Wood vs. Plastic Cutting Board: Pros and Cons
When asked, most chefs and home cooks will state that their chef's knife is the single most important tool in their arsenal.
To some extent, they would be right. A reliable all-purpose chef's knife and the skill to use it could single-handedly have the biggest impact on your cooking.
While knives get all the attention, even the best of them wouldn't be much good without an equally capable work surface a great cutting board.
You can get cutting boards in a wide selection of materials; glass, porcelain, marble, even steel.
However sleek as these may be, they are far too unyielding and will dull your knives. Remember, the blades of your knives are delicate, fine-tuned instruments.
What this means is that ultimately your choices boil down to either wood or plastic. These are both soft enough to take continued impact with your knives without causing any significant damage.
But even with wood and plastic cutting boards, there are pros and cons to consider.
Wood Cutting Boards: Pros and Cons
Wood cutting boards aren’t just kitchen tools. They’re also beautiful statement pieces that can last a lifetime.
They come in a wide assortment of sizes and styles, from the large butcher’s blocks to more demure cheese boards.
However, when it comes to cutting boards, not any wood cuts it. The best woods for cutting boards are:
You may have noticed these are all hardwoods. That's because hardwood boards are tough. They can handle continued impact from your knives with minimal damage to the board or blade.
“Hardwoods, like maple, are fine-grained, and the capillary action of those grains pulls down fluid, trapping the bacteria – which are killed off as the board dries after cleaning.”
See Also: Best Wood For Cutting Boards
With proper care, wood cutting boards can last several lifetimes.
They are also easy to repair. For instance, in case of surface damage and deep scratches, you can salvage the board by simply sanding it down.
You can then treat the board with the appropriate mineral oil, and it will be good as new.
Wood boards are more hygienic than plastic
Some people fear that wooden boards might be unsanitary because of their porous nature. But, as we’ve touched on before, studies have found the reverse to be true.
One study found that wood can absorb and kill bacteria in as little as 3 - 10 minutes after contamination.
However, greasy contaminants like raw chicken fat could remain on the board for hours and still pose a risk of cross-contamination.
But a quick wash with warm soapy water is enough to remove any harmful bacteria.
Wooden cutting boards are great for knives
Wooden cutting boards are a pleasure to cut on, especially so with boards made from maple and walnut.
These are both technically hardwoods. But they’re a lot gentler on your blades compared to other woods like bamboo.
Cuisine, whether professional or home cooking, is as much a visual art form as it is gustatory.
Wooden cutting boards don’t fall short on this count.
They are handsome and add a certain je ne sais quoi to your experience, both in preparation or presentation.
What's more, they hold their looks far better than the competition.
An old weathered wooden board would still look stunning. But a similarly aged plastic board would shock us.
1. Require Special Care
To keep your boards from cracking, drying out, or warping, you’ll need to treat your boards with food-grade oil.
Oil also prevents your boards from soaking up liquids.
But even with proper care and conditioning, wooden cutting boards can still fail. They can still warp and crack, especially at the seams where the pieces of wood are glued together.
The best way to avoid this is by getting the best-crafted wood cutting boards from the get-go.
2. Harder to Clean
Wooden cutting boards need a bit more effort to clean than plastic cutting boards.
You should NEVER leave them to soak. Prolonged exposure to moisture and heat will damage your board.
Wash your wooden chopping board with warm soapy water, rinse, and leave to dry.
After, wipe your wood board down with some wood seasoning oil. This is how you ensure your wooden cutting board will last for generations.
3. Can be Heavy and Unwieldy
The best wooden cutting boards are made from hardwoods, which are typically heavy.
This weight can be a double-edged sword:
On the one hand, it makes for a more stable work surface. When working with a sharp knife, the LAST thing you want is a light board that can easily move around.
But on the other hand, hauling and cleaning a heavy cutting board can be a task.
See Also: Seasoning Your Cutting Board
Plastic Cutting Boards
What plastic cutting boards lack in visual appeal, they make up for in flexibility and durability.
They are non-porous, which makes them safe for use with raw meats. No bacteria can seep into the board, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.
This is also what makes them easier to clean and sanitize, and thus their popularity in professional kitchens.
Well, that, and the fact that you can get them in different colors for each use:
Red for raw meat, green for vegetables, and so on.
Sturdy and Lightweight
Plastic is structurally stronger than wood. Therefore, plastic cutting boards need not be as thick as wooden ones and are more space-efficient.
This makes plastic boards easier to move around and maneuver. It also means that they’ll easily fit into your dishwasher.
Easy to Clean
Plastic cutting boards will survive the high-heat cycle on your dishwasher without warping.
This makes cleaning up a breeze. You don't need to hand scrub the boards or treat them after they dry.
A quick cycle in the dishwasher will both clean and sanitize your plastic cutting board.
Plastic cutting boards are cheap. They don't need any expensive seasoning oils to clean and maintain.
Need Frequent Replacing
Over time, plastic gets increasingly and irreversibly scarred by your knives.
These deep scratches make ideal places for bacteria to thrive. They also make it a lot harder to properly clean and disinfect the board.
When your board gets to this stage of wear, it can pose an increased risk for cross-contamination.
What’s more, the cycle of use-and-replace this creates adds to the plastic pollution crisis.
Loses Appeal With Each Use
Every strike on your plastic cutting board brings you one step closer to the end of its life. In the words of Daniel Gritzer:
“Plastic holds the evidence of each and every bit of damage like a stubborn grudge.”
As the wear from everyday use piles up, plastic boards look less appealing. And unlike wooden cutting boards, they cannot be revamped.
Wood or Plastic: Our Recommendation
It’s clear that wooden cutting boards are the better option. They are more sanitary, durable and will keep your knives sharper for longer.
However, they also have their drawbacks. For instance, you’ll need to spend a bit more upfront and put in some time caring for them.
But with the right cutting board, this extra bit of investment is well worth it. Your cutting board will last for generations.
Of course for your board to last this long, you need the best.
This is precisely the kind of cutting board we offer at Virginia Boys Kitchens.
At Virginia Boys, we put sustainability first. To this end, we invest in green practices that help minimize our water, waste, and energy footprint.
But this is not to say we compromise on quality.
We work with Appalachian Hardwood to ensure the highest standard of sustainable forestry. We pair this with domestic manufacturing here in the USA to ensure the highest quality products.
But you need not take our word for it, here’s what a happy customer has to say:
Grab yourself one such cutting board from our best selling collection:
17x11 Walnut Cutting Board With Juice Grooves
10 Inch Round Walnut Cheeseboard with Groove
24x18 Extra Large Walnut Cutting Board with Grooves
Alternatively, you can check out our store Virginia Boys Kitchens, and explore our collection of beautiful walnut cutting boards and related kitchenware.
Cutting Board FAQ
Q: Are Bamboo Cutting Boards A Good Idea?
Bamboo cutting boards are great for food prep, especially since they're made from sustainable materials. However, they aren't quite as durable as traditional cutting boards, so you may want to consider investing in a few extra pieces. If you're going to be cooking a lot of raw meat, fish, or poultry, you should definitely invest in a high-quality cutting board. Otherwise, you could end up with splinters and cuts.
Q. What about glass cutting boards? Are they better than wood or plastic?
Glass cutting boards aren't good for food prep (surface too slippery, and they're terrible for your knives). While they may look pretty, they are best for displays and serving, not so much if you're planning on cooking. They're dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning them easier, so people like them for this reason. However there are better alternatives if dishwasher safe is something important to you - such as Epicurean or plastic cutting boards.
Bottom line is that glass cutting boards are great for display purposes, but they're not ideal for food preparation.
Q. Why is a clean cutting board important?
A clean cutting board is important because bacteria grows quickly on dirty surfaces. Bacteria can cause illness and spoil food, so keeping your cutting board clean is vital to preventing these problems. Also, having a clean cutting board prevents cross contamination. If you cut raw meat on a dirty surface, you could contaminate your vegetables or fruits. So always keep your cutting board clean!
If you're worried about this, it may be helpful to have separate boards for raw meat and everything else.
see related: How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board
Q. Are wooden cutting boards more hygienic than plastic?
Wood is naturally anti-microbial and has natural antibacterial properties. The fact that you can use wax to seal the board for even more protection makes it more safe than plastic - just make sure you choose a food safe wax.
Plastic, on the other hand, harbors bacteria in areas where knives leave behind cutting grooves. For these reasons, wood is more hygienic than plastic.
Q. Why are wooden cutting boards safe?
Wooden cutting boards are safer than plastic ones because they contain natural elements like cedar and cypress. These materials naturally resist bacteria growth, and they're easy to clean.
Wood cutting boards are also much sturdier than plastic ones, so they last longer. Once damaged, a wood cutting board can be repaired, resurfaced, refinished, and restored. On the other hand, plastic cutting board cannot be restored - they need to be replaced as soon as it is damaged.
See related: 3 Unbeatable Advantages of Walnut
Q. Are plastic cutting boards safe for knives?
Some plastics may scratch easily, especially if they're thin. A plastic cutting board cannot be restored, so deep knife marks may damage the board and leave room for bacterial growth.
A plastic surface also dulls your knife quicker than a wood surface. Because of this, the best board material are hardwoods such as walnut, cherry, or maple. They are generally preferred over soft woods such as pine.
see related: How To Pair a Cutting Board and a Knife
Q: Do wood cutting boards hold bacteria?
However, studies have shown that both wood and plastic cutting boards can harbor harmful bacteria. While many people prefer wooden cutting boards because they feel like they're more sanitary, it's still important to clean them regularly. To keep your kitchen safe, wash your cutting boards thoroughly after each use and store them in a dry area away from food.
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