What to consider when choosing the best wood cutting board

You’re about to learn some solid information about the different types of wood.
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Finding the best cutting board can be a surprisingly daunting task. Crate and Barrel, Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and many of the other heavy hitters in home goods pay a considerable amount in advertising to place their cutting boards at the top of your internet searches.

With companies stepping over each other to show you their cutting board, how do you know which board is the best one to buy?

To assist me in answering this question, I asked a few folks from Sonder Los Angeles to help review this article. Sonder Los Angeles sells a cutting board through its personal site and it has widely been hailed as one of the most versatile cutting boards on the market. They didn’t give me any cheese to write this, but I did film a video for them (below) and I have also bought a few of their boards in the past.

They are incredibly knowledgeable about what questions shoppers face when buying a wood board.

Here’s how to go about purchasing the best wood cutting board … in 5 minutes.

What’s the best wood for a cutting board?

Choosing the right wood for your cutting board can help determine:

  • How quickly the wood can dull your knives (harder woods will dull your blade quicker)
  • The number of bacteria the board will likely absorb (porous woods will allow bacteria to sit)

In short, you want a board that’s not too soft and not too hard. A quality cutting board should feel very forgiving on the knife when touching down on it—like butter—all while being sturdy enough to not feel like it’s losing strength over time.

Walnut

Sonder Los Angeles’s Motley Cutting Board combines walnut, cherry, and maple wood.

Not too hard. Not too soft. Walnut offers something of a happy medium for those looking for a wood cutting board that won’t do too much damage to your knives and will prevent bacteria from being absorbed.

Walnut’s dark, rich color is also very photogenic and offers a high-end look. Stains can also be less of an issue with walnut, as the brown hues can usually help mask what may be leftover from your cutting. Worth noting, walnut is a bit of a thirstier wood and can likely require more oiling and care than other woods.

Maple

Maple wood is one of the sturdiest woods. Because of its strength, maple will likely be a bit heavier. The color is a bit brighter and less bold than a walnut board, with subtle grain patterns, allowing it to fit in almost any kitchen. Maple also has smaller pores than most other wood types, allowing it to block more moisture and bacteria.

Acacia

The Winsome Cutting Board from Sonder Los Angeles is a good example of a cutting board made of Acacia wood.

Beautiful wood with natural hues, Acacia is known to be more resistant to water damage and less prone to warping than other woods. A very sustainable wood that can grow quickly when replanted, Acacia is extremely popular for those who admire the color and style.  

Teak

A very trendy option, teak has some of the most striking, naturally occurring color patterns in wood boards. It at times can be a bit more affordable than walnut or acacia, which can also lead to some issues regarding sustainability. Without getting into the polemics of the global wood trade, do your research when choosing a teak board and do your best to ensure it is from a reputable teak plantation. This is something Sonder Los Angeles says they take very seriously, as should any wood cutting board maker.

Bamboo

Bamboo is technically a grass and not wood. Regardles, bamboo is still a popular choice for cutting boards. A board made out of bamboo will likely be one of the cheapest types of cutting boards. Bamboo is eco-friendly but overall is not a great choice for a cutting board. Bamboo is hard on knives, can splinter easily, is not very durable, and can be receptive to bacteria. Outside of that, bamboo is all right…

You’ll likely save money on the cost of a single bamboo cutting board but will need to replace it much more frequently over time.

Are thicker cutting boards better?

Good shot of a thicker wood cutting board from Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

A thick board is usually any board at least 1.5 inches thick and is sometimes called a butcher block. Thick wood cutting boards can be appealing for two main reasons:

  • Their larger weight can allow them to be more stable on a kitchen counter (i.e not move around as much)
  • The added thickness can be more ergonomic for taller individuals who don’t want to bend over as much while cutting for extended periods of time.

Edge Grain vs. End Grain

A collection of Sonder Los Angeles wood cutting boards.

End grain and edge grain woods are terms thrown around often when you get into the nitty-gritty of buying a wood board. Edge grain boards are basically long strips of wood placed side by side to create a single board. End grain boards are made using smaller, shorter pieces of wood (from the ends) that often create a checkerboard pattern.

When you use an end grain board, the knife is going between the grains of the wood, which is easier on your knife. When slicing on an edge grain board, the knife is cutting across the wood fibers, causing the knife to become duller a bit more quickly. An edge grain board is, however, recognized for its durability and should be more affordable than an end grain board as it’s less complicated to construct.

Why not a plastic or composite cutting board?

The main benefit of a plastic board is that it can be used in the dishwasher. If you don’t care for the look of your board or how long it will likely last, a plastic board is a decent option.

While it’s very important to clean and care for your cutting board, quality wood actually resists bacteria and is usually more sanitary than plastic. Once a plastic board starts forming grooves, you need to toss it as those areas will allow bacteria to thrive.

No matter which cutting board you buy…

There are two items that will maintain the quality of your wood cutting board in the longer term:

  • Food grade Mineral Oil: this will penetrate deep into the wood preventing the wood fibers from drying out which could lead to durability issues.
  • Beeswax: ideal for creating a moisture barrier at the surface and is highly effective at preventing bacteria from making its way deeper into the wood.

Rubbing your cutting board with one or both of these every 2 to 3 weeks could allow your wood board to last a lifetime.

Final Minute

When it comes to buying a wood cutting board, there is one feature that is almost always overlooked: customer service. And as beautiful as nature can be, it’s possible that your wood board could have some minor imperfections. It’s important to choose a merchant that is responsive and seems willing to go above and beyond in making sure you get a great item. When it comes to shopping and adding the right item to your cart, don’t just research the board, but the company behind who is selling it.

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