Bamboo has become a go to material for everything from cutting boards to window shades to even, bed sheets.
It is an excellent material for cutting boards. In fact, bamboo is now the biggest seller in the U.S. market outpacing maple, walnut and teak.
Durable, affordable and with minimalist styling, these boards have a lot to offer. Let’s dive into their 6 main advantages, and 3 drawbacks, below.
Are Bamboo Cutting Boards Good?
We have used them daily for years. In our experience, bamboo cutting boards have six main advantages.
- Eco friendly
- Knife mark resistant
- Low cost
- Sanitary compared to softer woods
- Low maintenance (cleans up with soap and water)
- Minimalist appearance
Bamboo cutting boards do have a few relative drawbacks.
- Less knife friendly (i.e. dulls kitchen knives faster) than softer woods such as teak, walnut or cherry
- Less visual pop than some other woods such as larch, walnut or maple
- Not dishwasher safe (note: this is true for all wood cutting boards)
Benefits of Bamboo Cutting Boards
Eco Friendly. Bamboo’s eco-friendliness stems from the fact that it’s a flowering plant with palm characteristics, and not a traditional tree. It requires less water while producing up to 35% more oxygen than an equivalent size stand of trees. It also grows faster. Bamboo can be harvested in 3 to 5 years, versus up to 20 years for classic woods such as maple, walnut and cherry. Bamboo plants also naturally protect and enrich the soil, not leaving it sapped of nutrients like factory farming.
Knife Mark Resistant. There is a tradeoff when it comes to woods used in cutting boards. The harder the wood, the more it dulls your kitchen knives. On the other hand, fewer knife marks will show on a cutting board made from a harder wood, extending its useful life. The scale for measuring wood hardness is the Janka Scale.
Bamboo scores a 1380 on the Janka scale. While this is basically middle of the pack among all woods, it is harder than other common woods used in cutting boards. For example, cherry (955), walnut (1010), teak (1155), larch (1200) are 15% to 30% softer.
Low Cost. Cutting boards can be made out of expensive woods like larch or Hinoki (Japanese cypress), moderately priced woods like maple, walnut or teak, or low priced woods like bamboo and acacia. Good bamboo cutting boards can be found for $20 and rarely exceed $75. Simply put, they are a bargain.
Relatively Sanitary. This stems from two things. First the relative hardness of the wood prevents knife marks. Harmful bacteria like e-coli can get in these tiny crevices and grow, especially as cutting boards are often moist – an ideal environment for bacterial growth. The second aspect is that bamboo has natural anti-fungal properties. While this won’t provide protection from handling risky foods such as raw chicken or fish, it does help in day to day kitchen activities.
Low Maintenance. Most companies recommend that cutting boards be oiled every 1-2 months. That is certainly good advice and ideal from a maintenance standpoint. However, most home cooks rarely follow this advice. Bamboo can go longer between oiling with less splintering, knife marks and warping.
Minimalist. Bamboo is light colored with very fine grains. Bamboo plants have rings every few inches, and visually, these show up as dark spots or knots on the cutting board surface. However, the overall look is clean, stylish and modern.
Drawbacks of Bamboo Cutting Boards
Less Knife Friendly. This is the flip side of the point we discussed earlier about bamboo showing fewer knife marks. Bamboo is 15% to 30% harder than cherry, walnut, teak and larch. Simply put, every time your knife strikes the cutting board it will get dull a little faster than with softer woods. Most people who only cook a few meals a week may not even notice the difference. Also, this can be completely mitigated by using a honing steel.
Less Visual Pop. Looks are subjective. That said, other woods have more pronounced grain patterns, more defined streaks and darker colors. See the teak cutting board pictured below as an example. You just have to decide what you prefer. For a detailed understanding of the various types of wood, refer to our article here.
Not Dishwasher Safe. This is primarily an issue for those who work with unsafe meats such as raw fish or raw chicken. Plastic cutting boards are dishwasher safe, while wooden boards are not. Even if you hand wash a wooden cutting board, bacteria can linger in knife scars and other little crevices. Always remember, visually clean is not the same as germ free. A dishwasher will kill any bacteria. Many people use a plastic cutting board for raw meats and a wooden cutting board for everything else.
Best Bamboo Cutting Boards
We have reviewed several cutting boards, and here are two of our favorites (note: affiliate links included below).
Best Affordable Bamboo Cutting Board
The Indigo True Bamboo Cutting Board is not only great looking but is also a great value for the money.
The first thing we like about the Indigo True is the two tone colors that set it apart from plain bamboo cutting boards. The darker main surface area provides a nice contrast to the lighter end caps.
The Indigo has a nice set of features. A deeper than average juice groove catches up to 2 ounces of liquid and helps prevent spills on both floors and counter tops. This works well not only for meats but also fruits and vegetables like watermelons and cantaloupes.
The board is also reversible. Many home chefs will use one side for cutting and keep the other side pristine for use as a serving tray.
Lastly, although it is billed as an “extra large” cutting board, the size works well in all but the smallest kitchens.
It provides more cutting and chopping surface area, allowing preparation of larger cuts of meat such as briskets or whole chickens. When the reverse side is used as a serving trey, it can easily fit 6-8 vegetables, cheeses, crackers or other snacks.
The larger size also makes for a safer kitchen experience. Measuring 17.5 x 13.5 x 0.75 inches and weighing in at 4 pounds, the Indigo True is less likely to slip when aggressive cutting or chopping is required. The more stable the cutting board the less likely knife injuries are.
Last and not least, this product gets outstanding customer feedback. For the price, the Indigo True is simply a bargain.
Best Premium Bamboo Cutting Board
Most of these products are very similar, but a few stand out in terms of design. One such product is the Bambusi Reversible Chopping Block. What distinguishes the Bambusi is a pyramid ridge pattern carved into one side for safer cutting and chopping (meat doesn’t slide while cutting).
Another nice touch is that the outer juice grooves are connected to the cutting surface in the middle of the board. This keeps the surface area drier and thus both safer and easier to clean.
The Bambusi is reversible and the other side is a traditional flat surface. Two sizes are available – 13.5 x 13.5 x 1.5 (medium) and 17 x 13 x 1.5 (large). Note that this board is 1.5 inches thick and is officially described as a chopping block. The large model checks in at a solid and stable 7 pounds.
Beyond these innovative features, the Bambusi Reversible Chopping Block has all the great bamboo features we discussed earlier – durable, affordable, hygienic and stylish.
If you prepare a lot of meat dishes or simply prefer a solid board that won’t slide easily, the Bambusi is hard to beat.
Do You Need to Treat a Bamboo Cutting Board?
Yes, if you want to prevent splintering and warping. Always use a cutting board oil or food safe mineral oil to condition your board. If you buy a new bamboo cutting board, wash it thoroughly. Once it dries, coat it generously with cutting board oil and let it sit for several minutes before cleaning. Many manufacturers recommend this process be repeated daily for one week on a new cutting board.
Generally, we recommend repeating the process every month or so. Do NOT use olive oil or baby oil as these will either putrefy or are not food safe.
Are bamboo cutting boards good? Absolutely…affordable, durable and stylish is a good recipe for success, even in the highly commoditized world of kitchen tools. In fact, bamboo is the best selling material for boards in the U.S.
Bamboo boards are ideal for people on a budget or people who simply want a real wood cutting board that will last a long time and require little maintenance. If you’re in the market for a new cutting board, the Indigo True (budget) and Bambusi (premium) are excellent choices.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are Bamboo Cutting Boards Safe?
Yes, but care must be taken as with any cutting board. When most people ask this question they are usually referring to germs or boards slipping, resulting in the accidental knife cuts. Regarding the former, use soap and hot water to clean your board every time it is used. If you prepare a lot of raw chicken and fish a dishwasher safe plastic cutting board is a better option.
Regarding accidental knife cuts, some cutting boards come with rubber feet to avoid slippage. Also, heavier and larger boards are less likely to slip when being used so keep that in mind when making your selection.
What Do They Cost?
Along with acacia, bamboo is the most affordable wood on the market. Several choices with great customer feedback exist in the $20 range. In the $40 to $60 range, you will find larger and heavier boards with nice features such as rubber feet and juice grooves.
Are Bamboo Cutting Boards Good?
Yes, as we covered in detail above they are affordable and highly durable. My current bamboo cutting board is 4 years old and still going strong. Many people buy one for day to day usage and something like an end grain cutting board for special occasions.