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The Best Cutting Boards

After spending more than 150 hours of research interviewing chefs and materials experts, chopping copious pounds of produce, and using and abusing nearly 30 cutting boards, we found that the plastic OXO Good Grips 15-inch-by-21-inch Cutting and Carving Board and the wood Proteak Rectangle 20-inch-by-15-inch Edge Grain Cutting Board are best for most people. Both boards offer an excellent balance of cutting feel, durability, and ease of cleaning. They stood up to sharp knives, dark stains, and strong odors better than the competition. And after years of long-term testing, neither board has split or egregiously warped from misuse.

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Last Updated: Two months ago
Our former favorite plastic board, the Prepworks Cutting Board, warped during long-term testing, so after a new round of testing, we now recommend the more stable OXO Cutting Board. Our favorite wood board is still the Proteak Rectangle Edge Grain Cutting Board, but we also like the Madeira Medium Teak Chopping Block if you’re short on space.
Expand Most Recent Updates
Two years ago: We updated the Care and Maintenance section with more tips on oiling and sanding a wooden board.
Two years ago: After testing 22 cutting boards and spending more than 120 hours on research, we’ve determined that the plastic Prepworks Cutting Board is the best for most people. If that sells out, or if you need a bigger plastic board, the OXO Good Grips 15-inch by 21-inch Cutting Board makes a good alternative. And if you want a more satisfying wood board, and don’t mind the maintenance involved, we love the Proteak Rectangular Cutting Board.
Two years ago: After a year’s worth of long-term testing, we’re changing our top plastic and wood board picks. The Prepworks Progressive cutting board (11¼ by 17¼ inches) is the best workhorse plastic board for cutting vegetables and/or meats. It resists knife scars, cleans easily in a sink or dishwasher, is lightweight and easy to carry, collects juices in its groove, and hits a very reasonable price point. We also recommend an OXO Good Grips plastic board, our prior pick, for larger prep needs or better counter grip, and a wood Proteak edge-grain cutting board for those willing to trade some maintenance for looks and better knife treatment. We’re planning a full update to this guide, with details on maintenance, cutting mats, and expert opinions, within the next month.
Three years ago: Setting this guide to wait status while we investigate some recent bad reviews of our wooden board pick.
Four years ago: Updated with our findings for why we do not recommend composite cutting boards. It's definitely better to stick with wood and plastic.
Four years ago: Updated with our observations from using both the plastic and wooden picks for nearly a year. See the long-term test notes section below.
Four years ago: If you must get a smaller board due to space constraints, the same picks apply, just go for the smaller version.
Our pick
OXO Good Grips Carving & Cutting Board
This plastic board resists warping, staining, and odors better than the other plastic boards we tested. The rubber feet keep it stationary, and the juice groove does an excellent job collecting liquids.
Our pick
Proteak TeakHaus Rectangle Edge Grain Cutting Board with Hand Grip
This beautiful, eco-conscious teak board requires more careful cleaning than a plastic board, but it feels better under a knife and is easier to maintain than the other wood boards we tested.

Also great
OXO Good Grips 10.5-inch-by-14.5-inch Utility Cutting Board
This OXO cutting board is a smaller version of our main plastic pick. Like the large OXO board, it’s made from polypropylene and has rubber feet to keep it stable while chopping.

If you have limited counter space in your kitchen or prefer using a smaller board, we recommend getting the OXO Good Grips 10.5-inch-by-14.5-inch Utility Cutting Board. It’s great for simple tasks like slicing an apple or chopping a single large carrot. The OXO Utility Board has the same rubber feet as the larger OXO carving board; they keep the board securely in place while chopping. Unlike our main pick, its juice groove doesn’t have the capacity to hold the drippings from a whole roast chicken, but it’s still useful when chopping a couple of juicy tomatoes. Like the larger OXO carving board we recommend, the Utility Cutting Board resists warping, staining, and strong odors better than the competition.

Also great
Madeira Medium Teak 14-inch-by-14-inch Chopping Block
This handsome wood board requires more careful cleaning than a plastic board, but it’s the perfect size for small kitchens. Since it’s thicker than the other small wood cutting boards we tested, it’s less likely to warp from misuse.

For those who prefer a smaller wood board than our main pick, we recommend the Madeira Medium Teak 14-inch-by-14-inch Chopping Block. Like our top pick, this board feels great under a knife. The Madeira block is also heavier than most other wood boards in this size range, so it remains stable on the counter while chopping. In our tests, it stood up to spills and messy ingredients better than most of the competition. Unlike most of the wood boards we tested, the Madeira Chopping Block is remarkably unfussy to care for. That said, it still requires regular oil treatments and needs to stay mostly free of moisture.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

To better understand how to choose and maintain cutting boards, we interviewed the following experts:

To find the best boards to test, we also looked for recommendations from trusted editorial sources like Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) and The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome). We compiled the recommendations of commenters on our site, as well as those from Chowhound, ChefTalk, and Serious Eats forums. We also looked at the bestselling and best-reviewed boards on Amazon, CuttingBoard.com, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Kevin Purdy spent over 120 hours researching and testing cutting boards. He scoured hundreds of customer reviews, knife and woodworking forums, blog posts, and microbiology and culinary journal articles. Michael Sullivan spent an additional 30 hours researching and testing cutting boards for this guide. Collectively, both writers have spent years long-term testing cutting boards in their own homes and in the Sweethome test kitchen. Additionally, several Wirecutter and Sweethome staff members participated in our testing and provided feedback.

Finally, Wirecutter science editor Leigh Boerner helped us research materials that made up each board: wood grains and glues, composite resins, and the major types of plastic used in cutting boards.

Who should get this

A cutting board is essential for any kitchen, and most experts recommend having at least two: one for cutting raw or cooked meats, poultry, and fish; the other for vegetables, fruits, or cooked foods. Having multiple boards on hand is especially convenient when preparing a lot of food for family gatherings or holiday meals.

If aesthetics are important to you, a handsome wood board can be left on your counter and will go seamlessly from kitchen to table. For those that want an inexpensive surface that’s easy to clean and maintain, we’d recommend getting a plastic cutting board.

If you already have a cutting board, but it’s warped, badly stained, or riddled with deep gouges, it’s probably time for an upgrade.

Plastic boards versus wood boards

You’ll find boards made from a range of materials, but according to our experts, plastic and wood are the best for most kitchens. All of our testers agreed that wood boards feel better than plastic under a knife. When asked what board they’d most want to cut on, the chefs we spoke with tended to pick wood blocks. But when asked what they’d buy for a 22-year-old nephew or niece moving into their first apartment on their own, they each replied with some variation of “a plastic board they’ll probably treat terribly and replace in two years,” similar to the boards they received from restaurant supply stores.

Some of our testers hated the look of plastic boards and didn’t like the way the knife made contact with the board. Sam Sifton told us during testing, “I don’t like the noise and I don’t like how plastic degrades. You can always sand a wood board, but you can’t do that with plastic.” That said, some people may simply not have room for a big slab of wood, or might want, as chef Michael Dimmer put it, a board they can “leave in a sink overnight, or when (they) have people over, and no harm done.”

Plastic is a better surface for prepping raw meat, as it’s less likely to stain and can be washed in a dishwasher. However, as Sam Sifton noted during testing, “You’re not bound by the rules of the health department in your own home.” You can still use wood boards for preparing raw meats; they just require more diligence when cleaning.

Choosing between wood and plastic depends on your cooking and cleaning preferences. Here’s how the two materials compare:

Plastic:

  • Plastic boards are dishwasher-safe, easy to clean, and require no extra maintenance.
  • Plastic boards are typically thinner and lighter than most wood boards, so they’re easier to move and store.
  • Plastic boards dull knife edges faster than wood.
  • Cuts and gouge marks from knives will show more on plastic boards than wood boards.
  • Plastic boards that are used frequently should be replaced about every two years, since lingering bacteria can hide out in deep cuts or scratches (when a sponge or dishcloth snags on the board, or your knife skips over deep cuts, it’s time for a new one).

Wood:

All of our testers agreed that wood boards feel better than plastic under a knife.
  • Wood boards are easier on knife edges than plastic boards.
  • Cuts and gouge marks from knives are more forgiving on wood boards because they tend to close up and self-heal over time.
  • If properly cared for, wood boards will last longer than plastic boards (and can be sanded down after they start to look rugged).
  • Thicker wood boards are often quieter when chopping compared to most plastic boards.
  • Wood is prone to warping and requires more maintenance than plastic—the boards must be hand-washed and oiled frequently.
  • Wood boards are generally heavier and thicker than plastic boards, so they may be more cumbersome to move and take up additional space in a cupboard.

How we picked

About a dozen different cutting boards stacked on top of one another with a chopping knife sitting on top of the pile.

We spent over 150 hours researching and testing cutting boards for this guide.

Most experts recommend having one board large enough to chop several ingredients at once: at least 15 inches along one side. Chad Ward notes in An Edge in the Kitchen: “A cutting board 15 inches by 20 inches is about the functional limit for most household sinks… however, you need as much size as you can get to prevent stuff running off onto your countertops.” Sushi chef Ken Legnon agreed but said 16 inches by 22 inches is his favorite size.

Wood boards come in two styles, end grain and edge grain, and we considered both for this guide. End grain boards are made of a number of board ends glued together, and they can be more gentle on knives because the edge slides between the vertical wood fibers. Cuts and other marks tend to close more efficiently, self-healing over time, but the exposed ends also make them easier to dry out, stain, and crack. Edge grain boards (like our Proteak pick) are the sides of boards glued together in alternating strips, with the sides (edges) facing up. These boards tend to be harder on knife edges than end grain boards, but they also withstand moisture-based cracking and splitting better, and they are easier to clean. (This diagram illustrates the difference between end and edge grain nicely.)

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Most plastic cutting boards are made of either high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or polypropylene (PP), or occasionally a proprietary blend of polyethylene and polypropylene. The very short version of the differences between the two types of polymers is that polypropylene is harder but more brittle, while polyethylene, particularly high-density polyethylene, is softer but more flexible. We tested both polyethylene and polypropylene boards for this guide.

We also looked at composite and other materials: Composite boards are essentially many layers of Richlite baked and pressed together. They are food-safe and easily maintained, but generally quite tough on knife edges. Granite and glass boards are very hard and will dull a knife’s blade.

We looked for plastic and wood boards with a groove around the perimeter that collects juices from roasts and ripe tomatoes. Keep in mind that a juice groove can only do so much. We still recommend placing absorbent towels underneath a board with a groove if you’re carving a juicy roast.

We avoided plastic boards with a handle cut into the side because it reduces the usable chopping surface area. We looked for thicker wood boards with finger grooves on the side, which makes them easier to pick up and transport.

The best boards sit solidly without sliding on a countertop. “You want ease in movement with your knife, not the board,” said chef Boye, who dismissed many of our test boards as too light. Heavier wood boards move less but can also be a bear to move for cleaning or storage. Plastic boards tend to be more squirrelly because they’re thinner and lighter than wood boards. For our latest round of testing, we searched for plastic boards that have grippy feet or borders around the perimeter to keep them more stable.

A closeup of the black grippy feet on the left and right side of a plastic OXO cutting board.

We looked for plastic cutting boards with grippy feet to keep them stable while chopping. (Above: The OXO Good Grips Cutting Board)

How a board looks matters mostly if you’re going to keep it out on a counter. But how the board feels under a knife, and how easily it cleans and stores, matters most.

In the end, we found that form, function, and feel were a better guide to picking out a good cutting board than a strict focus on knife edge retention. The differences in how one plastic board affects your knife edge versus another is small and offset by many other factors: acids, interactions with different foods, and other kitchen happenings. It was certainly considered—and one of our chef experts was particularly concerned with it—but if you regularly sharpen (and steel) your chef’s knife, none of the cutting boards we considered will cause you to lose your knife edge midway through dinner prep.

After years of research, we’ve tested nearly 30 wood, plastic, composite, and rubber boards that fit our criteria. We discarded those that were too small, too big or thick for most kitchens, or difficult to reliably locate and buy.

How we tested

For our original guide, we tested all of the boards over the course of four months on a rotating basis in one editor’s kitchen for everyday cooking. For our most recent update, we invited several members of the Wirecutter and Sweethome staff with varying levels of cooking experience to participate in our testing. We also invited Sam Sifton, food editor of The New York Times (parent company of The Wirecutter and The Sweethome), to test each of our top contenders and give us his thoughts.

We recorded each board’s performance in specific tests. We looked to see if they fit in a standard dishwasher, semi-standard (15-by-20-inch) sink, or a divided 15-by-15-inch sink. We noted whether the boards stained or retained odors after letting beet juice and garlic paste sit on them for 30 minutes. We also cut carrots, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, apples, and a variety of citrus fruits, noting the sound and feel of the boards, and whether they scarred. To see how well the boards healed after heavy knife use, we cut crusty bread with a serrated knife. We also noted how much each board slipped across a countertop, with and without a towel placed underneath.

The best plastic cutting board: OXO Good Grips Cutting Board

A white plastic OXO Good Grips cutting board with black grips running along the left and right hand sides. There is a carton of cherry tomatoes, five large tomatoes, and a knife on top of the cutting board.

Our pick
OXO Good Grips Carving & Cutting Board
This plastic board resists warping, staining, and odors better than the other plastic boards we tested. The rubber feet keep it stationary, and the juice groove does an excellent job collecting liquids.

After more than three years of long-term testing, we’re back to recommending the OXO Good Grips Cutting Board as the best plastic board for most people. Its 15-by-21-inch size is large enough to comfortably chop several vegetables for mirepoix or carve a 12-pound turkey. In our tests, the juice groove on the OXO board was able to hold a surprising amount of liquid—an added benefit when chopping tomatoes or slicing a roast. The OXO board did an excellent job resisting stains and odors, too. And the grippy feet on the sides of the board keep in place better than other plastic boards that lack this helpful feature.

The OXO board provides ample space for nearly every chopping and slicing task you’d want to accomplish in the kitchen. Our testers had plenty of room to chop, even with several ingredients piled on the board. The juice groove on the board holds roughly 9 tablespoons of liquid, an impressive amount compared to other boards we tested. Keep in mind, the OXO board won’t fit into some dishwashers unless it’s turned at an angle. But if you prefer using a smaller cutting board that will have no issue fitting in a dishwasher, we also recommend the 10½-by-14½-inch OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board. We think the smaller board is great for small tasks like slicing an apple or chopping an onion.

A small OXO cutting board sitting on top of a large OXO cutting board to show the difference in size.

We recommend using the small OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board (top) for simple tasks like slicing an apple, and the larger OXO Good Grips Cutting Board (bottom) for bigger jobs like slicing a roast.

Made with a harder, more slick material (polypropylene), with some slight marbling applied to the surface, the OXO board provides a secure grip with a chef’s knife. The board feels great under a knife and the blade doesn’t slip. After a run through the dishwasher, the board showed no stains from beet juice and we couldn’t detect any residual odor from garlic paste. Since it’s surprisingly light for its size, we found it easy to maneuver and store, too. Most of our testers agreed that it looks professional and more presentable than the other plastic boards we tested.

A video of a person scraping garlic into a pan off of an OXO cutting board.

The grippy sides of the OXO are level with the surface of the board, so your knife’s blade won’t catch on it when scraping food directly into a pan.

The board feels great under a knife and the blade doesn’t slip.

The rubbery feet on the sides of the board (available in black or red) do an excellent job keeping it in place while chopping. That said, if you’re going to a lot of chopping, we’d still recommend placing a thick towel underneath the board for added stability.

An overhead shot of a person slicing tomatoes on a plastic OXO cutting board.

The grippy feet on both sides of the OXO board do an excellent job keeping it stable while slicing.

All of OXO’s products are covered by a satisfaction guarantee which states that you can return any product for any reason if you’re not satisfied. For returns and replacements, contact the company’s customer service department.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Negative reviews address two main concerns: counter slipping, when the board is used with only its rubber feet and no towel underneath, and knife scarring. Cook’s Illustrated and our own testing saw an OXO board scar under hundreds of knife marks, but so does any board.

Your knife won’t gouge the plastic on most chops and slices, but if the knife blade comes down particularly hard on the board, it can lock in place as if it’s cutting on a rail. It’s a small issue that only happens once in awhile, but it’s something our testers experienced. The OXO board is also louder to cut on than our wood picks, especially if you don’t have a thick towel or rag placed underneath it.

After long-term testing the OXO board for two years, it bent more than we would have liked, despite never going into the dishwasher. (For our most recent update, we ran a new OXO board through the dishwasher several times and it did not warp.) However, since the pros recommend replacing plastic boards after two years anyway, we don’t consider a slight bend in the board a dealbreaker.

The best wood cutting board: Proteak Rectangular Edge-Grain Cutting Board

An overhead shot of a person slicing radicchio on a wood Proteak cutting board.

Our pick
Proteak TeakHaus Rectangle Edge Grain Cutting Board with Hand Grip
This beautiful, eco-conscious teak board requires more careful cleaning than a plastic board, but it feels better under a knife and is easier to maintain than the other wood boards we tested.

For a wood option, we highly recommend the striking and sophisticated Proteak Rectangular Edge-Grain Cutting Board. Made from sustainably harvested teak, it feels better under a knife than most other boards we tested. It stays in place with minimal help, but it’s not so heavy that you can’t easily move it. The Proteak also requires less maintenance than most wood boards, but it’s still far more vulnerable to moisture damage and staining than plastic. For those with the counter space and the patience for every-other-month oilings, we think the Proteak will be a valued asset to your kitchen.

In every test, the Proteak allowed for smooth motion with a sharp knife, both parallel to and against the grain. The teak was hard enough to allow for clean cuts, but still soft enough to maintain a knife’s sharp edge. The bamboo boards we tested were too hard on knife edges, while others, like the hinoki boards we tried, were too soft. Sushi chef Ken Legnon agreed: “It’s durable, but it still helps maintain your edge, long-term.” Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) also liked the Proteak, calling it “knife-friendly.”

Teak wood fights off moisture more effectively than the most common wood-cutting-board materials, so it requires less oiling. In fact, Teak has been used in boatbuilding for more than 2,000 years because of its remarkable moisture-fighting properties. It is “the gold standard for (rot) resistance.” Its 2.0 shrinkage (T/R) ratio is about the lowest of any wood considered hard enough to be used as a cutting board. That’s likely why the Proteak looked better after months of kitchen duty than our prior maple pick from Boos. In their own tests, Cook’s (subscription required) found the Proteak “retained its satiny, flat surface” due in part to oily resins sealed in the board, even after three months of heavy use in its test kitchens (“the equivalent of years of use in the average home kitchen”).

A closeup of a person lifting the Proteak cutting board using the slots on the side of the board.

Though the slots on either end of the Proteak are shallow and unfinished, they do help with lifting the board.

The 15-inch-by-20-inch Proteak board is 1.5 inches thick and weighs 12 pounds, so it barely budges on most counters. Sliding even just one or two layers of damp paper towels underneath eliminates any minor movements. (If counter stability without a towel is more important to you than reversibility, you could easily glue some rubber feet to this board.) The Proteak board has slots in the ends that, while oddly shallow and unfinished, do help with lifting the board. For a few dollars more, this same size board is also available with a juice canal on one side. For big jobs like carving a Thanksgiving turkey, we highly recommend Proteak’s Teakhaus 24-by-18-inch board with a juice canal, the larger version of our pick.

A closeup of a Proteak wood cutting board with a juice canal.

For a few dollars more, the Proteak Rectangular Edge-Grain Cutting Board is also available with a juice canal on one side of the board.

Each Proteak board is different, more so than with maple boards, and each ages over time into richer colors. Chef Jennifer Boye was quickly drawn to the Proteak’s unique looks and pattern, and she recommended it as her top wood pick. One of our testers called it “a very luxurious board.” Sam Sifton agreed, saying the Proteak board was “wicked nice.” As it has been stained, smeared, cut upon, and slightly abused, the wood has not taken on a lighter, worn appearance at the center as did a Boos board we tested. It has simply picked up a few marks here and there.

Teak wood fights off moisture more effectively than the most common wood-cutting-board materials, so it requires less oiling.

Proteak offers reams of information about the wood it uses: its planting, harvesting, carbon policies, and certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). In fact, according to their website, Proteak manages six FSC certificates in “Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S.A. abiding by the highest sustainable forestry standards.” Proteak’s wood is specifically not sourced from Myanmar (Burma), where human rights abuses have caused some nations to ban Burmese teak imports.

Proteak warranties its products for one year against “defects in workmanship and material,” but not “damage resulting from neglect or misuse of the product—” a very standard warranty for wood cutting boards. Contact Teakhaus if you need a refund or replacement.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The biggest flaw for any wood board is the need for maintenance and for caution with liquids to avoid warping, cracking, and splitting.

Teak withstands moisture better than most woods, but you should avoid letting liquids sit on the board for more than a few minutes, if possible. After you’re done cutting, wipe the board down with warm, soapy water, but never immerse the board in a sink full of water. And you must oil the board―roughly once a month, or more if the board gets “thirsty” (more on this in care and maintenance).

Aside from its required maintenance, the Proteak’s main drawback is the shallow side handle slots that only allow you to get your fingertips into the board. However, since the handle slots still provide a decent grip, we don’t think this is a dealbreaker.

Also great: Madeira Medium Teak 14-inch-by-14-inch Chopping Block

A smaller Madeira teak cutting board with some herbs on top of it.

Also great
Madeira Medium Teak 14-inch-by-14-inch Chopping Block
This handsome wood board requires more careful cleaning than a plastic board, but it’s the perfect size for small kitchens. Since it’s thicker than the other small wood cutting boards we tested, it’s less likely to warp from misuse.

If you don’t have room in your kitchen for a large wood cutting board or prefer working on a smaller board, we recommend getting the Madeira Medium Teak 14-inch-by-14-inch Chopping Block. Like our top pick, our testers said it felt great under a knife. It’s also heavier than most other wood boards in this size range, which means it’s more resistant to warping. In our tests, it remained stable on a counter while we chopped. The Madeira board stood up to spills and messy ingredients better than most of the competition too. Like all wood boards, the Madeira Chopping Block requires regular oil treatments and should remain mostly free of moisture.

An overhead shot of a person chopping herbs on a smaller Madeira wood cutting board.

In our tests, the Madeira board remained stable on a counter while we chopped.

Out of all the small wood boards we tried, our testers liked chopping on the Madeira Chopping Block best. Sam Sifton said of the Madeira board, “For an apartment, it’s great.” It weighs 5 pounds, 5.6 ounces, so it was heavy enough to remain stable on a counter (for added stability, we’d still recommend using a couple of damp paper towels). At 1¼ inches thick, the Madeira Chopping Block is thicker than most other boards we tested in this size range. Sweethome editor Tim Heffernan said, “The height is nice for scraping things off with a knife. I would worry about thinner boards warping.”

Three wood cutting boards of different sizes stacked on top of one another with a knife on top.

The hand slots on the sides of the board measure about 5¼ inches long (1¼ inches longer than the hand slots on our main pick), which makes it easier to pick up and move the board. However, like our main wood pick, the slots aren’t deep enough to fit more than just your fingertips.

A closeup of a person picking up the Madeira cutting board using the hand slots on the side of the board.

The hand slots on the sides of the Madeira board make it easier to pick up and move.

Like the Proteak board we recommend, the Madeira Chopping Block resisted stains better than the competition. Beet juice stains were barely noticeable after a couple of washings. Garlic paste left a strong odor on the Madeira board. However, we were able to remove the scent after scrubbing the board a few times.

The Madeira Chopping Block is thicker than most other boards we tested in this size range.

According to the Madeira Housewares website, the teak used for this board is responsibly harvested “from one of the largest Teak Plantations in the world, located in South America.” Madeira Housewares is also FSC certified.

The Madeira Chopping Block needs to be cared for with regular oil treatments to prevent warping or cracks. Madeira Housewares offers a limited warranty for their products “for a period of 30 days from the date of purchase to be free from defects in materials and workmanship.” Contact Madeira Housewares if you need a replacement or refund.

Care and maintenance

Cleaning plastic boards:

Whenever possible, use the dishwasher to sanitize plastic boards, particularly after working with meats. Use the dishwasher’s delicate/econo setting or set a timer to pull out the board during the drying cycle to keep boards from warping. If the dishwasher isn’t an option, experts recommend a hard scrubbing with soapy water under fast-flowing water.

Cleaning wood boards:

For wood boards, Chad Ward’s An Edge in the Kitchen offers two cleaning techniques if you need more than a quick, soapy wipe-and-dry after chopping:

To avoid the chance of cracking or warping, never, ever leave liquids on a wood board.
  • Keep a spray bottle filled with a 25 percent vinegar, 75 percent water solution. Spray your board down with the solution and let it dry on its side, or wipe it down after a bit of soaking. (This works for a plastic board, too, if you can’t get it into the sink or dishwasher.)
  • For hard to remove smells and stains, make a thick paste of kosher salt and water, rubbing it across the surface of your wood board, letting it sit overnight, and scraping it off in the morning (with a bench scraper, if you have one). Smells, stains, and germs should be gone.

Proteak offers a variety of cleaning techniques for its boards, including undiluted vinegar, a hydrogen peroxide solution, and bleach. Ward, however, recommends against using bleach, and so do we after seeing how it dried and discolored a Boos board we tested.

To avoid the chance of cracking or warping, never leave liquids on a wood board (and don’t even think about immersing it in a sink!). “When we’re doing long-term wood testing, when we want products to fail? We put them under water,” said Brian Brashaw, then program director at the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota Duluth (now the program manager at the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory). “Water is the enemy of the wood in your home.”

Oiling and sanding wood boards:

There is no one schedule for oiling boards, much like there is no one schedule for watering plants—it depends on the environment in which you’re storing the board. When we asked our wood experts, chefs, and Chad Ward how often they oil their wood boards, the universal answer was “less often than I should.” Proteak recommends oiling every week or two; Cook’s suggests twice a year for the Proteak board. Every month is a smart middle ground for the Proteak, with some grace built into the more humid summer months. But there is absolutely no harm in oiling your board if it looks thirsty. We like this tutorial.

Another way to tell if your wooden board needs some oiling is to simply sprinkle some drops of water on the board with your fingertips, as suggested by J. Kenji López-Alt at The Food Lab. As with a waxed car, water should bead up and seemingly float on top of a well-oiled board. If you see the water disperse, or seemingly soak into the wood, give it more oil. In the same article, López-Alt also explains how to sand down your board. (Do this when your board becomes so marked up that it looks unsightly.)

The competition

Plastic boards

We used to recommend the plastic Prepworks Cutting Board but we don’t anymore because it warps. Initially, we liked the Prepworks board because it was inexpensive and made of low-density polyethylene (which is a softer material than the OXO board we recommend) so it felt great under a knife. But it also loses points for being significantly smaller than the OXO board and lacking rubber feet to keep it stable.

The Williams-Sonoma Non-Slip Cutting Board has grippy sides like the OXO, but our testers said it was too small. Sam Sifton said of the Williams-Sonoma board, “It’s too little. What’s it for, making tiny food for hamsters?”

Oneida’s Colours 16-inch cutting board has rubberized grips on two ends and comes in a nice size, but it doesn’t have a juice groove and we found its large handle holes allow juice to drip onto the counter.

The Dexas 14-by-17-inch Pastry Super Board feels smooth under a sharp knife, and the surface has a roughed-up texture that keeps food from slipping. Its Midnight Granite color hides knife marks and stains, but the board slips even with damp towels underneath. It also warped in our tests.

Like the OXO boards we recommend, the KitchenIQ Polypropylene Cutting Board has a grippy material that runs around the perimeter of the board and a juice groove. However, it was badly warped out of the box and worsened after repeated washings in the dishwasher.

Williams-Sonoma offers an exclusive antibacterial cutting board. It’s a good size at 16 by 12 inches, and it has Microban-like bacterial protection baked into its plastic. Its texture is similar to the Prepworks, if not quite as gripping, and its knife feel is better than most boards we dismissed. But its wide, smooth 11-teaspoon (just under 4 tablespoons) juice groove releases liquids more easily than the OXO, and its handles are so barely indented as to be superfluous.

We liked the counter-gripping feet and the surface texture on the Dexas Granite Grippboard, but it was so small it could barely hold half a diced onion. It also took on deep orange/red stains after a run through the dishwasher and it warped slightly.

The 15-by-20 Cutting Board Company plastic board doesn’t have grooves or any other stand-out features. Onion dicing felt good, carrot dicing was a bit loud, and a very sharp knife made mostly shallow surface scratches. But this board slips wherever if you lightly nudge it on a counter.

The surface of the Stanton Trading Company’s board was very soft. A serrated knife left remarkably deep scars on this board.

IKEA’s Legitim chopping board was too small. Also, since it’s only a quarter-inch-thin, you can bend it with your hands. Our knives left murderous gouges in it.

Wood boards

This reversible maple board by Boos was our previous wood board pick. It feels good under a knife, and counter slipping is almost nonexistent (given the board’s 18-pound heft). But this board requires a lot more upkeep than the Proteak. It developed a small crack in the handle after the first year of use and developed a lightened circle near the center of the board, even with regular oilings.

The first version of this guide had a 15-inch Boos Chop-N-Slice board as its top recommendation. After seeing a downward trend in Amazon reviews for the board, and learning more about how the wood dries, splits, and cracks, we now recommend a slightly thicker board made from more forgiving materials.

This 12-by-18 end-grain cherry board by Brooklyn Butcher Block illustrated the tradeoffs of end grain boards over edge grain too perfectly. Its offset bricklayer-style pattern looks quite nice, it stays right in place, and slicing and dicing on this board felt good. After weeks of testing, this board looked almost untouched. That said, it still had not lost its beet stains after a few washings and its sides tend to dry out more frequently than other boards. For those willing to care for it, this expensive board could be worth the price, but we think Brooklyn’s long grain (edge grain) board looks and cuts about as nicely for about half the price.

Brooklyn Butcher Block’s edge-grain board in Walnut was a wonderfully dark and rich-looking board, but it felt like it was scraping quite often during our onion slicing tests, and requires just as much oiling and moisture avoidance as other wood picks. Otherwise, it performed quite well. We don’t think it’s quite as good a value as the Proteak.

We loved how our knives felt under the Shun Hinoki cutting board made of very forgiving Japanese cypress. But it requires wetting before you cut on it. Even then, we found it absorbed odors. It also scars very badly; a serrated knife will butcher this board. We think this is too high-maintenance for most people.

The 18-by-12-inch Michigan Maple Block board we tested was nowhere near as finished as it appeared in its online image. After two thorough oilings with board cream, the board’s surface still felt like freshly sawn wood. That’s likely why, months after our beet staining test, and after two attempts to scrub out the stains with lemons and a kosher salt paste, the Michigan Maple board still looked like evidence in a (vegetable) murder case.

The FSC Teak Small Rectangular Cutting Board with Well was too small and too thin. It also stained badly and retained off smells in our tests.

The Madeira Housewares Eco Teak Carving Board stained along the juice groove, though not as bad as the FSC board we tested above. Without a damp towel placed underneath this board, it slid on a counter more than our top picks.

The Madeira Housewares Mario Batali Collection Plantation Teak Edge Grain L Carving Board is thinner than we would prefer. In our tests, it stained the juice canal with beet juice and the surface of the board retained a strong garlic scent after multiple washings.

We opted not to test the Madeira Teak Edge-Grain board because it’s thinner than our large wood board pick and not as widely available. However, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a large board that’s a bit lighter than our current pick.

Bengston Woodworks sent us a sample cube of their end grain boards. We couldn’t put it through all the tests we put other boards through, but its artistic patchwork look drew stares and praises from people who spotted it. If you really want to create a home base for food prep in your house and you can dedicate yourself to caring for it, you’d do well to order a board from Bengston or Brooklyn Butcher Block.

Composite boards

We tried out a few composite boards, including three boards from Epicurean: a 15-by-11-inch Kitchen board in Nutmeg Brown, an 8-by-6 Kitchen board in Natural, and a 15-by-20-inch Gourmet Series board with a slate core. We also tested a 15-by-10-inch board from The Adventuresome Kitchen, a family business. Overall, we found them too hard on kitchen knives and our experts agreed. Buffalo chef Michael Dimmer said they “feel like nails on a chalkboard … just too hard.”

Rubber boards

We considered some rubber cutting boards, most notably Sani-tuff rubber mats, a favorite of cooks and knife enthusiasts. But because these mats are very heavy, sometimes only available through specialty vendors, and almost always come in hospital-beige colors, we didn’t think they were best for most home cooks and opted not to test.

Bamboo boards

The surface on the Premium Bamboo we tested truly felt like it was grinding our knife edge. Picking up small bits of onion with our fingers was difficult, as the surface felt dry and scraped our fingertips. The unfinished juice groove was especially unpleasant, allowing its 8 teaspoons of liquid to easily leak out at the slightest tilt.

(Photos by Michael Hession.)

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Sources

  1. Abrishami, S. H., Tall, B. D., Bruursema, T. J., Epstein, P. S. and Shah, D. B., Bacterial Adherence and Viability on Cutting Board Surfaces, Journal of Food Safety, May 1994
  2. Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D, Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards, UC Davis
  3. Chad Ward, The Dirty Truth About Cutting Boards, The Daily Beast
  4. Cutting Board Cleanup, Cook's Illustrated
  5. Chad Ward, An Edge in the Kitchen, phone interview with email follow-up, May 21, 2015
  6. Eva Haviarova, associate professor of wood science at Purdue University Wood Research Laboratory, phone interview, December 14, 2014
  7. Brian Brashaw, former program director at Natural Resources Research Institute University of Minnesota Duluth (now the program manager at the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory), phone interview, January 5, 2015
  8. Doug Gardner, professor of Forest Operations, Bioproducts and Bioenergy at University of Maine, phone interview, December 18, 2014
  9. Jennifer Boye, former chef at The Mansion on Delaware and Nickel City Chef (now the executive chef of Elm Street Bakery), in-person interview, March 3, 2015
  10. Michael Dimmer, chef at Marble + Rye, in-person interview, February 5, 2015
  11. Ken Legnon, former sushi chef at Seabar (now the executive chef of Yoshi Sushi Bar and Eatery), in-person interview, February 27, 2015
  12. Comparison of the Characteristics of LDPE: PP and HDPE: PP Polymer Blends, Canadian Center of Science and Education
  13. Preventing Wooden Cutting Boards from Cracking, Cook's County

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