Not all wood cutting boards are created equal. In fact, custom wood cutting boards come in a variety of shapes, sizes, different wood species, etc. This client spotlight is on Mahogany House Woodworks, truly offering remarkable custom wood boards, butcher blocks and other trays and accessories for customers around the world.
Most Comprehensive Guide To Choosing a Wood Cutting Board
There are many options available when your stroll the aisles at your local home good store. So how do you decide? What factors should be considered? Is a bamboo cutting board that bad of a choice? Read more to find out what to consider when choosing a wood cutting board and you’ll be as cool as the top chefs!
This article will cover:
- End grain versus face grain cutting boards
- Popular and useful dimensions
- Features to consider with your cutting board
There are 2 styles of wood cutting boards- end grain and face grain. Some manufactures will also call a face grain board an “edge grain” wood cutting board.
The other thing to consider is thickness of the cutting board. We will discuss the pros and cons of this later in the article.
And the final thing to consider are the features of your wood cutting board. Rubber feet to built in handles are important factors when considering what type of wood cutting board to buy. We will discuss the different options available later in this article also.
As you can already tell there are many things to consider! So, lets break this down and get cutting!
Type of grain
End grain is the grain of the wood that is cut across the growth rings.
End grain wood cutting boards use the end of the piece of wood instead of the face. This allows the cutting board to perform in some pretty neat ways. First, the cutting board naturally heals itself. Imagine the wood cutting board with the knife cutting through the grain instead of across the grain. As you pull your knife out, the end grain cutting boards will close back up behind the knife.
This dynamic of “self healing” also lends this type of cutting board to naturally repel liquids. With a properly seasoned end grain cutting board, the fibers of the wood will naturally close back up and keep liquids from penetrating beneath the surface of the wood. The end grain fibers absorb the impact of the knife.
The best way to tell if your end grain cutting board is seasoned well enough for use with foods such as chicken and turkey, is to see if water naturally beads up or soaks into the wood. If water beads up naturally, then the cutting board is seasoned and ready to make you shine! If the cutting board soaks up the water, the cutting board is thirsty and will soak up whatever liquids touch the cutting board.
End grain cutting boards vary in designs and styles because of the way they are built. You take a board and cut it in half and then flip that piece of wood up changing the orientation of the wood and grain.
End grain cutting boards are like the cat’s meow in the cutting board world.
End grain cutting boards are also commonly referred to as butcher blocks. They are extremely durable and with the proper care will last lifetimes. These are heirloom pieces so don’t be afraid of the higher investment typical with an end grain cutting board.
End grain cutting boards are typically seen in high end kitchens and bakeries because of their strength and durability. The downside to the end grain cutting board however is it’s weight. Because they are more porous, they are made at thicker dimensions to avoid cupping and warping. The heavier weight may be an issue for some in the kitchen, so keep this in mind.
A good thickness for an end grain cutting board is 1.5” thick or more. Some boards are 3” thick and weigh as much as a thanksgiving turkey! So keep an eye out for the dimensions if you’re considering an end grain cutting board.
End grain or butcher block cutting boards do require more oiling and maintenance than their lesser cousin, the face grain cutting board. The end of a board or log is the most porous part of a tree and will literally drink up water.
If you have an end grain cutting board make sure you oil it on a regular basis. And a final step to oiling is to apply a more protective wax style finish- like this one (insert link woodcuttingboardstore). This protective wax is made from mineral oil and beeswax and will provide a longer lasting protective finish than if you were to just oil your end grain cutting board.
One last note on end grain cutting boards. There is an additional step in the build process with 2 glue-ups. Many woodworkers and kitchen shops are more concerned about quantity over quality so they will roll these boards as fast as they can. I have personally seen many expensive end grain cutting boards fail because the clamping squeezed all the glue out of the joints. I would strongly recommend purchasing an end grain cutting board from a smaller woodworking shop where quality is the focus instead of mass production.
Face Grain OR Edge Grain
Face grain wood is cut with the fibers of the wood log. Face grain cutting boards are generally thinner in design and have a more even and natural look to them.
Face grain cutting boards are built by taking the length of the wood and gluing strips together. Alternating wood species or color can provide some really fun designs but for the most part, face grain cutting boards tend to be more simple in character.
Face grain cutting boards are nice because they are more affordable to own and purchase. They do require maintenance but nearly as much as their superior cousin-the end grain cutting board or butcher block style cutting board.
Face grain cutting boards are great for all purpose cooking and baking.
Because of the face grain not being as porous, they tend to not warp as much and stay more flat over longer periods of time. Of course maintenance and oiling has a lot to do with this but for the most part, face grain cutting boards are less finicky.
Edge grain is similar to face grain. Instead of the face of the board, it is flipped on it’s side. Edge grain boards will be stable and provide years of use over the long run.
Which one should you buy?
Well, it really depends on what you want. If you want durability and longevity, drop the money and cry once and go for the end grain cutting board. If you want several different kinds of cutting boards to serve different purposes, then consider getting a more affordable face grain or edge grain cutting board.
If you plan on keeping your cutting board out in your kitchen or on display, I would recommend a face grain cutting board. These will be more pleasant on display instead of the end grain cutting board designs.
Popular Dimensions For a Wood Cutting Board
Now that we have covered one of the most important factors- face grain or end grain, lets discuss some sizing considerations.
You will want to take note of where you do the bulk of your cooking and baking. You will also want to consider how you eat. Yep, what you eat determines what tools you need!
This will be the two main factors when deciding what size to go with.
If you eat a lot of vegetables, then you may want to consider your workflow over the kitchen sink to scrape the unusable parts of the food directly into the sink. So go with a cutting board that will fit right in the lip of the kitchen sink. The sink can help keep the cutting board in place while chopping.
If you have a strong sweet tooth, then consider a wood cutting board that is more square than rectangle. Square boards are best built for baking purposes because they help with rolling out pastry dough and pie dough.
Some standard sizes are:
12” width by 16” length
14” width by 20” length
If you are looking for a cutting board to place on your island, you’ll want to get the measuring tape out and see what will fit just right. If you are still unsure what size to go with, I recommend getting pieces of paper out or some cardboard and cut to length so you can move it around your counters. This will help visualize the size and how it will look on your counters and how it “interact” with your current workflow.
There are many sizes available and most woodworking shops will customize a size for you without any additional costs.
If your still unsure because this is a gift for someone, you are the best friend in the world! I would recommend to stay with a smaller wood cutting board than a larger cutting board. A 12” width by 16” length is a win for nearly 90% of the kitchens out there.
Features to Consider For Your Wood Cutting Board
There are many features available. Some are practical and will help your wood cutting board to last longer, while other features or more aesthetic. Either way, some consideration will go a long ways to getting a board you are happy with.
The first and most popular feature are rubber feet.
Rubber feet are a practical option because they will allow air circulation underneath the cutting board while it sits on the counter. The one drawback to this is that you are limited to only using one side of the wood cutting board!
Rubber feet are also useful to preventing the wood cutting board from slipping around your counter while cutting and chopping on it.
Make sure the fasteners used are made from stainless steel. MANY manufactures cut this corner save a few pennies but anything less than stainless steel will rust and stain your wood cutting board. Stainless steel fasteners do not rust and will not stain. They are also food safe. So double whammy! When in doubt, ask for stainless steel fasteners!
Handles or holes
Handles in your cutting board provide a great aesthetic for your kitchen utensil. These are popular in the design if you plan on keeping your cutting board out on display.
Handles can also help with movement around the kitchen. Handles and holes are a really fun part of the wood cutting board design. A 2” hole is the best, in my expertise.
A popular trend in the last several years has been the introduction of handles built into the board itself. Routed handles are an excellent improvement in the build and design of wood cutting boards.
Some handles are built by routing a slot along one face of the cutting board in order to slip your fingers underneath and lift the wood cutting board. Some handles are built by routing a groove into the side of the board along the length.
As seen in this classic example of routed handles, the handles run the full length and width of the wood cutting board. There are no fasteners or special things to come loose with a feature this well thought out.
And the final and most often overlooked feature is the juice groove!
Juice grooves are routed into the outside edge of the cutting board to catch the liquids from chopping. They can be really helpful for containing a mess and keeping things in order while you chop!
And the final design feature is MONOGRAMMING!
If you are giving your cutting board as a gift, making the board unique and totally custom has to come with this design! There are many options available with fonts. And you can even monogram a company logo for corporate gifts! The possibilities are endless with monogramming.
Monogrammed wood cutting boards are special as wedding gifts and anniversary presents. Consider adding that special date along with the initials to really stand out and have the best gift in the crowd!