Cutting Board Guide- Types, Uses, and Care

Whether for commercial or home use, a cutting board is an integral part of any kitchen. Cutting or chopping boards are not only made to protect your countertops from sharp knives, but they also protect your knives from wear as well. They are most often made of wood or plastic, but can be made from glass, steel, and even marble as well. Being aware of the pros and cons of the different types can help you understand what kind cutting board is best for you and your kitchen.

Wooden Cutting Boards

Wooden Cutting Board
Considered old fashioned by some, wooden cutting boards remain very popular because of their durability and natural appearance. Many restaurants with visible prep areas opt for wood because of its upscale look and many chefs prefer them for their ease of use.

Types of Wood

Wood cutting boards are available in several kinds of hard and soft woods, most commonly maple, acacia, and walnut. Maple is a common wood that is inexpensive and light in color, making it a popular choice among home chefs and economically conscious kitchens. Acacia wood is a bit darker than maple and is a popular material for bread boards and kitchens that simply prefer the darker aesthetic. Walnut is a softer wood and so is popular in higher end kitchens because of how easy it is to cut upon.

Unique Properties

One unique property of wooden cutting boards is their ability to “heal” themselves. When using one, be sure to cut along the grain of a wooden cutting board as the anti-septic properties of the wood actually allow the grains separated by knife cuts to join back together. This prolongs the life of the board and keeps it free of crevices that can harbor bacteria.

Bread Boards

bread board
Bread boards are another popular type of wooden cutting boards. They are common at high end restaurants for serving bread on for their customers to munch while they wait for their entrees. Bringing a bread board out to your customer with a fresh, warm loaf on it and a knife to cut it themselves really adds a classy touch to the dining experience.

Plastic Cutting Boards

Plastic Cutting Board
Plastic cutting boards are a common, inexpensive alternative to wooden boards. Once thought to be more sanitary than wood, they dominated the industry in the latter half of the 20th century but have been making a slow decline in recent years due to the rise of wooden cutting boards once again.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The fact that plastic is non-porous has a few pros and cons. They are fairly resistant to cuts because of it, but the solid surface can make cutting a little more difficult. Plastic also lacks the “self-healing” properties that wood cutting boards have so grooves that do develop over time make for a bacteria breeding ground. Plastic cutting boards are dishwasher safe though and can be soaked in bleach or other chemical cleansers that will kill any lingering bacteria.

Color Coded Cutting Boards

Color Coded Cutting Board
Plastic color coded cutting boards are great for preventing cross contamination. Many kitchens now use them, not only for sanitation reasons, but also to be able to safely accommodate customers with food allergies.
The code for color cutting boards:
Blue- Raw fish
Green- Produce, fruit, vegetables
White- Dairy, cheese
Red- Raw meat
Tan- Cooked meats
Yellow- Raw poultry, chicken
Black- Grains

Alternative Cutting Boards

While wood and plastic are best for chopping surfaces, there are a few other types of cutting boards that can be used for food preparation and presentation. For example, glass cutting boards are easy to clean, but they can damage knives and will shatter if treated too roughly. Steel cutting boards are more durable than glass and just as easy to clean, but because steel is such a hard surface, it can cause undue wear on kitchen knives as well. Marble cutting boards are traditionally used for baking and serving, but the surface will dissolve slowly with contact with acidic foods so their uses are rather limited.

Another interesting alternative cutting board is the Epicurean wood composite cutting board. It is a pressed, wood blend cutting board so it is safe to put in the dishwasher but still has a great organic look. It is also very durable and food safe.
In restaurants looking to either make a statement with their presentation or to just do something to stand out from the rest, alternative cutting boards are a choice that is sure to turn a few heads.

Cleaning and Care

When properly cared for, cutting boards can last for many years. It’s important to know how to both properly clean and maintain the different types of boards to get optimal use from them.

Care of Wooden Cutting Boards

Wooden cutting boards are not dishwasher safe as the wood can begin to come apart with sustained moisture. They must be washed by hand in not too hot of water and patted dry when finished. Never soak your wooden board.
board cream
Wooden cutting boards also must be oiled and moisturized upon purchase and regularly throughout their lives. You can tell it’s time to oil your board when the wood grows light and dry in appearance. John Boos makes two very popular products for wooden cutting boards and butcher blocks, mystery oil and board cream. These products prolong the life of the wood by sealing the surface and rehydrating the top surface of the wood.

Care of Plastic Cutting Boards

Plastic cutting boards are a bit easier to maintain than wooden. They are usually dishwasher safe but can warp with excessive heat. They can also be sanitized with bleach or other common cleaning products. Plastic cutting boards do develop cuts and gouges over time though and should be thrown out when the damage grows too extensive.
Refinishing tools are another great way to prolong the life of your cutting board. They can be used to remove unsanitary scratches and cuts from the surface of your cutting board, making it usable for longer.
Whether you are simply cutting a few onions for dinner or working as head chef at a five-star restaurant, thoughtful cutting board choice is essential to your operation. Research your options before you purchase and be sure to follow proper care to ensure your relationship with your cutting board is a long and successful one.


You must be logged in to post a comment.