Choosing a Cutting Board


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
As was said multiple times in this thread, that study was for unwashed boards. Washed boards are both very clean. As long as you wash your board, the bacterial properties of wood are insignificant. We all wash our boards right?

Joined Apr 12, 2005
I have mixed feelings on cutting boards - on one hand, the ease of use with plastic boards is very nice, but i have found some of them to be too soft. After repeated use, the surface becomes very rough and abrades my hand severely - this winter I had open wounds on ALL of my left fingers because of rough cutting boards...and I don't have sensitive skin or wound easily. Chop a lot of garlic, touch the cutting board a lot, end result is painful and a liability in a commercial kitchen. Wooden boards, and harder plastic boards, don't seem to suffer from this problem.

My solution is to iron the cleaned, sanitized boards every week or so - a process similar to lapping with a planer, but can be done in two minutes without much effort. So far so good.

Joined Dec 23, 2000
We go through this discussion every time cutting boards come up...:p

When my son was a cabinetmaker, he made a lot of wood cutting boards, and found serveral reports by researchers at the Commercial Food Institute of the Univ. of Wisconsin. They were unanimous that wood boards were more sanitary, as any leftover germs, after scrubbing, were absorbed into the wood... where they died.

Maple is the preferred wood (hard rock maple, the best) though walnut is good, and looks nice mixed with maple laminations. No experience with oak as a board material. End-grain boards are best, as there's more pores to gobble up the germs. Just treat a new board with USP mineral oil (NOT vegetable- it gets rancid) once a week for the first month - when it's dry, of course; then once a month for six months, and then every six months. Scrub under hot running water, dry in the dish rack. No dishwashers.

If you're making your own, use Titebond III wood glue- it's FDA approved for non-contact food use and is very strong and waterproof. Titebond II is OK and approved, too. Just not quite as strong or quite as waterproof as the newer III. The open time for III is longer, too. (If you're not into woodworking... don't worry about it. :rolleyes: )

You'll need a LOT of clamps. ;) And a belt sander.

Mike :smokin
Joined Oct 10, 2005
My feelings about wood vs nylon are pretty clear, but I've worked alot with wood as well, here are some of my observations.

Stay away from red Oak for cutting boards. My kids amuse themselves by taking a 3/4" x 3/4" stick of red oak, sticking one end in water, and blowing on the other end and watching the bubbles. In other words it's porous.

Titebond2 is good, but finger joints or dovetailing in combination with glue is even better.

Use a cabinet scraper to keep a smooth surface on the boards.
Joined Dec 23, 2000
"...but finger joints or dovetailing in combination with glue is even better."

Wow - that would be a very well-joined cutting board indeed. I've never seen one like that. Also a h**l of a lot of work. After ten or eleven years of cutting board experience, I've never seen one come apart just being butt-joint glued.

But, umm... remember, NOT in the dishwasher. :eek:

Joined Oct 10, 2005
Most of the commercial boards are finger jointed, and most are held together with bolts running through the width, and plugged with maple caps.

However, I and many other Chefs (and many, many Health Inspectors) are very worried about the implications of bacteria eating wood cutting boards. A wrong message, but one very easy to believe would be that it's ok to cut raw chicken or pork on the cutting board, give it a quick wipe, and everything's up to sanitation standards.

-Wood is a porous material. Stands to reason, given that one of the main functions of a tree trunk is transport water from the roots to the branches.

-Wood absorbs water, it's a natural function of the wood fibres, they are hollow and they absorb.

-Water is a great transport vehicle for many other things: Salts, minerals, food debris.

Put it all together and a wet cutting board is wiped down, the moisture eventually evaporates, and the debris, salts, etc, are left behind, plugging up the fibres.

I'm no scientist, have no access to a lab, but my big question is: Can a used wood cutting board, one that has gone through many cycles of wetting and drying, still be effective in killing bacteria on contact?

A good example is with an ex-employee of mine cleaning off a s/s table. He gives it a quick wipe, sprays it down with sanitizer, and proudly exclaims it's clean. I point out the spilled juices, fish scales and carrot peels. "But Chef, they're sanitized, it's ok".

Easiest and quickest way to sanitize a cutting board, a way that you're about 95% sure it's sanitized, is to toss it into a high-temp d/w. Can't do this with a wood cutting board or it'll swell and split along the glue lines. Best thing to do is cut raw meat and other perishables on a nylon cutting board and be 95% sure.
Joined Jan 19, 2007
My chef keeps both on hand. Nylon and plastic cutting boards are softer than the wood boards we have, and he instructs we use the ones we feel more comfortable. Here at home and at school I prefer Maple VS Bamboo, I find the bamboo is grainy and I have have caught some of the grains with a pairing knife and lifted it up. I really don't want that in my food.

As for wood VS. plastic and sanitation, all the boards I work with a replaced after 3 months on average and I treat them with bleach and T20 sanitizer. I've never had a problem, and my boards if they show too much wear get tossed. Easy as that.
Joined Apr 16, 2007
I have a solid maple, wood chopping board - about 2 " thick - wires running through the width of the board - approx 22" x 18 " - has lasted 30 to 35 years
cleans with hot water , soap and a plastic scrubbing pad
the board was from ontario
any one in canada or us know where I can buy a similar item
Joined Feb 1, 2007
I don't understand why you have wires running through it. That sort of stabalization is totally unnecessary with a well-constructed cutting board or chopping block.

If you can't find what you're looking for elsewise, contact me off-list. I build custom boards and blocks, from all sorts of woods, and I'm sure we can work something out.
Joined Sep 5, 2006
I have heard the same wood vs.plastic sanitary issues.... personally, I have several plastic boards of varying sizes, I can throw them through the dishwasher. (I also have a spray bottle of bleach solution to spray down the boards after chicken)
Joined Oct 10, 2005
KY Heirloomer, most maple boards over 2" thick will have a series of 3/8" redi-rods running through them at 12 or 16" intervals. Wood swells and contracts natuarally enough with the seasons on regular furniture, which is why good pieces will allow for wood movement. (ie table skirts having some room when attached to tops, frame and panel construction in doors, etc.)

Cutting boards and butcher's blocks are subject to alot more abuse, and alot more moisture, which means the wood moves(contracts and expands) more. If no physical means of stopping the wood from expanding are used, the wood will evenutally swell and crack and fail along the glue lines. The redi-rods are used less frequently now due to cost effectiveness and due to kiln dried wood becoming increasingly cheaper.
Joined Nov 28, 2006
Does anyone have a section of butcher block incorporated into the countertop to use as a cutting board, or is it generally thought better to have something that is portable, for flexibility and sanitation?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Note, Foodpump, that my operative words were "well constructed."

Redi-rods were used for two reasons. The first you touched on; the wood was not cured properly, and so artificial means were needed to stabalize it.

Second was construction speed. Rather than gluing and clamping, the board or block would be held together by the rods until the glue set up. This allowed the maker to move on to other stages more quickly.

Me, I could care less about saving that time, cuz my game is quality, not quantity. People who order boards and blocks from me know that they're paying top dollar for proper construction and custom features, and we don't need threaded rods to hold the thing together.
Joined Dec 23, 2000
Well, we go through this every time the cutting board subject comes up. :rolleyes:

When my son was a cabinetmaker, he made a lot of cutting boards, mostly hard maple, sometimes mixed with walnut.

He located several research papers from the Food Service Department of the University of Wisconsin (at Milwaukee, if I remember correctly) that demonstrated the bacteria-suppressing characteristic of wood boards.

He would include a copy of the papers with each of the boards he sold.

I don't think this capacity is a myth.

Mike :cool:


Joined Dec 20, 2006
Nor do I. I've read enough over the last couple of months to feel quite comfortable using a wood board. Which is very good because I hate those plastic boards. In any case, I just don't worry about little things like bacteria <LOL>

Shel (living on the edge)
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Folks, I really feel strongly about this, for the life of me I can not endorse someone to bone out a raw chicken, pork roast, or fish, on a wood board, give the board a quick wipe with a towel, and consider it sanitized. I think very few people could endorse this method of sanitation.

That being said, whatever you do in your own kitchens is your business, but if you're in the food business, no one will take a chance like that.

About construction, redi-rod systems are not a cheap cop-out, with massive boards and blocks they are a neccesity. I currently have a massive 30" by 36" by 30" THICK maple cutting block, made up of endgrain oriented strips dovetailed and glued together. Located at about 10" from the bottom is a series of redi-rods, all nicely plugged with maple caps. Some means of mechanical strength, as well as glue, is needed to hold that kind of massive weight together, and for the life of me, I can't see how these rods could subsitute for clamps during assembly.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Around 200 lbs. "Inherited" it when we bought the last place, a clapped-out "Chinese/Canadian" place. Matter of fact, it was of the few things that we DID keep, when we started cleaning that place out... But it was in baaad shape, so hollowed out in the middle my kids coulda curled up and fell asleep in the hollow..

I love wood and working with tools, especially hand tools, but I have a business to run and didn't know what to do with it, and couldn't just toss it out. Luckily for me, the guy across the street runs a pattern maker's shop, had a huge 24" bandsaw and managed to heave that sucker on the table and slice almost 9" from the top. So I lied a little, it's only around 20' thick now, but it was originaly 30" thick. Beautiful thing to pound schnitzels on, or bone out a pork loin (on a nylon board...) without the table wiggling and jerking all over the place.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Well, Foodpump, it's a long, long way between a 2" thick board (>most maple boards over 2" thick will have a series of 3/8" redi-rods<) and a 30" thick, free-standing butcher block (>I currently have a massive 30" by 36" by 30" THICK maple cutting block<). That's talking apples and oranges.

Some of those old free-standing jobbies were also stabalized with iron strapping. Would you want to see that on a counter-top cutting board?
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