Picking a cutting board

September 2, 2011

Equipment


So does it really matter why type of cutting board you use?  I have often wondered that over the years and I have come to the conclusion that yes it actually does…to a point.  I can remember those OLD wooden cutting board used in my parents kitchen (Dad was a chef in the Navy, Mom was a short order cook) it was used for cutting everything.  At that time one would chop the veggies followed up by what ever meat or poultry happened to be for dinner. Or the other way around.  I don’t remember a whole lot of thought being put into cross contamination of meat with veg. In today’s world not so, things have gotten so off in the weeds that you now can purchase cutting boards for not only meat but various types of veg or fruit which are color coded so you are sure you are using  the correct board for the item you are attacking with your (sharp please) knife.

So what are the advantages of a wooded board vs. a poly vs. a glass cutting board. Well let’s take a look…

Poly Cutting boards~

I have one type of cutting board in my kitchen -poly cutting boards.  One is a rather large poly board from OXO which has a black rubber edging, then the remainders are all poly boards from IKEA (worlds best place to waste 4 hours!).  The OXO remains on the counter sitting atop its rubbery shelf liner (it keeps it in place- a damp towel works as well) all the time.  It is always at the ready to allow for a quick slicing of bread or the hacking apart of a sub-primal of beef.  This board is a well made item is fairly priced offers LOTS of room to chop and works great for rolling out dough as the slightly nubby surface allows the dough to grab and stay put. My board sees LOTS of action and I have to replace it about every 18 months to 2 years.  Now when I say lots of action I am talking A LOT  for it to hold up like is does makes is a rather good investment for me.  It is easy to clean and doesn’t for the most part hold onto stains from tomatoes or red fruits…until the end of its life that is then it still releases 90% of the stains.  It is about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick weighs about a pound or so.  The only thing that for me is a draw back is that it does not fit in my dishwasher. The smaller IKEA poly boards are not as hardcore as the OXO but for $3 for 2 I will not complain.  They fit the function I had in mind, they are usually used to do minor stuff like coring a single piece of fruit or to allow a chunk of steak to rest while I am using my OXO for other items.  They don’t hold up as well but again for $3 I am OK with that.

OXO’s boards are also knife friendly in that they are easy on the cutting edge of your knife.  This poly board gives good “purchase” with your knife in that when you are cutting, chopping or what have the board allows for the knife to bite into the board with little damage to either the board or knife. There is little drag on the knife as is cuts which means less fatigue in your arm as you are not fighting the board with each stroke of your knife. OXO’s poly board was rated as “Recommended”  by Cook’s Illustrated and at an average cost of $20

When choosing a poly board keep in mind the hardness of the poly board you are looking at purchasing.  Even poly boards if to rigid can damage your knife so look for a board that if you drag your finger nail firmly into it there will be a bit of give in the board.  If you can’t get any give then go on to another board.

Wooden Boards~

OK unlike Poly boards this area has a wide variety of woods to choose from, including cork, olive wood, teak and bamboo (yeah it’s a grass but is getting lumped in here).  Boos makes one of the best wooden cutting boards out there but you will pay for the quality and they are NOT light. For the most part if I remember correctly Rock Maple is the main hardwood used in their boards.  You can also get them in Walnut and Cherry.  Rock maple is a great wood to cut on it holds up well to multiple cuts be it from a chef’s knife or a clever but does require some special handling in that you will have to oil the board as well as wash it by hand. If you don’t mind that then wood is the way to go. With the correct care this board should last almost a lifetime.

Olive wood is usually used for small presentation type cutting boards like a cheese board for example. It is not as hard as the Rock maple used by Boos and from my understanding needs more delicate handling. Sorry but I don’t need a cutting board I have to baby…so unless I am doing a cheese display you won’t find one in my kitchen.

Bamboo, while not a wood but a grass is becoming a hot item for cutting boards…depending on the age of the bamboo used to produce the board a younger bamboo will start to fray and allow small fibers to start pulling up.   I can understand the draw of bamboo as it is 16% stronger than Maple and 1/3rd lighter than oak.  It also has some antimicrobial properties, doesn’t absorb water as readily which in turn lessens the swelling of the wood. Bamboo is also a renewable resource as it is a quick-growing grass. The down side is it is not a life time purchase they tend to warp and crack. So you have to decide cost vs. life of board.

Teak was found by Cook’s Illustrated to be one of the best they tested.  I know very little about teak and have never cut on a teak board.  Though I really respect Cook’s Illustrated’s opinion and if I can find a teak board locally I would lean towards purchasing it.  It is not cheap the teak boards from “ProTeak” for the size I like start at about $85.

 

Glass~

Just don’t go there…Oh that’s not enough of an explanation…OK.   The only thing I would use a glass cutting board would be for display purposes, it is by far to hard to use for cutting.  The glass board will dull your knife in no time flat.  I don’t like the breakage hazard, yes I am a klutz so having a glass cutting board in the kitchen is not a good idea.  I don’t like the idea of having a cutting board that I can’t drop a hot pot on and not worry about it shattering due to temp changes.  About the only good thing I can say about a glass cutting board is that you don’t have to worry about bacteria growth or wood fibers pulling up.  Other than that spend your hard earn money else where.

 

So how do you decide on what type of board is right for you well the best thing to do is hit up your local cooking store ask them to try out the boards and go from there.

Now go play with your food.

WikiJan

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