The Best Cutting Boards for Meal Prep

Ahead, learn the key considerations to bear in mind when choosing a cutting board—and don't miss our roundup of top-favorite picks!

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The Complete Buyer's Guide for the Best Cutting Boards

Photo: istockphoto.com

Want to keep your countertops in good shape? Cutting boards are key accessories for any kitchen, providing a durable, hygienic place to slice and dice ingredients without marring the surface beneath.

Available in a range of types, shapes, and sizes with a handful of features to choose from, cutting boards may seem like a dime a dozen, but some are no doubt better than others, particularly when it comes to their suitability for different types of food.

If you’re on the lookout for a new cutting board, read on. We’ve outlined the key considerations to bear in mind and gathered details on our top-favorite picks among the best cutting boards available:

  1. BEST OVERALL: ROYAL CRAFT WOOD Organic Bamboo Cutting Board
  2. RUNNER-UP: OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board
  3. ALSO CONSIDER: Totally Bamboo 3-Piece Bamboo Cutting Board Set

Shopping for the Best Cutting Boards

Key Considerations

First, narrow down the material.

The first thing to think about when you’re in the market for a cutting board is what material it’s going to be made out of. Get to know the differences between the most common types so that you can weigh their pros and cons.

Plastic cutting boards may seem like the most health-conscious option since they’re dishwasher-safe, but studies show that they may not be as germ-free as we assume. While a brand new one can be completely rid of bacteria with a run through the dishwasher, even a lightly-used plastic cutting board can never be truly cleaned once knives have compromised the surface. (Even shallow scratches will catch and harbor some bacteria.) On the upside, plastic options are slim and easy to store, gentle on knives, and not particularly expensive.

Advice: Plastic options may be the best cutting boards for bread and vegetables if you avoid cutting meat on it and wash all other foods vigorously before chopping, dicing, or mincing them. Even so, you’ll still need to replace it once or more a year to avoid potential foodborne illness.

Bamboo cutting boards are generally considered to be an eco-friendly choice, because it’s possible to manage the growth and harvesting of bamboo in a sustainable way. An additional perk: Cutting boards of this material offer similar sanitary properties to traditional wood cutting boards. Bamboo could potentially be even more sanitary than hardwood, some say, due to bamboo being less less soft and absorbent. Just know that you should wash bamboo cutting boards by hand, lest your dishwasher warp the material.

Advice: While overall cleanliness and environmental consciousness work in its favor, bamboo can be particularly hard on knife blades, requiring you to sharpen your blades more often than you would need to otherwise.

Wood cutting boards are quite popular as they are least likely to wear down your knife blades, handsomely textured, and available to complement whatever wood finish exists in your kitchen. They aren’t always a clear winner, however, because they are both the priciest and the most “high maintenance” of the bunch: These boards must be washed by hand to prevent warping and require occasional conditioning with a food-grade mineral oil to keep it in great shape.

Advice: Whether you prefer a traditional butcher block made of several types of wood or a sleek, heavy slab of maple, know that most wood boards are two to three times as expensive as a bamboo alternative. Still, with the right maintenance, your wooden cutting board can serve double-duty as both work surface and serving platter for generations to come.

Marble or granite cutting boards appeal to home cooks with a penchant for luxury culinary products. These slabs cost three to four times as much as any other material and are more visually appealing than long-lasting. For example, granite is too porous to resist absorption of the foods you set and chop on it; therefore, it may enable cross-contamination even after a thorough cleaning if you were to use it for cutting meat one night and vegetables the next.

Advice: Either marble or granite slabs are perfectly safe and strikingly beautiful to use when slicing fruits, cheese, and crudités, but not necessarily practical for day-to-day meal prep.

Select the right size and shape for your kitchen.

Of course, a cutting board won’t do you much good if it’s too small for the task at hand or too large to fit onto your countertop. (The latter can cause dangerous wobbles if you allow it to hang over the edge while you cut your food!) Most boards’ dimensions range from around 8-by-10 inches to 20-by-30 inches, or even larger.

Before you purchase a new one, be sure to measure the area where you’ll be using it and plan for at least a one-inch perimeter around it while you work. But don’t feel limited to just the one: Many households do well with several cutting boards of various sizes—all smaller than your countertop—with which you can easily divide and conquer food prep tasks between yourself and a sous chef.

Consider added conveniences.

Many cutting boards are simple rectangular slabs, but a few subtle details can work in your favor to make chopping ingredients less of a mess.

  • If you’re on a mission for a bamboo or wood cutting board to use specifically for meat preparation, a trench that runs a half-inch in from the edge all the way around your board can help collect excess juice from running off the board and onto your countertops.
  • Rubber feet in the corners of your board afford you extra control while you rock your knife back and forth on top. Of course, feet designate one side of the board as the top and the other as the bottom, meaning that you cannot make use of both sides for cutting—when the one gets all carved up, you won’t be able to simply flip the board over to work on the “new” side.
  • Board edges wrapped in rubber, on the other hand, create a similar grippy effect without eating up any space on the face of your board. If you decide to go ahead and skip feet altogether, though, you can still steady the board easily by placing a wet paper towel or a clean rag underneath your board.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall

The Best Cutting Board Option: ROYAL CRAFT WOOD Organic Bamboo Cutting Board
Photo: amazon.com

This non-absorbent, antimicrobial bamboo board helps keep cross-contamination to a minimum. It’s generously sized too, spanning 12 inches by 18 inches. That’s large enough to carve a small turkey on! In a pinch, you can even use this cutting board as a serving platter. It only weighs a few pounds. Just reach for the side handles and the board can be carried straight from the counter to the buffet table.

Runner-Up

The Best Cutting Board Option: OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board
Photo: amazon.com

The OXO Good Grips Utility Cutting Board is another favorite, not least because it offers dishwasher-safe convenience. Plus, the 1/2-inch-thick polypropylene board measures a somewhat petite 10-1/2 by 14-1/2 inches—small enough to be slipped into most drawers for storage. This lightweight model features tapered handles and nonslip edges—hence the “Good Grips” name—and a thoughtfully included trench to catch liquids.

Also Consider

The Best Cutting Board Option: Totally Bamboo 3-Piece Bamboo Cutting Board Set
Photo: amazon.com

Looking to replace all your cut-up old cutting boards at one time? Check out this three-piece set made of sustainably harvested bamboo. With three different boards, each with different dimensions—9-½ by 13 inches, 9-½ by 11 inches, and 6 by 8 inches—you can separate sliced meat from chopped produce from finely diced herbs, or you can tile the boards together to create an extra-large work surface. After dinner, the nonabsorbent (i.e., stain-resistant) bamboo is easy to hand wash.