At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Chopping boards, also called cutting boards, are integral tools in any kitchen, whether residential or professional. Generally speaking, a chopping board is used as a surface on which to cut food or prepare food. In addition to protecting counter tops from the hazards of a sharp knife, chopping boards also can protect the blade of a knife from wear. Some surfaces are better suited to being used with a knife because they do not damage knife blades. The different types of materials used to make these boards include wood, plastic, glass, steel and marble.
Wood chopping boards might be considered old fashioned by some, but in fact, they remain popular because wood is readily available, is durable and has antiseptic properties. Additionally, butcher block chopping boards with a vertical grain are actually somewhat self-healing. That is, when the knife comes in contact with the surface of the board, the end grains actually separate slightly, then return to their original state after a time. This lack of resistance helps keep knives sharper longer, thus reducing wear and preserving the overall life of kitchen knives. A wood chopping board should not be allowed to stand in water, because it can begin to fall apart with sustained moisture.
Plastic chopping boards were once thought to be more sanitary than wood, but because plastic is not self-healing like wood, grooves created by knives remain open and can collect bacteria. One benefit is that a plastic chopping board can be soaked in bleach or another cleanser that will effectively kill bacteria. Plastic is a great surface for a lightweight board, especially the flexible cutting mats that have become popular. Plastic cutting mats are easy to use and reasonably priced, making them affordable enough to justify buying one for red meat, one for vegetables, one for fish and one for poultry.
There are other types of chopping boards available that are best used as food preparation surfaces because they are not well-suited for use with knives. For example, glass chopping boards are easy to clean, but they also damage knives and can be hazardous if chipped, broken or dropped. Similarly, steel chopping boards are durable and easy to clean, but the steel surface also causes undue wear on kitchen knives. Marble cutting boards are traditionally used for baking and serving, but the surface will dissolve slowly with contact with acidic foods.