Updated November 1st, 2018 – A butcher block is defined by its role in the kitchen, and its differences from a regular cutting board really come down to the individual who’s using it. Defining a butcher block can be a little tricky. They can be anything from a 5-inch thick block of wood, to a 20-foot kitchen island, to a tree stump. The general concept is to have a dense and firm surface on which to butcher meat, hence the name.
Why use butcher block cutting boards?
A knife and cutting board are essential tools in the kitchen. For vegetables, the knife work really just involves chopping or slicing, so a standard chopping board does the necessary job. Learn all about cutting boards here.
In contrast, meat often requires quartering, filleting, chopping and deboning. This requires a larger surface area that needs to be heavy enough to stay in place. Most butcher blocks are at least an inch thick, which is important because it adds the element of weight.
The best butcher blocks will have rubber bases to prevent the board from slipping, which could result in the meat flying into the air, or the chef’s fingers doing likewise!
Butcher blocks generally cost upwards of $100 but below $200, so there’s little sense in trying to purchase on the cheap. There could be a world of difference in spending the extra $20 to make sure you get a quality board.
Which woods make for good butcher blocks?
Most butcher blocks are made using end grain, as opposed to edge grain because end grain means that the fibers are exposed. On edge grain, the fibers run along the outside. End grain is sturdier and more resistant to cuts or scarring. Over a long enough period, it can actually be self-healing because the fibers will push back together.
A butcher block will need to be made from a strong wood, due to the aggressive beatings it will tend to take from a cleaver. So a strong, end grain board is a necessity if you want your butcher block to stand the test of time. To be fair, most butcher blocks meet these requirements.
There are a number of woods suited to taking this kind of beating. Bamboo and oak are well-known to be strong woods to use in the kitchen. Walnut butcher blocks are also a very popular choice, as is the walnut end grain butcher block.
Here is a list of the best butcher chopping boards on the market, based on their pricing and the wood used in their construction.
The John Boos Reversible Maple Chopping Block is 24 x 18 x 2.25 inches and features a reversible surface edge with grips to prevent the board from moving. Maple is a strong and heavy wood, ideal for butcher block cutting boards.
This board is constructed from end grain for resilience against wear and tear but should be maintained using Boos Mystery Oil.
The John Boos Cherry Chopping Block is a beautiful cherry wood square board. It’s 14 x 14 x 3 inches and beautifully colored with a deep, almost orange, cherry wood finish. This is a significantly heavier board than some others. You don’t need to worry about it moving about as you use it!
The self-healing end grain surface ensures this model will last, and also helps to maintain the quality of your knives.
The John Boos Reversible Walnut Butcher Block is 12 x 12 x 3 inches, and so is also a very heavy butcher block. Like the maple series, it is reversible. This makes it a convenient board for busy chefs who might not have the time to wash the board between preparing different foods.
It’s a beautifully colored piece of craftsmanship—dense and heavy, you won’t need to worry about it slipping away mid-chop.
Finally, there’s the 24 x 18 x 3 inch Totally Bamboo Big Kahuna Cutting Board. Totally Bamboo is slightly larger in its dimensions than the others, giving you a bigger working space. That feature is especially useful if you’re using it for vegetables.
It’s made with 10 layers of bamboo, which makes one of the strongest, most durable boards on the market. The board has four rubber legs to keep it elevated and sturdy. Like the other models on this list, it won’t move about when you’re using it, even though bamboo isn’t as heavy as the other woods.
Choose one of the models on this list, and you’ll be chopping like a pro! You might also be interested in finding out whether glass cutting boards are safe.
A good knife is the partner of your cutting boards. Find out about the 5 best kitchen knife sets for ! While these boards won’t unduly dull your knives, eventually you’ll need to sharpen them with the best knife sharpener.
When it’s time for a little sweetness, head over here for my review of the best saucepan for making candy.