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The Best Cutting Boards & How to Care for Them

September  2, 2015

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: Cutting boards are some of the most-used kitchen tools, so it's important to choose the best one for your cooking style. Here's everything you need to know about each material.

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In the realm of kitchen tools, cutting boards get the short end of the stick. Slicing and dicing aside, we soak them in water for hours until they warp, let berry stains sink into their wood for far longer than we should, and forget to oil them until they're completely dried out—yet they remain our ever-trusty kitchen workhorses, taking the brunt of food preparation.

That said, not all cutting boards are made alike. In our test kitchen, we use plastic cutting boards for raw meats, fish, and things that stain to make clean-up easier. We cut everything else directly on a butcher block counter. Our head test kitchen chef, Derek Laughren, says, "If we didn't have the wooden counter, I would definitely use a heavy wooden board for most tasks." As it turns out, wooden cutting boards are among the most versatile cutting boards, followed by bamboo and plastic boards. Here's everything you need to know about choosing and caring for your cutting board:


Wooden Cutting Boards:
Wood is by far the most popular cutting board material, and with good reason. Not only is it beautiful, but it's also good for knives. Knives can easily be blunted, but wooden cutting boards extend their edge by offering a soft surface for them to sink into with every slice, chop, and dice. However, because wooden cutting boards are so soft, they're also among the easiest to damage, as they can suffer from scores from rough cutting instruments, such as serrated knives.

Wooden boards have antiseptic qualities, inhibiting germ and microbe growth, but even with these qualities, it's important to wash and sanitize boards after each use as woods can't prevent all microbial growth on its own. Washing is even more important for porous tropical woods like teak, which actually absorb bacteria.

How to care for them: Wooden cutting boards should be washed in warm water and dried immediately after use, then placed on a horizontal surface to prevent them from warping. To remove stubborn stains from strawberries and the like, sprinkle the entire board with salt or baking soda, then rub it with a halved lemon. It's also a good idea to oil your boards once a year (though some people treat their boards as often as once a month). To oil your boards, use food-grade oil like beeswax or mineral oil, which can usually be found in pharmacies. Don't use olive or vegetable oil, though, as they can turn rancid and produce a off-putting smell. Apply the oil to your dry board and let it sit for a few hours, then wipe off the excess.

Much-loved, scored wooden cutting boards may need to be revived every few years by sanding and oiling. To sand your board, first smooth out the roughest cuts by rubbing it with a coarse grade of sandpaper in the direction of the grain. Then switch to a finer grade of sandpaper until the wood is smooth. Wash the wood with regular dish soap, then oil it to make it kitchen-ready again. Even warped cutting boards can be fixed. To fix a warped wooden board, place a damp cloth over the warped area and iron it as you would any fabric. Repeat until the board is un-warped. Once the warp is gone, allow it to dry completely before using.

More: Show your cutting board the love it deserves with these tips on caring for it.

Bamboo Cutting Board

Bamboo Cutting Boards:
Bamboo has many of the same benefits wood does while being environmentally friendly, as bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Like wood, it has antimicrobial properties, but it's a bit rougher on knives since it's slightly harder than wood cutting boards. On the plus side, bamboo resists staining, so its naturally light color is able to stay that way over time.

How to care for them: You can wash and oil bamboo boards like you would wooden cutting boards. And like wooden boards, it's just as important to avoid soaking your bamboo in water, as the strips of bamboo are often joined together by water-soluble glue; soaking the boards puts them at risk of falling to pieces and warping.

Plastic Cutting Board

Plastic Cutting Boards:
Plastic cutting boards are easy—they can go into the dishwasher, are lighter and easier to move around the kitchen, and are less expensive than wooden and bamboo boards. But since they don't have the self-healing or bacteria-fighting capabilities that wooden cutting boards do, they don't last as long and are less food-safe. If you do opt for a plastic cutting board, be sure to use powerful cleaning products to properly disinfect it after each use.

How to care for them: One of the greatest qualities of plastic cutting boards is that they are dishwasher-safe and warp-resistant, so they can be put away damp, if necessary, and take the least amount of post-dinner cleaning effort. On the other hand, they need to be replaced the most often. While wooden cutting boards last upwards of ten years, plastic cutting boards need to be replaced roughly once a year—you'll know it's time when they're covered in marks and are stained or yellowed.

Glass, Marble, and Slate Cutting Boards:
While glass, marble, and slate are easy materials to care for and clean, they are terrible for the health of your knives. Their high densities will dull your knife on every cut and can even chip the blade altogether. It's better to save these materials for your cheese spread and reserve your marble boards for kneading.

More: Marble boards are the perfect answer to avoiding pastry faux-pas.

How to care for them: If you insist on using rock-based boards (or countertops)—which many do for the sake of aesthetics—simply handwash them with soap and water, then spray them with non-toxic disinfectants, since they don't have the antiseptic qualities that wooden boards do. Make a natural cleaning solution by mixing together 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water, then spray it directly onto the board and wipe it down after a few seconds.

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

First photo by Bobbi Lin; all others by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BoardMaster
  • utopiadad
  • Chris
  • Komal091
  • Annu verma
    Annu verma
I eat everything.


BoardMaster June 3, 2020
Wood cutting boards and in particular Teak boards are noted to be best by America's Test Kitchen ( for their protection of knife blades and ability to handle the harsh kitchen environment. GIGWOOD ( 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.
Chris December 3, 2017
Thanks for sharing. I must bookmark it.

I also written this one
Komal091 August 18, 2017
Your article is helpful.. keep it up
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...
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)
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
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, A study by the German Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (, 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