a cutting board placed on tabletop

The Best Cutting Board Materials – Wood, Bamboo, Rubber Or Plastic?


The cutting board is one of the most useful basic items in a modern kitchen. It serves many other purposes in addition to its primary use of providing a flat and even surface on which cooks cut food ingredients. Some cutting boards, for instance, are used for plating some foods, such as juicy steaks, to avoid messing up the table. 

If you have a cutting board made of the right material, you can even use it as a trivet for holding hot dishes that come out of the oven. Moreover, cutting boards offer the perfect surface to thaw frozen food materials slowly, such as fish fillets, which you have taken out of the freezer before cooking.

The primary purpose of a cutting board, however, is to provide a convenient surface for the cook to prepare ingredients by chopping, cutting, slicing, or dicing them into the convenient size for cooking. Cutting boards come in different shapes and sizes. They are also made of different materials, which mean that some are superior to others. It is important, therefore, that you take into consideration some of the factors we have discussed in this article when you are in the market for a cutting board to use in your kitchen.


Features to consider when choosing a cutting board

Size of the Cutting Board

How big or small the best cutting board for your kitchen is depends on your cooking requirements. This has a lot to do with the number of people you often cook for. Smaller cooking ingredients are easy to cut on a big cutting board but cutting many large ingredients on a small cutting board could prove cumbersome and inconvenient for cooks. The size is also determined by the methods you use to clean the cutting board.

3 sizes wooden cutting boards

Note that not all cutting boards can be tossed into the dishwasher for cleaning. Some require hand washing in the sink depending on the material that the board is made of. You don't want to have a board that is too big to fit in your dishwasher or kitchen sink. The size of the cutting board that you pick should also be convenient to store in your kitchen cabinet or kitchen storage shelves when the board is not in use.

Sanitation

Food items that are cut on the board surface have the tendency of leaving behind traces of material and juices that can harbor bacteria. The impact of the knife on the board when cutting food items also makes small dents on the surface of the board and juices from the food can be trapped in such dents. The cleaning process of different boards should eradicate all traces of the food items and juices left on the board in order to cleanse the board for later use.

Plastic cutting boards can be cleaned in the dishwasher. Moreover, their surfaces are non-porous, meaning that only traces of food can be trapped on the surface. The surface on plastic boards, however, could be damaged by knives to form lines that trap small food items.

Wooden boards, on the other hand, allow the knife to make deeper dents. Luckily, the wooden surface does not harbor bacteria; it kills off the organisms naturally even when they remain intact after cleaning. Wooden boards, however, are not safe for dishwasher cleaning and should never be left in the sink for long since the wooden material tends to soak up water.

Material used to make board

The material used to make the board has a direct impact on the methods that you should follow to properly care for the cutting board and clean it. Plastic boards, for instance, can be cleaned in the dishwasher while wooden boards cannot. Different materials also affect how the board treats your knife after it is used to cut food items on the surface of the board.

easy to clean wooden cutting board

Wooden board surfaces are kinder to the knife's edge and using a knife on the surfaces does not compromise the sharpness of the blade. Glass boards are hard and more likely to damage the knife's sharp edge. As such, it is advisable to avoid cutting anything on them.

Appearance

You should also consider how the cutting board looks when it is hanged on the kitchen utensil rack or placed on a shelf. Cutting boards come in beautiful patterns that are not only appealing when hang in the kitchen but also when placed on a dining table when serving food. Modern chefs can also use beautifully patterned cutting boards as backgrounds when taking photos of food to post on social media sites.


Materials used to make cutting boards

Plastic Cutting boards

Many people consider plastic cutting boards the best and safest for use due to their easy cleaning process that supports dishwasher cleaning. They also come in multiple colors and shapes, which makes it convenient for cooks who like to use different boards when preparing food to avoid cross contamination.

cutting food on plastic cutting board

Based on the experience of many cooks, however, plastic cutting boards often perform poorly due to the impact of the knife on the boards' surface that leaves permanent cuts on it. The mutilated surface on plastic boards enables food items to be trapped in the cuts and bacteria are bound to accumulate in such spaces overtime.

The knife's impact on the surface of the plastic cutting board also chips off some of the material, which might find its way into the food. This makes the plastic cutting boards unsafe to use. Plastic boards only perform well when they are new and should be replaced when the surface on the board begins to have multiple visible cuts.

Rubber Cutting Boards

Rubber cutting boards have become popular in professional kitchens due to their many advantages and easy maintenance process. Rubber has an advantage over wood since it is non-porous and does not allow food juices to seep through. Unlike plastic, the surface on rubber cutting boards is also scratch and chip resistant.

The soft nature of rubber allows it to yield a little bit, thus allowing absorption of the impact of the sharp edge of a knife without damaging the surface of the board or the knife. Cleaning of the rubber boards is also easy. Their recommended cleaning method is hand washing with hot water and soap. What's more, the rubber surface is water resistant and does not soak up water even when left in the sink for a long time.

cutting fish on rubber cutting board

Maintenance of the rubber is also easy. If you accidentally force your way through the rubber surface by applying too much pressure with a sharp knife, the surface can easily be restored to its flat nature using a simple sanding procedure.

The rubber cutting boards, however, are expensive and heavier in comparison to others. But if you get a rubber board for use in your kitchen, it is guaranteed to last for a very long time. The heavy nature of the board also restricts it from moving around when you are cutting food items on the surface. It is important to note, however, that placing hot pots and pans on the rubber material damages its surface. This restricts the use of the boards to plate food or hold saucepans that have been in the oven.

Wooden Cutting Boards

Wooden cutting blocks have been used in the kitchen for the longest time and are still the most preferred material for a cutting board by most chefs. This is mostly because the surface of wooden blocks allows the knife through when there is impact between the knife and the wooden surface, thereby leaving the knife's sharp edge intact.

a food place on wooden cutting board

The small lines that the knife leaves on the wooden surface also have no harm since the wooden material has fibers that close back after sometime. Some specific wood materials such as maple wood or beech have self-healing capability and repair the damage the impact of a knife causes on the wooden surface. Moreover, the wooden material does not harbor bacteria.

Wooden cutting blocks, therefore, can be used for plating food such as roasted steaks and barbecued ribs as well as hold hot pots and saucepans that would otherwise damage the table. Wooden cutting boards also work great when you want somewhere to place frozen food for thawing before cooking.

Bamboo Cutting Boards

Environmentalists prefer bamboo cutting boards because bamboo is renewable unlike wood. Cooks also like the bamboo material because it allows less juices to seep through.

vegetable on bamboo cutting board

The small fibers on the surface of bamboo, however, can damage the knives' sharp edge by trapping the blade. This action also interrupts smooth cutting on the board and the cook could end up mutilating delicate food items such as ripe tomatoes.

Glass / Marble Boards

Glass and marble boards are not meant for cutting but rather for plating food. Cutting anything on a glass or marble surface damages both the board and the sharp edge of the knife.

The attractive designs that are common on marble boards offer an attractive place for plating food when serving guests while the flat and smooth surface on glass boards can be used when rolling dough.

food is placed on cutting board

Marble and glass boards are also very delicate, which means that a simple drop from your hands could cause large cracks on the surface or the whole board shattering into pieces from the impact.


What is the healthiest cutting board material

Plastic and wooden cutting boards are the favorite cutting boards for most cooks. However, with the introduction of rubber boards in the modern kitchen, the two types of boards are being phased out due to the many advantages that come with using a rubber cutting board.

Rubber boards carry the advantages that come with both wooden and plastic boards while at the same time mitigating most of the shortcomings of the two materials. Cleaning the rubber materials is easy. 

The surface of rubber boards also does not chip off or damage the knife, something that makes rubber boards better as compared to plastic cutting boards. The rubber material is non-porous and does not allow juices to seep through as is common for wooden cutting blocks.

The only shortcoming of rubber boards is that they melt when hot items are placed on the rubber surface. Considering that they are cutting boards, however, we cannot use how they hold up against hot pots and pans to discredit them.

Cutting board cleaning and maintenance

Cutting boards require proper care and maintenance for safe and healthy cooking since they are used to prepare ingredients before they go into the cooking pot or pan. The material that makes up the cutting board determines the methods that one should use when cleaning and taking care of the cutting board.

The proper cleaning procedure for a wooden cutting board involves scraping off any food items that are on the surface immediately after use. The board should then be hand washed under warm running water and a soap before rinsing thereafter. The board should then be wiped dry using a soft cotton cloth and then air-dried.

 The wooden surface also requires wiping with mineral oil once every few months to get rid of the odors and stains that can build up over time. The wooden material also soaks up water easily when the board is left in a sink for a long time. The board should also never be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Bamboo cutting boards require similar care as the wooden boards since they too can soak up water. The surface on bamboo boards, however, does not require treating with oil since the bamboo material does not allow as much food juices to seep through. It is imperative to note that bamboo boards are also more likely to get damaged by hot pots and pans that are placed on their surface. You, therefore, should keep plating food on bamboo boards to a minimal.

Plastic boards are safe for dishwasher cleaning. The surface on them, however, becomes damaged due to the impact of the sharp edge of knives when cutting food items on the boards. The chips on the surface can harbor food items that then act as breeding ground for bacteria. As such, should inspect your plastic cutting boards regularly for damages and replace boards that have too many visible chips. Moreover, plastic does not hold up well against hot items and can melt. As such, avoid placing hot pots and pans on plastic and rubber cutting boards.