How to Choose a Cutting Board
Before you start chopping, it's important to make sure you're working on the right surface. That means using the correct cutting board for the job at hand. Versatility and longevity are qualities at the top of the list when choosing a cutting board. "I want a board that I can use regularly and that will last me a while," says Eunice Byun, founder of Material, the direct-to-consumer kitchenware brand. "There are so many cutting boards on the market that are either too specialty or too cheap and flimsy. I know I'll use cutting boards that aren't too hefty and are easy to clean and store, so size and materials matter." She recommends a larger board around 14 or 15 inches for everyday use and a smaller board around eight inches for quick jobs like cutting a mango or mincing shallots.
To make sure the cutting board you choose is substantial enough to prevent warping over time, aim for one that's at least 3/8 inch thick. "Anything significantly thinner than either has the risk of warping, which makes for an uneven cutting surface that can be dangerous," says Byun.
Stock a Few
With food safety top of mind, many kitchen pros recommend using separate boards for different kinds of foods—keep one for fruits and vegetables or other foods that can be eaten raw, a separate one for raw meats and poultry or fish, and another for carving cooked meats to serve. "When it comes to materials, I like to have one wooden board and then a few synthetics that can get thrown in the dishwasher for heavy duty cleaning," says Byun. "If you have little extra space for different boards, then I do think keeping at the very least your raw meats on a separate cutting board is definitely worthwhile."
The Benefits of Long-Lasting Wood
Byun says she is a fan of wooden cutting boards particularly when serving anything that needs to be sliced directly on it—think roast chickens, rack of lamb, skirt steaks, or charcuterie. "Extra points if the wooden cutting board has a juice groove to catch the drippings," she says. It's worth it to invest in a good one since they will last a long time if properly maintained. "The secret to wooden boards is to apply a little bit of oil treatment every few months to ensure that the wood itself doesn't dry out and crack. Once you do this enough times, the wood will develop a beautiful patina."
Byun uses a synthetic cutting board for day-to-day tasks, mainly for the ease of popping it in the dishwasher. "Ease of use and cleaning were definitely important to us when we designed The reBoard, which is a recycled plastic cutting board," she says. A good synthetic board should last a few years. "Just look for any deep cuts on the board's surface as you want to avoid using them once bacteria can enter those cuts," she says.
What to Avoid
Stay away from surfaces such as glass, marble, or stone. "Any hard surface that will do damage to your knives," says Byun. "They may look pretty, but they don't do you any favors in the long run." She also makes sure there's no silicone in the kitchen anywhere near where she is cutting or chopping. "Things stick too easily to silicone," she says, "and I find it difficult to clean the board when silicone is applied in less than ideal places."