A sharp chef’s knife, dependable skillet and sturdy cutting board make up the trifecta of all functional kitchens. With those three implements, a fabulous meal can be accomplished, whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef.
While plenty of attention has been paid to choosing the best knives and optimal cast-iron skillets, cutting boards often languish forgotten. But choosing the right one will not only keep your knives in tip-top shape, but it’ll also provide the just-right surface for chopping, slicing and dicing all of the ingredients for your next culinary masterpiece. Whether that’s a hearty spiced beef stew or caramelized apple tart, these best cutting boards are kitchen essentials. Some are even stylish enough to use as serveware. Wooden Paddle Cutting Board
Finding the best one can be challenging, so we turned to professional chefs and bartenders around the country for their recommendations. These are the nine best cutting boards according to the pros, plus some intel on how to decide what’s right for you.
For Corey Ferguson, executive chef at tapas spot El Five in Denver, hardwood is the only way to go. “It is the most sanitary because it is not porous—a knife doesn’t create seams for bacteria to get into,” he says, adding that wood cutting boards “last a very long time when maintained properly with oil and handwashing.” He notes they are good for all tasks and are easy on your knives.
Chef de cuisine Ashley Cunha from seasonal Southern-fare restaurant Farm in Bluffton, South Carolina, agrees—with a caveat. “I love a wood cutting board—they bring a beautiful aesthetic to a moment [and] I also enjoy the heft they provide,” she says. “But, in a restaurant setting with high volume and constant use, a wooden cutting board would be harder to keep clean and sanitized. We use plastic models to avoid any cross-contamination.”
But although plastic can be easily cleaned—and sometimes thrown in the dishwasher—synthetic materials can put more wear on your knives.
For some, rubber cutting boards offer the best of both worlds. “A good soft rubber cutting board is easy on your knife,” says Joseph Harrison, chef de cuisine at New American eatery Common Thread in Savannah, Georgia. “Whether you have a mid-range tool or something you really cherish, this material is very forgiving to the blade. It’s not porous at all, so it lends itself to a sanitary work surface and it’s easy to clean.”
There are so many different styles of cutting boards—and quite a bit of overlap between some categories—that it’s difficult to put together a comprehensive list. There are wood cutting boards, plastic cutting boards and rubber cutting boards, as well as cutting boards made of glass, metal and paper composites. There are cutting boards that double as cheese boards or pastry boards or cutting boards with handles. There are even cutting boards with or without moats along the edges to catch drippings. We could go on.
When navigating the category’s dizzying variety, it’s important to consider your particular needs. “If you are going to use it as a cheese board, it might be nice to have a handle to move it around easily,” offers Ferguson. “If you’re slicing meat, a canal around the cutting board catches drippings from the meat so they don’t run all over the place. If you have shorter counters, a tall butcher block can be optimal for comfort while doing knife work.”
Tyler Lyne, the chef in residence at the Auburn University-run 1856 in Auburn, Alabama, extolled the virtues of a peel-away rubber cutting board. “They’re great for everyday general cooking work, especially fish butchery,” he says. Lyne also likes end-grain wooden boards for heavy-duty uses like chopping bones with cleavers.
“If you want something more synthetic, opt for a good rubber,” Harrison adds. “Hard plastics chip easily and damage your knife over time. Plus, they often get stained and end up looking bad.”
All of the professionals we interviewed agree that hardwood varieties are the best options for home chefs, as they offer durability, versatility and elegance. According to Ferguson, walnut is best.
“It is a hardwood, but on the softer side of hardwoods. It’s good on your knives, aesthetically pleasing and easy to maintain,” he says. “Even if it gets a little scratched up or dirty, the color of the wood hides it. Walnut cutting boards are what I use in my kitchen at home.”
Maple is a good hardwood choice as well, according to Harrison. “It’s generally a lighter color, easy to fit into any aesthetic and usually on the more affordable end of pricing.”
Custom cutting boards and butcher blocks tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum, while synthetic materials like plastic or composite are more affordable options.
What Harrison considers a good price comes down to material and size. “A quality rubber or wooden board runs upwards of $100, but sometimes wooden boards can run as high as $300,” he explains. “These wooden boards are often handmade, someone’s put a lot of love and labor into them. Both types will last you many years if you take good care of them. You get exactly what you pay for in terms of craftsmanship.”
“The better the material you choose, the higher the price will be, whether that be wood, plastic, rubber or even bamboo,” Cunha adds. “All offer something a little different—some are easier to clean, some last longer and other ones can help hold your knife’s edge better. It’s important to choose what you feel most comfortable using.”
Ready to stock your kitchen with the best cutting boards on the market? Shop our expert-approved options below, and get chopping!
Around the country, there was a lot of love for John Boos cutting boards. “I have always been a Boos Block girl, the maple cutting board specifically,” says Ashleigh Fleming, executive chef at Southern fare-inspired Blue Jay Bistro in Littleton, North Carolina. She cites natural wood construction and extreme durability as factors, plus the longevity of the end-grain style.
Ferguson says this wood cutting board comes in clutch as an affordable option with a large surface area perfect for lots of chopping, slicing and dicing. Natural rubberwood is a sustainable choice when it comes to hardwoods, and the reversible design ensures longevity. He especially digs the recessed handles and the forgiving surface, which helps keep knives supple.
“For wooden cutting boards, I suggest an end-grain style like this John Boos. They have more longevity and don’t tend to warp over time,” says Harrison. “These are also great display pieces for things like charcuterie or large, beautiful holiday roasts.”
“My favorite cutting board is the reBoard from Material Kitchen. It’s BPA free and made from sugarcane and recyclable plastic scraps so it’s sustainable,” says Paula Lukas , head bartender at farmer’s market-inspired restaurant Bowery Road in New York City. “It cleans very easily, tends not to stain, comes in beautiful colors and [Material Kitchen] donates to the Heart of Dinner charity.”
“I love the John Boos Block Cutting Board. The maple wood has the longevity to stand up to hard daily use,” says Mark Bolchoz, executive chef at the Italian-inflected Indaco in Charleston. “Specifically, I like the prestige series board for home because the little cut-out going around the board helps to catch juice and other things to keep your station clean, and it’s reversible.”
Plastic is lightweight, easy to clean and affordable, which makes it an attractive option. It’s also Wirecutter’s top choice based on four months of rigorous testing. Editors loved the generous groove around the edge for catching juices, the grippy feet that keep it secure when chopping and the ample surface area.
This writer is a fan, too. As a former bartender and trained pastry chef, I always look for durable cutting boards for heavy tasks, especially when I’m entertaining. I personally own this plastic cutting board and use it religiously for slicing citrus, sprigs of rosemary and cloves of garlic. The surface is easy to sanitize, the more odiferous scents don’t get trapped in the material and it stays completely still on the counter while in use.”
Harrison and Lyne both cite this as their favorite cutting board. “It’s heavy and doesn’t slip on the countertop. It’s easy to sanitize and gentle on my knives,” says Lyne. “I also love the peel-type version of this cutting board—it has layers that you can peel off when it becomes worn out. While the cost is high, the board essentially is six boards for the price of one.”
“I love this board!” says Cunha. “They last a long time and they don’t get grooves from your knife like a plastic one might. They’re aesthetically pleasing, so if you don’t have a lot of space, it still looks nice if it’s left out. It’s stunning to use as a presentation piece. My friend gifted me one a while back while we were working in the city together and it still looks as good as the day I got it.”
This board’s paper composite material “is durable and most importantly, gentle on a knife blade,” says Jared Hammond, executive chef at neighborhood French spot Brasserie la Banque in Charleston. “I use it at home and in a commercial kitchen, and it has yet to disappoint.”
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