Best Cutting Board Material: Wood or Plastic - Everything You Need to Know

June 24, 2024 5 min read

Best Cutting Board Material: Wood or Plastic - Everything You Need to Know

Choosing the right tools can make all the difference in your cooking experience. One of the fundamental choices you’ll face is selecting the best cutting board material. Bamboo cutting boards are a great option as they are less porous and naturally antimicrobial, but too hard for our liking. A wood or plastic cutting board are the two other options, each with its own set of advantages. Learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision!

Wood or Plastic Cutting Board: The Choice is Yours

Whether you’re a seasoned at-home chef or simply enjoy cooking for your family, one often-over looked tool plays an important role: the cutting board.

The choice between wood and plastic cutting boards can bring up a lot of questions: Is there a major difference between the two? Which one is better? It’s a decision that can make or break your cooking experience, from aesthetics to knife maintenance and even food safety. Understanding the best cutting board material is crucial for making an informed choice.

A plastic cutting board is practical, affordable, and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Wood cutting boards, with their natural beauty and knife-friendly surface, offer up timeless charm and functionality. And while the wood vs plastic cutting board debate is often discussed, we’re firm believers in the fact that you can — and should — use both! We’re breaking down the reasons why so you can make the best decision for your home.

Wooden cutting board - with the words Chop Chop cut out of the top

The Case for Wood Cutting Boards

Here at Words with Boards, we’re passionate about our handcrafted wooden cutting boards. Each one is made with care and attention to detail, and our American hardwoods are sustainably sourced. You can also personalize your board to make it more meaningful.

There are several other advantages to using wooden boards, as well as some other things to keep in mind when choosing one.

Advantages of a wooden cutting board

  • Natural look: A good cutting board, especially a wood cutting board, adds a touch of rustic elegance to your kitchen. They are often cherished for their natural beauty and warm, earthy tones.

  • Knife-friendly surface: They’re also gentle on your knives. The slight give in the wood helps maintain the sharpness of your blades which reduces the frequency of sharpening.

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    maple wood with knife
  • Durability: High-quality boards (like ours!) made from maple, walnut, or cherry, can last for many years with proper care and maintenance.

  • Eco-Friendly: Wood is and organic eco-friendly compared to a glass cutting board or a plastic board.

Types of wood for cutting boards

  • Maple: A popular choice thanks to its durability and attractive grain patterns. It's less prone to knife marks compared to softer woods. And seems to dry out less than other woods.

  • Walnut: Known for their rich, dark color and beautiful grain. They're both functional and visually appealing. Knife marks aren't as visible on walnut.

  • Cherry: Offers a delightful reddish hue and is another excellent option for cutting boards. It's durable and darkens as it ages.

Cherry, Maple and Walnut Small Cutting Boards with Crab inlaid on top

Proper care and maintenance

  • Oil: Regularly apply food-safe mineral oil or coconut oil to a dry wood board to keep the wood hydrated and prevent it from drying out or cracking.

Spray Bottle of Food Safe Mineral Oil for Cutting Board

  • Clean and sanitize: Hand wash your board with warm, soapy water after each use. Never soak it or put it in the dishwasher, as excessive moisture and heat can cause the wood to warp and crack.

  • Prevent warping and cracking: Store your wood cutting board in a dry, upright position to prevent warping. We like to put a kitchen towel under the board while it dries. If it develops cracks or deep grooves, sand it down and oil it again!

The Case for Plastic Cutting Boards

While we do think wood boards are better than plastic — that’s our stance in the wood vs plastic cutting board argument — that’s not to say that you should toss all of your plastic boards. Each plastic board has its place in your kitchen, and you’ll likely get a lot of use out of both. But, with that said, let me also say there has been a recent study from NIH that we are ingesting microplastics from plastic cutting boards.

As with wood cutting boards, plastic cutting boards have their own set of advantages, plus many other things to consider.

 

plastic cutting board with cut avocados

Advantages of a plastic cutting board

  • Affordability: Plastic boards are widely available and come at a budget-friendly price point, making them a practical choice for many homes. Rubber cutting boards, while generally more expensive, offer additional benefits such as durability and a knife-friendly surface.

  • Dishwasher-safe: Unlike wood, plastic options are often dishwasher-safe.

  • Resistance to moisture: Plastic stands up against moisture. This means it won’t absorb liquids or odors.

Types of plastic cutting boards

  • Flexible or rigid plastic: Choose between flexible plastic boards, which are easy to bend and pour ingredients into pots, or rigid ones that provide a stable cutting surface.

  • Polypropylene: Lightweight and easy to handle. They come in various colors to help prevent cross-contamination.

  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE): Popular in commercial kitchens for their durability and resistance to chemicals. You can also purchase one for your home.

Proper care and maintenance

  • Clean and sanitize: These boards are dishwasher-safe, but you can also wash them by hand with hot, soapy water. Regularly inspect for deep cuts or grooves, as those can harbor bacteria.

  • Replace when damaged or heavily worn: Plastic boards can develop scratches over time, which provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Replace them when you notice significant wear.

Wood vs Plastic Cutting Board Frequently Asked Questions

Is a wooden or plastic cutting board better?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and what you plan to use your board for. If you value aesthetics and natural materials, wood may be your top pick (and we can’t help but agree!). Wood cutting boards and other materials like rubber are easier on a knife's edge, more durable, heavier, and have antimicrobial properties. Wooden cutting boards are also gentler on knives — and the environment.

In terms of specific kitchen tasks, wood is best for meat, poultry, vegetables, and fruit. Plastic may be preferred for seafood as it doesn’t harbor odors like wood does. Again, choose what works best for you and your cooking habits!

What type of cutting board is the most sanitary?

Both plastic and wood are sanitary — if you keep them clean. 

That said, plastic cutting boards are often considered slightly more hygienic because they have a non-porous surface that is less likely to harbor bacteria. But once scratches are present they are less hygienic.

Now, wood cutting boards can be just as safe with regular cleaning and oiling using food grade mineral oil or coconut oil to prevent moisture absorption.

What are the disadvantages of a plastic cutting board?

They are more prone to developing deep knife marks and scratches over time, which can be challenging to clean. Unlike wood cutting boards, plastic ones can be a source of microplastics.

While they are durable, they are not as knife-friendly as wood, which could potentially cause your knives to dull. Plus, plastic boards aren't as stylish as wood, aren't eco-friendly and are often non-biodegradable.

A recent study shows Microplastics can be of concern when chopping on plastic cutting boards as they will end up in the food you eat.

Our Final Thoughts

Maple Cutting Board with words Chop Chop in script cut out on top

Choosing between a wood or plastic cutting board boils down to your personal preferences, cooking habits, and priorities. Both have their advantages, and with proper care and maintenance, can serve you well in the kitchen. 

Whether you opt for the timeless elegance of wood or the practicality of plastic, make sure to prioritize hygiene and food safety in all that you do. Happy cooking!

Kim Strassner
Kim Strassner

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