Cutting boards are an essential part of any kitchen. They allow us to chop, dice, slice and mince our ingredients without worry of butchering a finger or two (ideally, anyways!). But not all cutting boards are created equal—some look nice on the counter while others can actually be harmful to your knives. Here's what you need to know about choosing the right type of board for your home:
So, what is the best wood species for cutting boards?
Hardwood lumber (with maybe a few exceptions) is a must when crafting a cutting board. In Canada, you'll often find hand-crafted cutting boards made from three of our most prominent hardwood species: cherry, black walnut and maple.
Maple is a hardwood with a fine grain that is dense and strong, resisting warping when exposed to water. Maple also has natural oils in it that help it resist staining, which makes it an ideal material for cutting boards. For these reasons, it's often the material favoured by craftsman - and chefs - when creating and selecting a cutting board.
At Stillbay Home Goods, we strive to use sustainably sourced local lumber. And if it can't be local (some of it can't because it isn't native to our part of Canada), we strive work with suppliers from other parts of Canada. In our cutting boards, you'll predominantly find cherry, black walnut and maple. Sometimes, we also use ash, beech and birch as well.
Are end grain cutting boards better than edge grain ones?
End grain cutting boards are made by gluing hardwood in the shape of the board, then cutting it into a square or rectangle. Perhaps the most beneficial element of an end grain board is that they're better for your knives because as you're cutting or chopping, the knife blade is going between the wood fibres, which means you won't need to sharpen your knives as often. End grain also has greater tensile strength, making it more durable (and therefore less likely to break), while allowing for faster drying after cleaning—which means fewer bacteria thrive on its surface.
Edge grain boards are made by gluing strips of hardwood into a block. As you can imagine from looking at them side-by-side, these boards show off the natural beauty of the wood. This style of board is more economical than an end grain board (simply because they take roughly half the time to make) and still quite durable, though there aren't as many benefits as an end grain board.
How can I know that my cutting board will last?
You should look for a hardwood cutting board made with woods like maple, cherry or walnut. There are other species used as well, but in Canada, these are the three most common species.
Look for a finish that is food-safe, like mineral oil (as opposed to cooking oil, which can go rancid). Ideally, look for an artisan who uses all natural, sustainable products like pure tung oil and beeswax, which is what we do here at Stillbay Home Goods. If the seller doesn’t say the finish is food-safe, don’t buy it!
Finally, look for one made by a local craftsman/craftswoman who knows what they're doing and cares about superior quality.
Here's how to get a truly heirloom-worthy cutting board.
Look for signs of craftsmanship, such as a signature design, a makers mark or perhaps the ease of speaking to/knowing of the individual who crafted the product.
Look for signs of durability, such as solid construction, a high attention to detail or the use of superior materials.
Look for signs of quality, which can be difficult to define but is usually a combination of things like durability, aesthetics and price point/value ratio (if it's too cheap it might be made with inferior materials).
Look for longevity in the product as well—a cutting board that lasts forever tells you that the maker cares about their customers’ satisfaction long after they've purchased the item; this means they'll probably stand behind their product if something goes wrong or needs replacing down the line!
There’s no one perfect cutting board, but it’s important to think about your needs and preferences when you buy one. We hope this guide helped you narrow down the choices, but if all else fails, feel free to reach out!