Essential Tools

How to Care for Any Type of Cutting Board—Plus, the Best Ones to Buy

Except for glass boards—they didn't make the cut.

July 27, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

The cutting board is a trusty workhorse in my kitchen, always by my side and supporting me through all my cooking adventures. But I’ll be the first to admit that I treat my cutting boards less than kindly from time to time. 

With a little TLC, cutting boards can be a longstanding investment piece in your kitchen—and that doesn’t mean that you have to buy the most expensive ones, either. As an added bonus, taking care of your boards and using them correctly can help extend the lives of your other kitchen staple: knives. Long live your kitchen essentials! 

Here are the most popular types of cutting boards (excluding glass because glass and food shouldn't mix!), their pros and cons, and the best ways to keep them around as long as possible. 

Wooden Cutting Boards   

Pros: Sturdy and durable, wood cutting boards are the most popular by a mile. Wood has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, but the most common reason? They're literally built for the job because they score and yield to your knife, keeping its edge sharp (though you'll still need to sharpen them). 

Shop the Story

Wood cutting boards come in a ton of different wood varieties and price points, so you’ll have a large range to choose from, too. While a slab of reclaimed wood is aesthetically pleasing, most wood cutting boards are made from multiple pieces, making them stronger and less likely to warp or crack—if you take care of them. 

Cons: Wood cutting boards—especially ones that are glued together—will warp in the dishwasher, so they must be hand washed. Out of all the popular materials, wood cutting boards are the most expensive, though there are plenty at reasonable prices. They’re also one of the heaviest materials, so think twice before packing these for your next camping trip.

How to care for wood cutting boards: Always hand wash and pat dry with a towel before letting it air dry and then storing on its side. This helps save space and prevents warping, too.

For spot stains, use a paste of baking soda, salt, and water; for odors, a spritz of white vinegar. You’ll want to moisturize your boards (especially new ones) with food-safe mineral oil, beeswax, or even the excess fat after slicing up a nice piece of steak. Do not use any old cooking oil you have on hand; these will spoil and smell rancid after some time. Every few months, and at least once a year, you should scrub it down with some coarse salt and finish with a moisturizing rub down.

Our favorite wood cutting boards:

1. Millwood Pines Delano Acacia Wood End Grain Prep Station Cutting Board (Wayfair), $93.99 $61.59

This large acacia cutting board uses the ends of the wood to show off the wood grain, and to give your knives even more cushioning during prep.

Millwood Pines Delano Acacia Wood End Grain Prep Station Cutting Board

 

2. JK Adams Baking Board with Rolling Pin Holder (Food52), $85

This board is a top pick for bakers and I can see why. It’s got the ideal non-stick surface for rolling, kneading, and trimming pastry with a handy notch for your rolling pin to rest between turns. Plus, the guides and rulers make pastry-chef level precision achievable at home.

JK Adams Baking Board with Rolling Pin Holder 

Bamboo Cutting Boards 

Pros: Bamboo is the (relatively) new kid in town, and making a splash for good reason. It grows quickly so it’s more eco-friendly than wood, and since it’s widely prevelant as single-use chopsticks, can be recycled and reused in creative ways, too. Like wood boards, bamboo boards are antimicrobial, but even better, they’re also water resistant so they’re less likely to warp and rot easily. They also tend to be less expensive, if you’re budget-conscious. 

Cons: Like wood, bamboo is still sensitive to sustained heat and moisture, meaning you should not put them in the dishwasher. Additionally, bamboo is slightly harder so it can dull your knives faster. 

How to care for bamboo cutting boards: Bamboo should be cared for like wood—hand washed and dried thoroughly. You can use the same cleaning solutions (lemon, baking soda, vinegar) for stains and odors. Bamboo is technically a grass, but it still needs some moisture to avoid cracking or splitting. Oil with the same materials as wood, but perhaps with slightly more frequency depending on how much use it gets.

Our favorite bamboo cutting boards:

1. Five Two Bamboo Cutting Board (Food52), $59–$99

There are many reasons to love this board—deep grooves, a well to catch juices, double-sided functions, and lightweight but sturdy enough to stay put while I chop my way through dish after dish. I hate to admit it, but these days, the phone notch gets a ton of use, helping me follow along with recipes easily and (relatively) hands free.

Five Two Bamboo Cutting Board

 

2. Architec Bamboo Non-Slip Cutting Board (Crate & Barrel), $19.99

This bamboo cutting board is lightweight but has clever plastic non-slip edges to keep it in place. It’s versatile and budget-friendly, perfect for beginner and new cooks alike.

Architec Bamboo Non-Slip Cutting Board

Plastic Cutting Boards 

Pros: Plastic, or high-density polypropylene, is a super-popular alternative to wood for a variety of reasons. It’s cheap,  lightweight, and often comes in many colors, making it easy to avoid cross-contamination. Plastic is also hard enough to endure cutting, but soft enough to score like wood—just be sure you’re purchasing one designed not to dull knives. Thicker plastic boards will last longer than the thin flimsy ones, plus they'll cushion your knife’s cuts rather than thin boards where your knife is essentially butting up against your countertop. Try for a 1/2-inch minimum but anywhere between 1 and 2 inches is the sweet spot in my opinion. 

Cons: They tend to be less durable than wood, making them subject to being replaced more frequently. Also a heavily-scored plastic board looks a little worse for wear than an equally-scored wood or bamboo board. Since people tend to replace them more often, their environmental footprint is also more impactful than wood, though there are many made from recycled plastic.

How to care for plastic cutting boards: Hello, dishwasher! Yes, plastic cutting boards can actually go in there. You can sanitize any deeper grooves that may have been cut into the board by excessive use, otherwise, they’re pretty durable and by far the lowest-maintenance.

Our favorite plastic cutting boards:

1. Material The reBoard, $35

Recycled plastic is reimagined in this durable, dishwasher-safe board that comes in several dreamy colorways. 

Material The reBoard

2. OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Everyday Cutting Board Set (Amazon), $39.91

Three color-coded boards make cross-contamination a thing of the past, plus they have a drain tray and rubber grips on the sides for easy carrying.

OXO Good Grips 3-Piece Everyday Cutting Board Set

Stone Cutting Boards 

Pros: These are often the most aesthetically pleasing boards. Think dreamy cheese boards and charcuterie spreads.  

Cons: Since they’re made with materials that are as hard or even harder than your knives, they don't yield or score with each cut. That means the knife edge is curling or dulling with each chop, slice, and dice. We don't recommend using them for cutting, but rather for display. 

How to care for stone cutting boards: Hand wash or wipe clean after each use. Since they’re primarily for display, they won’t require the same upkeep in the way your daily-use cutting board does. For the best results, always follow material-specific care provided by the manufacturer.

Our favorite stone cutting boards:

1. mDesign Round Slate Stone Gourmet Serving Platter (Amazon), $22.99

I love that this board comes with chalk to write cheese names, making it ideal for effortless entertaining. 

mDesign Round Slate Stone Gourmet Serving Platter

2. Fox Run 12 x 16 Marble Board (The Home Depot), $26.99 

Marble is cool and non-stick, therefore ideal for working with pastry. You can knead, roll, and shape pastry, and even use a dough-cutter—just avoid too much knife-on-marble contact.  

Fox Run 12 x 16 Marble Board

What's your go-to cutting board material? Tell us in the comments below! 

This post was updated July 2021 with more maintanance tips and new cutting boards.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • DocHolladay
    DocHolladay
  • BoardMaster
    BoardMaster
  • utopiadad
    utopiadad
  • Chris
    Chris
  • Komal091
    Komal091
I want to eat everything crackly, chewy, salty & sweet.

20 Comments

DocHolladay February 15, 2021
I'm a huge fan of GIGWOOD's cutting and serving boards. They've developed a wood board that is the only one on the market that is guaranteed not to warp or split. Wood is long known to be the best cutting board material due to it's naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. With minor care, a good edge-grain cutting board like this one can last a lifetime: https://gigwood.co/shop/professional-chefs-cutting-boards. With minimal care (hand wash with warm water and a mild soap, allow both sides to dry fully and keep oiled with mineral oil) and a board like the one above can last a lifetime.
 
BoardMaster June 3, 2020
Wood cutting boards and in particular Teak boards are noted to be best by America's Test Kitchen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kd4vNcTvWnE) for their protection of knife blades and ability to handle the harsh kitchen environment. GIGWOOD (https://www.gigwood.co) has basically reinvented the cutting board by taking the best rated edge-grain Teak cutting board and cross-grain laminating it around a super dense African Wenge core resulting in the most stable and reliable wood cutting board made. GIGWOOD cutting boards are the only wood cutting boards that are guaranteed to never warp or split. Gigwood cutting boards truly are beauty and the beast, as durable as they are beautiful.
 
utopiadad February 6, 2020
Thanks for the tips! Used to use plastic cutting boards but don't like the aesthetic and they can stain easier. We got this high end oak cutting board and it washes really easily with warm water. https://www.rowanoake.com/shop/form-series-coffee-table
 
Chris December 3, 2017
Thanks for sharing. I must bookmark it.

I also written this one http://topchopbutcherblock.com/blog/how-to-make-an-end-grain-cutting-board-at-home/
 
Komal091 August 18, 2017
Your article is helpful.. keep it uphttp://ultramodernlifetraininglab.com/cutco-knives-reviews
 
Annu V. June 8, 2017
Nice advice and i use plastic board for cutting purposes, but its get damage after some time and not that much hygienic for use. so i take your advice and go for another.
Thank you
 
Michelle R. February 27, 2017
You stated in the article that you use a counter butcher block, what is the care process for this? I have a butcher block rolling cart but I'm afraid to use it as a cutting board because I don't know the proper clean up for it.
 
QueenSashy February 27, 2017
There are several discussions on hotline that address the maintenance of wooden boards, perhaps there are some useful thoughts...
https://food52.com/hotline/5591-how-do-you-clean-your-wood-cutting-board
https://food52.com/hotline/752-i-see-chefs-on-tv-using-butcher-block-counters-and-very-large-cutting-boards-to-chop-all-kinds-of-thi
https://food52.com/hotline/search?q=wooden+board
https://food52.com/hotline/24826-cutting-board-stinkiness
 
ChristieeD February 1, 2018
I think if we're talking about cutting board maintenance all you need is an $8 bottle of Walrus Oil (no walruses harmed) http://walrusoil.com
 
Jerry May 4, 2016
With wooden cutting boards there is a difference in quality depending on the way the wood is cut. There is a good blog about the differences at https://houseofcuttingboards.com/blogs/news/106141510-why-end-grain-cutting-boards-are-considered-a-higher-quality
 
K C. October 23, 2015
I love my teak board. It's gentle on my Shun knives. No more Epicurean boards for me.
 
david R. September 6, 2015
Would be helpful to further clarify the ability of natural wood to control bacteria. This is a basic decision in many kitchens,so why not express the science?
 
QueenSashy September 6, 2015
I too always wondered about the science behind the claim, and tried to do a little bit of poking around, since most of the time we read how “wood has natural ability to fight bacteria”, yet very few articles offer an in-depth explanation. Here is a study from UC Davis Food Safety Laboratory, http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm. A study by the German Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228343502_Survival_of_bacteria_on_wood_and_plastic_particles_Dependence_on_wood_species_and_environmental_conditions), and another by the German Institute for Food
Technology, which reported similar findings, explained that the reason for the antibacterial properties of certain types of wood (e.g. pine and oak) lie in the hygroscopic (moisture-absorbing) qualities and in polyphenols, which naturally occur in the wood. I also stumbled upon a research paper that argues how high levels of polyphenols in some woods can explain their natural preservation against rot.
 
Terry D. September 3, 2015
I use the kind of round rubber cutting board they use in Chinese restaurant kitchens. I love it - doesn't damage the knives, doesn't warp, cleans well and lasts forever.
 
Patricia R. September 3, 2015
I've always been told to only use plastic cutting boards for meat and fish. Is that true? This article makes it sound like it'd be safer to use a wood one if you clean it properly after.
 
Smaug September 3, 2015
Plastic boards put away damp will soon start growing mold, especially in any knife marks. You may change the warp in a piece of wood, but actually flattening it would be a large coincidence. As to the porosity of teak it is the preferred wood for boat fixtures and outdoor furniture because of it's high moisture content and resistance to penetration by moisture.
 
Smaug September 3, 2015
Oops- high oil content.
 
QueenSashy September 2, 2015
For a long time I was a devotee of Epicurean cutting boards, until they started to peel off. Moreover, the boards were brutal to my knifes -- something, ever-wise pierino warned me about -- but I chose to ignore until the knives got dull beyond repair. I now use Shun Hinoki wooden chopping boards, they are made of soft (and fragrant) cypress wood – they are a bit pricy, but the knifes love them…
 
gmd1228 September 2, 2015
How do you sanitize and care for your butcher block counter top?
 
QueenSashy September 2, 2015
TheKitchn had an article about it a while ago, here is the link http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-clean-butcher-block-countertops-cleaning-lessons-from-the-kitchn-206165