Are you looking for the best cutting board out there? For meat, chicken, and veggies? You are in the right place! I’m going to dive into some details, but I can tell you that you are right to be concerned about sanitation while dealing with meat.
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The short answer is that you should go with an Epicurean Composite cutting board. (See them at Amazon.) They are light, ultra durable, and dishwasher safe. Being able to put your meat cutting board in the dishwasher is a great thing. You can’t put wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher.
Cutting boards take a lot of abuse. Your surgically sharp knives chop, slice, and cut their way through all manner of materials in your kitchen. They are the partners for your knives – so you gotta take care of them.
A good quality cutting board can last a lifetime whereas a poor quality cutting board will be noticeably damaged within months. Having a good cutting board also means your knives will stay sharp longer.
Cutting Boards – So Many Choices, Which One Is Right?
Shopping for a cutting board can be exasperating with all the choices (plastic, wood, glass) and conflicting information online. Let’s examine cutting boards and clear up some of the confusion.
Cutting boards serve 2 purposes –
- Protect knives from wear
- Protect countertops from damage
Materials range from wood and glass to end grain and composite. Which is best? If protecting knives and kitchen surfaces is our only goal, why all the choices?
Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of the page from America’s Test Kitchen. They do awesome work there and the video is their Equipment Reviews: Best Cutting Boards.
Here are my top 3 choices:
John Boos Cherry Cutting Board with Gravy Groove and Stainless Steel FeetSee the John Boos Cherry Wood End Grain Butcher Block Cutting Board at Amazon
This thing is the Cadillac of the cutting board world. I don’t have one but if I could splurge on a cutting board this would be it. The key here is the end grain cutting surface that is ultra gentle on the surface of your knives.
Epicurean Gourmet Series Cutting Board Slate Natural CoreSee the Epicurean Gourmet Series 20-Inch-by-15-Inch Cutting Board at Amazon
If you can’t pull the trigger on the end grain cutting board from Boos, then this is a great compromise. I have one myself and it is thin, light, looks good, and you can put it in the dishwasher if needed. Did I mention it was light? The big downside to a natural end grain cutting board is the weight of natural hardwood.
Totally Bamboo End Grain Butcher BlockSee the Totally Bamboo Butcher Block at Amazon
I am normally not a big fan of bamboo for cutting boards. They are usually pretty cheapish and darn tough on my knives. Bamboo is considered to be a renewing sustainable alternative to other woods and, well, that’s a good point.
Enter the end grain bamboo cutting board – it’s cool looking and it is better on my sharp knives. I like it.
Now to the cutting boards…
While there are sexier gadgets and gizmos in the kitchen what with ice cream and bread makers to razor-sharp Japanese blades a good all-purpose chopping and a set of boards for use with separate food groups are essential, well a good all-rounder is essential several more is a bonus.
Whether you are a budding chef, an interested amateur or just starting out in the kitchen you cannot be cutting on the countertop please, for one you will ruin the surface of your new kitchen (if you are lucky enough to have one that is) and you are sure to get an ear full from your significant other. But it can also be dangerous with the food slipping around you are much more likely to have an accident and the little cuts and grazes on a countertop coupled with the moist environment of the kitchen makes this a breeding ground for bacteria.
First, your cutting board should be the right size for the job. A 6-inch square cutting board is hardly the right size to cut up a whole chicken. However, you will need to choose a board that will fit in your sink when cleaning and in the area where you will be storing it.
You should also choose a board with a weight that you can manage. Large, wooden boards can be heavy. You will cut down on your fatigue in the kitchen if you aren’t moving a heavy cutting board around all day.
If features are important to you, today’s cutting boards can come with built-in items such as liquid funneling channels, built in prep bowls and measuring cups. Some fit over the sink to save space while and others have built-in strainers.
What’s the Best Cutting Board Material?
Like all great questions, the answer is: “It Depends.” So let’s get into it, shall we?
There are 5 main materials for cutting boards:
- Composite – Great all around.
- Wood – My personal favorite, but usually not for meat.
- Glass (BUT glass is a terrible choice which you can read about here.)
Each material has its own pros and cons.
Composite boards are another “environmentally friendly” choice as they combine natural material, such as paper and wood, with synthetics, such as plastic, protected by a hard surface, such as a wood laminate. This combination offers the best of both worlds, durability with ease of sanitation.
However, composites tend to have hard surfaces which can be hard on your knife blades. As composite boards are thin, they have a tendency to slide around the work surface, which could become a safety hazard and you should avoid buying a cheap composite cutting board since cheaper composites will soon become gouged with knife marks and don’t hold up long with heavy use.
Of the materials, plastic is the cheapest and has the shortest lifespan. They should be discarded before knife damage begins to chip away the plastic as this could end up in your food. These cutting boards are easy to clean since they are the least absorbent. If cost is a factor, plastic boards are the most affordable.
What’s the most sanitary cutting board material?
There has been much debate over which is more sanitary, wood or plastic, but, plastic boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher whereas wooden ones cannot. Plastic boards have a non-porous surface which keeps juices, thus bacteria, from penetrating the surface, however; studies have found that bacteria can actually hide in cuts made in the surface. Plastic boards also tend to show their age from wear and tear quickly.
Bamboo is becoming a favorite of the “green” set since it is an environmentally “friendly” alternative to wood and plastic. Bamboo is a sustainable, fast-growing resource, doesn’t absorb as much moisture as other wood and isn’t as prone to warping, shrinking or swelling. However, on the downside, bamboo is a much harder material than wood thus harder on your knives.
Cutting boards made of bamboo absorb less liquid than their wooden counterparts, making them potentially more sanitary for use with meat. Bamboo is a durable, sustainable resource which is actually harder than the traditional cutting boards.
But I actually hate bamboo because it makes your blades get dull faster! It’s due to the blades cutting across the grain. I love sharpening knives, but not more than needed and bamboo will do just that.
Wood is a great, classic material for cutting boards. As mentioned above, maple is the traditional wood of choice.
Wooden cutting boards are fairly easy to maintain, requiring hand washing and a light coat of oil to keep them in good working order. Wood is a sustainable resource and, if properly cared for, will last a lifetime.
Wooden boards come from a variety of tree species and can be very attractive. They are also very gentle on knives and season nicely. But, are they safe? Can the cutting action of your knife on the wood surface create a breeding ground for bacteria? The vast majority of research that has been conducted on wooden boards says no.
Research by UC Davis food safety researchers shows that homes with wooden cutting boards in their kitchens were less than half as likely as average to contract salmonellosis. Those using synthetic (plastic or glass) boards were about twice as likely as average to contract the illness. The researchers concluded that wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health but, plastic ones could be.
If you get a higher end wood cutting board, it will be end-grain. That is the best and what I use. They have the grain of the wood running parallel with the blade of the knife. That’s great to keep your knife sharp.
End-Grain Cutting Boards
End-grain cutting boards are considered by many cooks to be the finest available. End-grain boards come from end-grain hardwood. What does this mean?
Consider a 2 x 4 board. Each face of the board has a name. The face of the board is the top or bottom of the plank. The edge is the side of the plank and the end-grain is the edge where the board has been cut, exposing the core. End grain boards are made by cutting the end pieces of lumber into blocks, and gluing the blocks together with the end grain up, forming the top surface of the cutting board.
If you own a high-quality wooden cutting board, it is likely made of edge-grain wood, from the long, thin surface shown in the above diagram. End-grain boards are considered to be more durable than edge grain and are visually striking. End-grain boards are tough yet kind to your knife edge. With the grain aligned in this manner (up and down), the grain of the wood actually separates and then closes when the knife is removed after a cut is made.
The ability for wood to do this is called “self-healing”. The wood itself is not cut, you are actually cutting between the fibers thus, end-grain boards exhibit less wear and tear than other board and are less prone to retaining cut, which can house bacteria. If you can afford an end-grain cutting board, it is the best, and safest cutting board, that you can buy.
What cutting board should I use for meat?
Most experts recommend having two cutting boards:
- 1 for meats
- 1 for fruits and vegetables
What size cutting board should I get?
When it comes to cutting boards, size matters. Most professional chefs agree that 15 by 20 inches is the minimum useful size for a cutting board. This allows you to use the cutting board for more than one ingredient at a time. Obviously, the limit to how large your cutting board can be will be determined by your available counter space.
When you’re cutting meat, it can get a little juicy. It’s important to look for a cutting board that has a groove around its edges which can catch these juices before they run off and make a mess on your countertop.
The key part is cleaning the cutting board properly.
How To Clean A Cutting Board
To keep all cutting boards clean, the Hotline recommends washing them with hot, soapy water after each use; then rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards and solid wood boards can be washed in a dishwasher (laminated boards may crack and split).
Both wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes. Rinse with clear water and air dry or pat dry with clean paper towels.
Our top picks
After testing and consideration, our favorite cutting board for meat is the Epicurean Gourmet Series 15-Inch-by-11-Inch.Epicurean Gourmet Series 20-Inch-by-15-Inch Cutting Board
If you are on a budget the Prepworks by Progressive Cutting Board. The groove helps prevent any mess and the fact that this unit is dishwasher safe make cleaning a cinch. Remember, all plastic cutting boards will show scarring and should be replaced after two years and this unit is no exception.
It is made from polyurethane, which is a type of plastic that is extremely strong, long lasting, and looks great. This board is nice and big, small boards can be a hassle and a board should always be longer than your favorite chef’s knife. Clean up is very easy and you can toss it in the dishwasher.
Grooves around the outside edge of one of the sides are great for catching any meat juices and the handle is ‘handy’ too, this model comes highly recommended, we love it and it won’t break the bank either.
If you need more room on your cutting board than the Prepworks offers, try the OXO Good Grips 15-inch by 21-inch Cutting Board. This board is tougher on knives than the Prepworks, but if you’re after more space to do some serious deboning, this cutting board has you covered.
Nice Looking Wood on a Budget
If plastic isn’t your thing and you’d like to keep your cutting board to be made a more natural material, consider the spacious Proteak Rectangular Edge-Grain Cutting Board.
Wood has been used for thousands of years and is also easy to care for.
It’s important to use a cutting board made of a material that is firm enough to resist scar, yet soft enough to avoid damaging your knives. Teak is ideal for this purpose.
If you don’t need a set but you do like the warmth and feel of a good wooden cutting board you couldn’t go far wrong with this (dare I say it ‘sexy’) piece of kitchen kit.
Teak has been used for thousands of years for untold uses due to its tough beauty and moisture repelling quality. Plastic is the real workhorse and will last longer but many people find the feel of a wooden board under their knife to be more pleasing and they have a reassuring weight to them.
They do require a little more care and attention with more careful cleaning and a good oiling from time to time to keep it in tip-top condition but you do reap other rewards. One of these is that this board is so nice to look at you will want to keep it out on full view and will fit in a modern minimalist kitchen or a farmhouse style with plenty of copper pots and pans swinging around another is they scrub up fantastically, almost like new after each oiling.
I don’t like bamboo much but some people do. Next up and a little different in style is the Totally Bamboo 3 Piece Cutting Board Set this is a chopping and cutting board set that is as versatile as it is good looking but don’t let its looks fool you and give you the idea that these guys aren’t hard workers in the kitchen they are indeed. Moso bamboo is cut at a minimum of five years and is one of the best in the world for durable while beautiful Bamboo wood products. They come from sustainable forests and have a low carbon footprint so they are environmentally sound to boot. Lightweight and comes in three different sizes 6×8, 8 ½ x 11 and 9 ½ x13 they are a pleasure to use. The larger board is ideal for meats and vegetables while the others are great for cheese or smaller more fiddly culinary jobs like preparing a handmade garlic puree. The boards are pretty enough to be used for serving and can be left out on the countertops all year. They are safe to use and only need a gentle hand washing after each use as the dishwasher should always be avoided when dealing with a wooden item. Pretty as a picture, super functional and environmentally friendly too this three-piece set ticks all the boxes when it comes to upgrading your old set that will soon relegate to the back of the cupboard.
Top Chop Butcher Block PGM-20182 Reversible Cutting Board, 20 x 18 x 2 Inch (Maple) is a big, heavy wooden example and will last a lifetime.
Other Cutting Board Options
Glass Cutting Boards
No! Please don’t get a glass cutting board since they are hard on knives. They can take the sharp edge off a knife with a few movements across a glass cutting board. But since people ask, glass boards can come in a variety of decorative designs but are generally not favored as a cutting surface since they are very rough on knives. Additionally, knives have a tendency to slip on the smooth surface making glass cutting boards unsafe.
If you are going to be cooking with meat, it is imperative that you have a cutting board that is up to the task. When you’re picking a cutting board, be sure to understand the material your cutting board is made from. Plastic is cheap, easy to work with and easy to clean.
Wood is a time-honored material that is easy to work with beautiful, but often more expensive than plastic. Bamboo is harder than wood, making it more durable but hard your knives. Bamboo and wood are both sustainable resources, but bamboo is more sustainable as it grows more quickly.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive cutting board to use for meat, the Prepworks by Progressive Cutting Board is a great choice. If you find the Prepworks too small, the OXO Good Grips 15-inch by 21-inch Cutting Board is a great option. If you would prefer to use a cutting board made of natural, sustainable materials, the Proteak Rectangular Edge-Grain Cutting Board is an excellent choice.
Always remember to be safe when handling raw meat. We’re sure that any of the cutting boards listed above will make a great tool for preparing your meats.