While shopping for a new cutting board recently, we heard all kinds of conflicting advice on which was the most green, the most sanitary and the least damaging to our knives. So we're setting the record straight on which is the best kind of cutting board - plastic, wood, or bamboo.
• Plastic Cutting Boards Plastic is our least favorite kind of cutting board. Many people believe that it is the most sanitary, especially as you can wash it in the dishwasher. However, a University of Michigan study found that "more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface." The study also found that though a new plastic board could be disinfected, a knife-scarred plastic surface was impossible to clean and disinfect manually. When you also consider that a knife-scarred surface means plastic is getting into your food, we're kicking plastic boards out of our kitchen.
• Bamboo Cutting Boards Bamboo is the choice of many environmentalists. As a hard grass, it is a sustainable, renewable resource that needs no chemicals to thrive or to be harvested.
As far as we know, no independent studies have been done on how sanitary bamboo cutting boards are. However they do absorb less liquid than wooden boards, so many believe they are as sanitary or more sanitary than wood boards.
Be aware that they are 19% harder than traditional maple cutting boards, so many also think that bamboo cutting boards are harder on knives than wood boards. Also, the small grooves may ever so slightly catch your knife, interrupting a smooth cutting action. When shopping for a bamboo board, look for ones that use formaldehyde-free glues, such as those from Totally Bamboo or Bambu.
• Wood Cutting Boards Just like mom used, a heavy wood board is kind to knives, and will not dull them quickly. A good maple or beech cutting board is somewhat self-healing, and thus won't scar as easily as a plastic board. Regularly oil your board with food-grade mineral oil to protect it from staining or warping, and please don't put it in the dishwasher. A well cared-for board will last you for years.
Wood is a renewable resource, but not nearly as easily renewable as bamboo. However many boards are made from waste wood - leftovers at the mill that would have been otherwise thrown away.
So what's in our kitchen? A heavy maple board that we use for most of our cutting, and that we expect to last us for years. For the bar, and other small chopping jobs we have a bamboo board. As it's used near water, and thus is more likely to warp or crack, we chose the most renewable resource in case we have to replace it in a year or so.
What kind of board do you use in your kitchen?
Related: Our Favorite Knives