden cutting board, but you must make sure it has a sealed surface and that you sanitize it properly after every use. (The good news is that wood and its cousin bamboo, which is made from grass, have some naturally anti-microbial properties.) If you don’t trust yourself to thoroughly clean your board every time, opt instead for something dishwasher-friendly like plastic—but take care to make sure it’s getting thoroughly cleaned too.

Q: Which cutting board is most hygienic?

This is one of those six eggs vs. half a dozen situations. Wood and bamboo have natural antimicrobial properties that plastic boards don’t, and once you cut on plastic, you open up lots of grooves and crevices in which bacteria can settle. On the other hand, plastic can go in the dishwasher, where it might get a more thorough wash than the handwashing bamboo and wood require. If you’re going for a wood board, opt for a hard wood (like maple) and not a soft wood (like cypress or pine): A hardier wood won’t splinter as easily as a soft one, and therefore won’t be as prone to bacteria-retaining knicks and cuts.

Q: What kind of cutting board does Gordon Ramsay use? 

According to his Masterclass, the world-renowned chef counts the Boos block as part of his kitchen tools essentials but says that any wooden board that’s 24 inches by 18 inches and slip-proof will do. 

The final word on shopping for the best cutting board

No matter your price point or skill level, there’s a board out there that will instantly help your food prep and presentation. If you want to do whatever the cool professional chefs do, go for a solid wood block with an end grain; if ease of use and cleanup is easiest, pick a dishwasher-friendly silicone model. Regardless of what you choose, there’s a pick out there that’s cut out for your cooking. Pick on out and do your worst! 

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