The real question is what type of cutting board is best for you? Cutting boards come in a wide variety of materials, sizes, features and prices. What is best for one home chef may not be best for another.
As we discuss below, we recommend a “two board” system for most people, i.e. a classic wood cutting board for day to day kitchen activities and a dishwasher safe plastic board for preparing riskier foods like raw chicken.
Most Common Cutting Board Materials
When people talk about types of cutting boards, they are almost always referring to the material used to make the board. The most common materials in descending order of popularity are:
- Wood (bamboo, teak, walnut, maple, etc.)
- Plastic (usually high-density polyethylene or HDPE)
- Composite (usually wood fiber/resin blend)
- Rigid (usually glass or slate).
This summary table highlights the most important characteristics of each material. Note: “knife friendly” is a softer board that will not dull kitchen knives when struck, while “board friendly” is a hard construction material that will not easily show scaring from knife cuts.
|Material||Examples||Hardness||Dishwasher Safe?||Knife Friendly?||Board Friendly?|
|Harder woods||Bamboo, Maple, Olive||Hard||No||Average||Yes|
|Softer woods||Cherry, Hinoki, Larch, Teak, Walnut||Soft||No||Yes||No|
|Composite||Wood fiber/phenolic resins||Medium||Yes||Average||Yes|
|Rigid||Glass, Slate||Very Hard||Mostly||No||Yes|
Wood boards look great and are very durable. Bamboo is the most common wood and is generally the cheapest. Teak and walnut are also common and used in higher-end boards. These two woods are extremely knife friendly (i.e. they won’t dull kitchen knives as quickly). The biggest downside for ALL wood boards is that they are NOT machine washable.
Plastic cutting boards are hygienic and the cheapest option. They are almost always dishwasher friendly, which kills virtually all harmful bacteria such as salmonella and e coli (found on 18% of all cutting boards). What are the downsides? Well, most are very plain looking. They also scar more easily from knife cuts and don’t last as long.
Composite cutting boards are relatively rare. They can offer the best of both worlds – the looks of a wood cutting board and the safety that comes from being dishwasher friendly. Hopefully, more options will become available in the next few years.
Rigid cutting boards are for special purposes (e.g., serving cheese) and should not be used as a primary day to day option.
Our Recommendation on “What Type of Cutting Board is Best?”
We strongly prefer a two board system for most situations:
- An affordable dishwasher safe plastic cutting board for riskier meats (e.g., raw fish and chicken)
- A high-quality wood cutting board for all other kitchen activities.
Good quality plastic cutting boards range from $15 to $30. If you routinely prepare foods that are at high risk of harmful bacteria – shell fish, chicken, ocean fish, etc., – a dishwasher safe board is a MUST. Remember, a hand washed board that looks visually clean can still harbor bacteria. However, bacteria cannot survive a full cycle of hot temperatures in a dishwasher.
For most of us that love to cook, preparing food is a much fun as eating it. A high quality wooden cutting board is simply a must. The “look and feel” is simply a cut above a plastic board. Also given their weight, wood boards are less likely to slide when cutting and thus, are safer in that regard. In our opinion, nothing beats the iconic look of a good end-grain board. If you are not familiar with these boards, they are definitely worth checking out.
Lastly, if two cutting boards don’t fit with your budget, plastic is likely the best way to go. However good quality bamboo cutting boards can be found for around $25, so they are a strong possibility as well.
What type of cutting board is best? It obviously depends on your usage and budget. It is certainly possible to get by with just one cutting board. However, plastic cutting boards are inexpensive and worth it for most cooks who prepare risky foods even a few times a year.
That said, the cooking experience is just not the same without a classic wood cutting board. Given that these boards last for years, purchasing one is a “no brainer” in our humble opinion!