While most people take great care when choosing kitchen equipment, especially knives, not much attention is usually paid to the cutting surface. But what experienced cooks—home and professional alike—will tell you is that having the right cutting board is just as important as picking the right knife. The quality of the cutting board affects the performance of any knife used on it—including how long each blade holds its edge.
To help guide you through cutting board basics, we turned to our friends at John Boos & Co., one of the oldest manufacturers of kitchen equipment in the U.S.—they’ve been in business since 1887—for some advice on how to choose and care for a cutting board.
Choosing Your Board
Wooden cutting boards come in two main types: edge grain or end grain. Edge-grain boards are made from strips of wood that are finger jointed or glued together grain up, resulting in a flatter, harder surface. End-grain boards are made up of many little squares of wood, cut and stood on end, forming a checkered pattern. The exposed wood fibers absorb some of the impact when cutting, keeping your knives sharper longer.
Other factors to take into account are size, weight and finish. It’s important to evaluate both your countertop space as well as your available storage (more on storage later) before committing to a size. (For those of you wondering what kind of board to get for Thanksgiving, a 21” x 17” board is a great size for carving turkey or a roast.)
When considering weight, choose a board that’s heavy enough to be stable but still light enough for you to carry and store. As for wood, choose the finish that you like the best; maple, walnut, cherry and oak are all great choices.
Extra features like a juice groove, pour spout and handgrips can make the work of carving and transporting easier. Reversible boards allow you to prep on both sides of the board and are especially desirable when one side has a juice groove—use one side for prep and the other for carving.
Care & Maintenance
Oil your board! It’s worth saying again, so: Oil! Your! Board! At least once a month (depending on use and household conditions), use a cloth or paper towel to apply an even coat of Boos® Mystery Oil to all surfaces of your wood cutting board. Let the board sit overnight, allowing the oil to fully penetrate the wood fibers, then wipe off any excess oil. For additional protection, after you’ve oiled your board, use Boos Block® Board Cream to seal the top of the wood surface. Simply apply an even coat of the board cream with a soft cloth or paper towel, allow it to penetrate the surface overnight and then wipe off any excess.
So, what’s the difference between cream and oil, and why do you need both? Oil keeps the board from drying out, while the cream seals and protects the surface. Using both products will help prolong the life of your wooden cutting board.
Other tips for a long-lasting board:
- Sanitize your cutting board by wiping all surfaces down with mild dish soap and water. Dry thoroughly. Don’t wash your cutting board with harsh detergents of any type.
- Don’t wash your butcher’s tools on your cutting board surface.
- Don’t put wood cutting boards into dishwasher. Ever!
- Use a good steel scraper or spatula several times a day, as necessary, to keep the cutting surface clean and sanitary. Scraping the surfaces will remove 75% of the liquids.
- Don’t use a steel brush on the cutting surface of your board.
- Don’t allow liquids of any type to stand on the cutting board for long periods of time.
- Don’t let fresh, wet meats lay on the board longer than necessary. Brine, water, and blood, contain liquids that can soak into the wood. This causes the cutting board to expand and softens the wood, which ultimately affects the strength of the glued joints.
- Don’t cut fish or poultry on the cutting board unless you have thoroughly oiled and sealed your board first. A moisture barrier must be intact for this type of cutting work. Always clean the board thoroughly after cutting fish or poultry.
- Never cut continuously on the same part of your board. Distribute your cutting over the entire work surface so that it wears evenly.
- If your cutting board is reversible, it should be turned over periodically for even wear on both work surfaces.
- Don’t use a razor-edged cleaver. It will chip or splinter the wood and produce soft spots. Your cleaver should have a relatively blunt edge for the best results.
- Maintain the same bevel on the edge of your cutting board as it had when purchased. This helps prevent splitting or chipping on the outside of the cutting board.
Storing Your Board
Store your wood cutting board on end to dry if it is damp. If your cutting board is already dry, store it flat in a dry area away from extreme hot or cold temperatures. Don’t forget to maintain your board with oil and board cream, even if it’s in storage.