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The best and worst materials for cutting boards. And why plastic cutting boards are NOT safe.

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

Introduction: Ditch the plastic.

This is part 1/3 from a longer blog.

After deciding to take cooking more seriously, I thought it would make sense to start by upgrading my kitchen equipment. First, are foremost the knife. A good knife can change your whole cooking experience. But what good is a fancy knife without a good cutting board? For the longest time I overlooked my cutting board; I had that $20 plastic one from Target- I mean yeah, it’s not exactly the ideal, but it gets the job done. What I didn’t know is that old plastic cutting boards can actually harbor bacteria that are near impossible to clean out of the groves left by the knife cuts. A chef friend directed me to a study the NCBI posted this study that says,

“At least some of the work with knife-scarred plastic indicates that the surface is very difficult to clean and disinfect … Further, one of these studies indicated that use of plastic cutting boards in home kitchens is hazardous, whereas use of wooden cutting boards is not.”

And that's when I knew I had to get something better. After significant time and money spent searching for the perfect board, I could not find one. Thus began my journey to create the perfect wood cutting board. Who would have thought there were so many decisions to be made regarding a cutting board? What size is best? Do I get one for meats specifically? What kind of wood is best? How does one season a cutting board? Do I need one with grooves to catch juices? How do I properly clean a cutting board? What oil do I use to coat the board? Each of these topics is complex enough to solicit its own blog post, so for this one, we will focus on your options for materials.

But because I like you, here is the gist:

Wood (preferably maple) cutting boards are your best option. Before using the board and once every month, coat it with a ratio of 4 coconut oil to 1 beeswax. And absolutely do not dish-wash or soak a wood cutting board.

Despite my heavy favoritism for maple cutting boards, everyone has different tastes and in this section, we will look at your options for materials.

[Unsafe] Plastic (HDPE, Rubber, PVA):

By far the most popular and usually your cheapest option. Everyone’s first board is usually plastic, and there is nothing wrong with that. What concerns me about plastic is what I mentioned previously, the grooves in plastic can house bacteria that is near impossible to disinfect (link for skeptics like me). And even worse when you use the dishwasher to clean the board, the bacteria can spread. So despite being counter-intuitive, plastic, in this case, is less safe than wood options. The advantage I see for plastic is that you can get fun colors that would not otherwise be available in wood form. So if you are the type to sacrifice potential future health outcomes for fashion, then plastic is right for you. Sorry Mom, I know you love your bright red Martha Stewart cutting board


  • Lots of options for style and color.

  • Doesn’t dull knives.

  • Cheaper than wood.


  • Might spread unsafe bacteria.

  • Will sit in a landfill for eternity.

[Bad] Glass:

Similar to plastic, glass should only be used if you care more about looks than the negative externalities. Glass will ruin your knives. Please do not use it.


  • It's got that look I want.


  • Ruins knives.

  • Makes a hideous sound.

  • Fragile.

[Bad] Stone:

Similar to glass, its got that look! And it matches your beautiful counter-top!! But it will absolutely dull your knives. Please do not use it.


  • Matches my counter-tops.


  • Dulls knives.

[Ok] Bamboo:

A choice for many environmentalists because it is slightly more sustainable than wood. It’s definitely a step up from the previous options, but it also has its drawbacks. Surprisingly, bamboo ends up being harder than wood when packed into board form which will dull knives faster than other options.


  • Sustainable.

  • Doesn’t absorb liquid.


  • Dulls knives.

[Best] Wood:

Tiers of wood:

  1. Maple

  2. Walnut

  3. Cherry

  4. Beech

The creme de la creme of cutting board materials. I worked diligently to ensure that the wood we source is both hard and has no imperfections - I found a woodworker in northern Minnesota that has an amazing lot of maple trees to choose from. Other good options would be walnut, cherry, or beech. Stay away from oak because it soaks up too much liquid and will warp faster than others. But ultimately, I choose maple because it’s sanitary, beautiful, and sustainable. Maple also has self-healing properties which will help to keep your board looking beautiful for years to come.


  • It’s the best out there.


  • Needs occasional maintenance. We have a blog here [LINK] which details everything you need to know about caring for your cutting board.


Choose the right material is important for your culinary experience. The wrong choice (plastic) is potentially dangerous and the right choice (maple) can last a lifetime if cared for properly. When looking into which board to buy, consider the pros and cons. Obviously budget is the primary factor in determining which board you ultimately pick, but before going for the cheaper options, consider how long it’ll be before you have to replace that board because it looks nasty. I am all about commitment which is why I designed my board to last a lifetime.



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