Kitchen Design

The Best Surfaces for Kitchen Countertops

There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it, once a week, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to keep the conversation going.

Today: Your kitchen counter gets more of a workout than any appliance or gadget -- choose one that can stand up to what you dish out.

The Best Surfaces for Kitchen Countertops, from Food52

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Whether you’re starting from scratch, revamping what you have, or just creating the ultimate Pinterest board for the day you have a kitchen of your own, countertops are a crucial part of the equation. With so many options, it can be challenging to look past surface-level information to find the option that will really stand up to what you dish out. And although it might seem counterintuitive, remember that it isn't necessary to limit yourself to only one type of material. You might remember from our kitchen tour that we used both Calacatta marble and John Boos black walnut for our countertops.

This week rldougherty told the community of a desire for new countertops, and received rock-solid advice:

The Best Surfaces for Kitchen Countertops, from Food52

Wood  

Pro:

  • Sonny bunny thinks wood works well in a kitchen: "I put mahogany counters in my remodeled 100 year old kitchen...the look is clean, modern and perfectly fitting in an old house. We simply apply USP grade mineral oil, which we buy at the local hardware store, every 5 to 6 weeks. They are beautiful and get loads of oohs & ahhhs!!! Wouldn't change a thing."

Con:

  • Heather Strain doesn't agree: "Wood counters are the absolute worst idea ever! I had them once in an apartment -- they were hard to keep clean, required a lot of work to keep them in adequate shape, and were just awful around the sink." 

Laminate 

Pros & Cons:

  • Amysarah cautions against choosing laminate designed to look like stone, saying: "I've never seen one that really does -- beyond maybe in small sample chip. I'd tend towards one that looks good as itself -- its color, texture -- rather than one trying to mimic stone." 

Tile

Pros:

  • OnionThief has a specific preference for "very lightly textured tile with medium-dark grout," explaining: "Tile is gentler on all my breakable things, there's no super obnoxious reflection, and no staining issues with darker grout. There's no problem with heat, and if you do crack a tile, it is a simple and inexpensive thing to replace." 
  • Irina agrees, finding tile "great to work on, especially good for kneading."

Cons:

  • SMSF isn't as much of a fan: "I had tile counters for many years in a rental. Over time, the tile texture (and it wasn't highly textured) abraded and made keeping it clean very difficult."

The Best Surfaces for Countertops, from Food52

Stone & Engineered Stone

Pros:

  • Mickle sticks with the classic, and favors granite, calling it "pricey -- but worth it."
  • Ebabb used white macaubas quartzite in a recent remodel and is thrilled with it: "It has a similar look to the white marble countertops, but is as sturdy as granite. We cook every day, and so far we haven't found a way to hurt it, despite lots of spills and hot pots."
  • Smslaw prefers soapstone, explaining: "It doesn't ever stain, doesn't need to be sealed, and doesn't get damaged by hot pots."
  • Stephaniesdirina, and mainecook61 are all fans of engineered quartz, noting: "It can handle anything, including hot pots, never stains, and looks 'softer' than granite does," and, "it requires no sealing, doesn't stain, and cleans up easily." 

Cons:

  • ChefJune isn't a fan of granite, explaing: "I know it's trendy, but it is not as durable as many folks think, and it does stain."
  • Lisina concurs: "I find granite (though very functional) very difficult to keep clean. The patterns in the stone are VERY effective at hiding mess."
  • Heather Strain cautioned against marble for countertops that will see heavy use: "It will crack/fracture and is prone to stain."
  • OnionThief won't be installing stone countertops anytime soon: "They murder my crystal and my canning jars, they are slick and shiny and impossible to decorate around, and most of them have patterns that look like various growths/infections."

Concrete

Pros:

  • Kristen W. has seen some really cool countertops done with poured concrete, adding: "It's less expensive than granite, and you can stain it and shape it any way you like." 
  • Kimhw used concrete in a 1910 farm house, and has found them to be durable: "No wine, acid, or hot pans have damaged my counters."

Metal 

Pros & Cons:

  • Lisina loves stainless steel, while acknowledging that it looks "very industrial," which might not be to everyone's taste. She also recently worked in a kitchen with copper countertops, exclaiming: "Talk about GORGEOUS. The owner had just had them polished, but she showed me a before picture and the patina was to die for," but adds that they were expensive. 

Tell us: What's your preferred countertop material and why? 

33 Comments

Adriana P. July 19, 2015
Thank you So Much Lindsay!
 
Adriana P. July 17, 2015
Hi! can you tell me anything about the canisters next to the kitchen aid. they are so beautiful. thank you!
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. July 19, 2015
The enamel canisters are by Riess!
 
Larkin V. July 16, 2015
I would have liked to have seen input from professional chefs, instead of just hipsters. "I once had it in an apartment . . ." etc.
 
cjbollinger May 31, 2015
We have cement countertops - hate, hate, hate. They weren't properly sealed and have stained badly and they're very rough on glasses and plates. Cleaning them is like trying to clean a sidewalk. Have I mentioned I don't like them? ;)
 
Kari2011 May 31, 2015
I have a section of butcher block for my counter top. I love it. It's great for chopping, needing, etc. if I ever have another kitchen, I'll always add a section of butcher block.
 
jfoureur May 29, 2014
Anyone using Enameled Lava-Stone ???????
 
Tashipluto May 27, 2014
I have to laugh when I read about the "trendiness" of granite -- I installed granite in my kitchen in 1986 and have never had to replace it. Still looks as good as day one and I use my kitchen extensively every single day. (I don't actually have any crystal, so maybe I would feel differently if I did.) I tend to break things by dropping them on the floor, not the countertops. I really love that I don't need to worry about hot pots and pans on it, and it's great for rolling out pastry.
 
Christine May 27, 2014
Love the open shelf look, but is the owner REALLY using all of those items regularly to keep them dust- and grease- free?
 
Carlton A. May 26, 2014
they should have broke out quartz and granite. all the Pros were for quartz and the cons were for granite<br />
 
Honeylishuss May 26, 2014
I love granite bench tops. I chop straight on it, roll out pastry or make pasta. I can put anything on it without the surface being affected. It cleans up brilliantly. Wood traps minute food particles and needs upkeep.
 
Hope A. May 26, 2014
In my two previous kitchens, I had butcher block counters (except for around the sink.) They were great because I could cut anywhere; they also kept me from breaking glasses and dishes that would have shattered on a harder surface. People who complain about wood don't know how to maintain it: all it needs is cleaning with scalded water. If they're greasy, add salt or vinegar. If they're dry, condition with mineral oil, which you should do twice a year anyway. Now that I have concrete counters, which are low maintainence but useless for preparation, I really look forward to building another kitchen with butcher block counters.
 
mpm6228 May 26, 2014
quartz composite, light colored with tiny flecks of glass and other stone, cheerful, very very easy to keep clean, no stains whatsoever, paired with a long butcher block bar height eating table/prep table. I love the quartz.
 
Elisa May 26, 2014
I like granite. I have wood counters right now and I HATE them. They get stained and ruined with food, heat and water, all of which are ever-present in a kitchen! Worst idea ever.
 
jmspdx May 26, 2014
"Stephaniesd, irina, and mainecook61 are all fans of engineered quartz, noting: "It can handle anything, including hot pots..." <br /><br />Then why does the manufacturer of my pricey engineered quartz countertop tell me to never put a pan over 200 degrees on it?
 
susan V. May 26, 2014
Did you get any comments about soapstone? More beautiful than granite, has a softer feel. I am a fan of butcher block which warms up the look of a kitchen and requires cleaning and care . I love the look of mixed counter top materials: butcher block with concrete or Corian around the sink area.<br />
 
KeylimeSteve May 26, 2014
Planning a new kitchen, 16+- running feet of countertop, most likely poured concrete. Butcher-block (meat), cutting boards (produce), marble (baking) can be located anywhere at any time, not restricted to one specific place.
 
KeylimeSteve May 26, 2014
add... form follows function, beauty follows form.
 
EatArt May 25, 2014
I am totally passionate about marble. It's exceptionally beautiful, especially veined. And it is much easier to keep than expected. I marvel at the way it looks in my kitchen every day.<br />
 
Peter S. May 25, 2014
As a chef, and one has had a stint for 7 years or so teaching folks to cook in their own home kitchens, I can say that without a doubt, end grain maple butcher block (or edge grain is great too) is the best. It's easy to keep it well maintained with mineral oil.. You can cut anywhere on it. You can get it custom made with aluminum rods laid into the wood so that you can put a hot pot or pan down... Without a doubt, it is the most user friendly.
 
Sharon B. May 25, 2014
Love my quartz composite. Needs no sealing, easy to clean, looks great. I don't put hot pots on it since I hear it can warp. That's fine since I'm used to using trivets after years of laminate countertops!
 
rachaelmr May 25, 2014
I've seen some use with paperstone that is really fantastic. It likes love - so you do have to polish it, but all nicks/wear & tear add to the 'patina'. It's deceptive in its hardness (seems hard as stone) but I've had glass jars bounce off without breakage. As the added benefit of being sustainable, recycled and chemical free - it's a great choice for me! I'm buying a house soon and I hope to re-counter with paperstone.