The good news? We can narrow down your selection right away. Glass cutting boards are, in our humble opinion, the worst. They’re easily breakable and hard to clean, they make a noise akin to nails on a chalkboard when your knife hits them, and they destroy your knives. If you value a sharp knife, don’t use a glass cutting board. That leaves you with two main options: plastic or wood.
The bad news? The answer isn’t as cut and dry as you might assume. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. You’ve probably heard that wood is better for the longevity of your knives, and that’s true. But wood cutting boards are more expensive and heavier, and also require regular upkeep (i.e., oiling) to ensure they last. You also can’t put them in the dishwasher. On the other hand, plastic cutting boards are usually pretty cheap, don’t take up a lot of space and can be tossed into the dishwasher for easy cleaning. But they’re not as gentle on your knives and they don’t last as long as wood cutting boards do.
Within the wood category, there are a few options too. End-grain boards (with the ends of the wood facing up, like a cross-section) are gentler on knives, more resistant to cuts and will hold up better over time, but they are pricier and prone to cracking without proper care. Edge-grain boards (with the edges of the wood facing up) are more affordable, but they’ll wear down a knife blade faster and show scratches.
There are also bamboo cutting boards, which, for our purposes, we’ll group within the wood category, even though they’re technically grass. (More on those later.)
What Cutting Board Is Best For Raw Meat?
For a long time, plastic cutting boards were the gold standard for raw meat, fish and poultry, because they’re less porous and easier to clean and sanitize. But studies have since debunked this myth: A new, smooth plastic cutting board is easy to clean, yes, but once your knife leaves deep grooves and nicks, it’s a lot harder to get rid of lurking bacteria. A University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that hardwood surfaces (like maple) actually trap bacteria beneath the surface, where it dies instead of multiplying on the surface.
The USDA confirms that “consumers may use wood or a nonporous surface for cutting raw meat and poultry,” so as long as you’re thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing your wood cutting board (and/or using a separate one for raw veggies), it’s perfectly safe to use for prepping raw meat.
With that in mind, we ultimately prefer wood cutting boards over plastic (largely for aesthetics and durability), but there are a few plastic cutting boards we’d recommend, which you can find below.
How to take care of your cutting boards
No matter the cutting board, you’ll obviously want to keep it clean. Plastic cutting boards can go in the dishwasher, but wood cutting boards must be hand-washed (otherwise they’ll split and warp). Hot, soapy water will do the trick for everyday cleaning; to sanitize, use a dilution of a quaternary ammonium–based cleaner, like Mr. Clean. (Psst: This NC State University article is a good primer on proper sanitation of both wood and plastic cutting boards.)
If you’re investing in a wood cutting board, you’ll want to maintain that board so it lasts for years. Luckily, it’s not difficult: Wood cutting boards require seasoning with oil, kind of like cast-iron pans. A food-grade mineral oil, such as John Boos & Co. Mystery Oil, will do the trick. After cleaning or anytime your cutting board looks dry, saturate all surfaces with the oil and rub it in with a soft cloth. Let the oil soak in overnight, then wipe off any excess the next morning.
How can you tell if your board is properly seasoned?
If liquid beads on the surface, you’re good to go. This will prevent your wood cutting board from warping, splitting or cracking. Any accumulated scratches can be sanded out, but if it cracks or splits, it has to go. The same rules apply for bamboo boards.
Now that you know the basics, you can choose the best cutting board for your needs.
15 Cutting Boards We Love