Gel Cutting Boards Are Better than Wood and Plastic Ones — Here’s Why
Anyone who has ever tried to buy a new kitchen knife knows it’s not a task to be taken lightly. Knives are arguably your most important culinary tool, and they can be an investment, so spending days researching materials, blades, and brands is not out of the question. But for all that effort, most people overlook one huge factor in how well a knife performs: what kind of cutting surface they use.
Slicing and chopping on the wrong material is “the kiss of death for any good knife,” says Matt Matsushima, director of operations for Shun Cutlery. He has seen the damage firsthand: Blades with edges that have dulled to the sharpness of a butterknife. “The big thing that’s going to destroy your knife edge is a hard material like glass or granite,” he says.
For that reason, lots of cooks prefer boards made of wood like maple or hinoki (a Japanese cypress), bamboo, or polypropylene (a rigid plastic). These options are all better for your blades, but they too have drawbacks. Wood can be tough to clean and susceptible to staining, cracking, or warping; plastics don’t last and are prone to what Matsushima calls “strain hardening,” which means with time and use, they increase in hardness. Composite boards made from wood fiber and resin aren’t great for knives either, he says.
Related: How To Clean a Wooden Cutting Board with Lemon and Salt
But there is one kind of board that has all the benefits you want in a cutting surface — dishwasher-safe, nonporous, flexible, safe for blades — and none of the drawbacks. It’s called a gel cutting board, and it’s made of food-grade silicone, a material that has seen an explosion of use elsewhere in the kitchen in the past decade, but is still a relatively well-kept secret as far as cutting surfaces go. In fact, the only manufacturers I could find were Asian brands like Liflicon, the company that makes the board I ultimately purchased.
It has been a game-changer. At about a quarter-inch thick, it’s sturdy enough for chopping, but also flexible so you can literally roll it up to dump the contents into a waiting pot or pan. The silicone is naturally non-skid and antimicrobial, but also dishwasher-safe so I never worry about cross-contamination. And, get this, the material is self-healing, so any deep cuts or nicks disappear.
To me, it’s the perfect work surface. There’s just one thing I can’t figure out and that’s why more people aren’t making or using them!