A good cutting board is in the same tier as a great chef’s knife or a cast-iron skillet. Adding one to your kitchen set-up can really improve your cooking experience.
Whether you’re dicing vegies, chopping herbs or slicing steak, using the right board will make the process easier and possibly protect your knife in the process.
Wood, plastic or glass?
Most chopping boards are made from wood (such as maple, cherry or walnut), bamboo, or a synthetic material such as plastic or rubber.
Wood boards tend to have a more supple surface than plastic which means they’re gentler on your knives. They can also be more scratch-resistant, which results in fewer bacteria-trapping gouges.
Wood and bamboo are naturally antimicrobial materials but are harder to clean overall. You can’t pop them in the dishwasher and forget about them. You need to clean these chopping boards right away – especially when working with raw meat or pungent foods such as garlic and onion.
Finally, wood boards can be heavy and cumbersome to carry and clean.
Hard plastic boards can wreak havoc on your knives but are much easier to clean than wood. The non-porous surface won’t absorb odours or meat juices. And a wipe with a chlorine-based solution prevents bacteria build-up.
A set of colour-coded plastic boards can be great in avoiding cross-contamination when cooking. They tend to be lighter and more compact than wood, too.
Most people who spend a lot of time cooking will use wood as their everyday standby cutting board but also keep a synthetic, lightweight board nearby for quick clean-up after handling smelly or bacteria-prone ingredients. Both of them have a time and a place in the kitchen.
Glass, marble and slate all look great but will blunt your knives. Stick to using them for serving only.
What to look for in a chopping board
Make sure your new board is sturdy and will stay in place while you’re chopping. A board that slips around during use is not only frustrating, but it can be dangerous.
A reversible board can give you two workstations in one. Chef Abra Berens says that reversible boards can also keep all your food from tasting like garlic.
“One cutting board trick of the trade is to mark one side for onion and garlic and the other for everything else. This keeps your tomatoes and strawberries from picking up any off-flavours by virtue of the surface,” says Ms Berens. “You can have that side branded with a fancy label; I just write “Onion/Garlic Only” on one side with a permanent marker.”
Larger boards give you more room to work with. Boards that are at least 18 by 24 inches are big enough to hold multiple piles of ingredients at once.
How to store your chopping boards
Make sure boards are bone dry and then store upright. This will prevent moisture build-up.
When to replace a chopping board
How long a board lasts depends on how often it is used and how well it is maintained. Plastic boards should be replaced once they get heavily knife marked, as there’s a chance the grooves can harbour bacteria.
If there are grooves in your quality hardwood board, but it’s otherwise in good condition, sand it back and recoat with a board oil.
The easiest way to tell if your board needs re-oiling is to sprinkle a small amount of water on it. If the droplets sit on top of the board, it is still seasoned. If the water seeps into the wood, it’s time to re-oil.
Five top cutting boards of 2021
Big Chop is proudly Tasmanian and sources premium timber from responsibly harvested Australian species.
The boards in The Nile River collection are made from Blackwood and Celery Top Pine – two iconic Tasmanian timbers.
This high quality yet affordable set includes a small, medium, and large size board so you can select the one that best suits your task. The built-in handles assist with handling and storage.
This non-slip reversible chopping board is perfect for dicing, chopping and cutting. It’s made from food-safe hygienic polypropylene, which is gentle on knife edges.
It’s also dishwasher safe, stain-resistant and non-absorbent.
This two-in-one cutting board and knife sharpener is great for small kitchens. The non-slip edging means the board won’t slip around the counter when chopping or sharpening.
This lightweight cutting board made from special Japanese kiri wood is very gentle on knives.
It’s also warp resistant and quick drying. The kiri wood is known for its antibacterial properties, making this a great chopping board to use with meat.
What cutting board do you use? Do you prefer wood or plastic? Please share your recommendations in the comments section below.
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