Wooden cutting boards are ubiquitous in many kitchens: they’re the workhorse of meal prep, the Ginger Rogers to your knife’s Fred Astaire. But do you really need a pricey one? When we tested wooden cutting boards, our top three picks all came from smaller manufacturers who make their cutting boards from high-end woods, and most of them were at least $120.
With so many varieties and materials out there, we took some time to break down just why our top cutting board picks tend to be more expensive—and why they're worth it.
They’re Made From Better Materials
The BoardSmith Maple End-Grain Cutting Board
Brooklyn Butcher Blocks End-Grain Maple Cutting Board
Our top three picks come from The Boardsmith and Brooklyn Butcher Blocks, who exclusively work with maple, walnut, and cherry wood. All three of these woods are well-regarded for their sturdiness while still having enough give to be gentle on your knives (though some people think cherry is a little too soft). These aren’t the most expensive woods out there, but the boards have to be straight and without blemishes in order to combine them into a high-end cutting board, making the raw materials for well-made boards costlier than their bulk lumber counterparts.
Cheaper cutting boards are usually made from bamboo, acacia, teak, or even compressed paper. All of these materials are hailed for their natural water resistance, but both bamboo and teak have high silica content which can be really tough on knives, while compressed paper boards are the hardest material of them all. Acacia’s hardness can vary depending on where it was grown, and while we prefer maple, our budget pick is made from acacia.
They're Often Made End-Grain Style, Which Is Easier on Knives
Most inexpensive cutting boards are made from edge-grain wood, meaning the boards are aligned lengthwise before assembling. It’s a much cheaper construction method because there are fewer pieces to assemble.
End-grain boards, which make up three of our four top picks, expose the ends of the boards on the cutting surface in a brick-like pattern. Because there are so many more wood pieces involved in the construction process, it takes a lot more time and precision to assemble. This style of board is also gentler on your knives because the wood fibers are oriented vertically, allowing the knife’s edge to pass between them. You can read more about the two types of board construction in our review.
High-End Cutting Boards Last Longer
Well-made cutting boards last longer than cheaper ones, and our senior culinary editor Daniel Gritzer has been using his Maple End Grain Boardsmith board for more than six years. Because end-grain boards have a natural self-healing quality, he reports that there is no visible deterioration in the surface quality, even though the board has gone through some periods of neglect.
So while our favorite cutting boards might be pricey, they are less likely to split, unlike the cheaper ones Daniel ordered for the Serious Eats kitchen that failed only after a few months.
Thicker Boards Stay True
The thicker the cutting board, the truer it’ll stay—thinner cutting boards are at a higher risk of warping because there’s just less material to hold them straight. And the more material you use—you guessed it—the more expensive the cutting board becomes. Our picks from The Boardsmith and Brooklyn Butcher Blocks are both two inches thick, while our Ironwood Gorumet budget pick is only one-and-a-quarter inches thick. It may be less than half the cost, but it’s almost half as thick and will be more likely to warp if it absorbs too much water.
Both The Boardsmith and Brooklyn Butcher Blocks offer various levels of customization, like adding a juice groove, feet, or handles. It’s a great way to add a personal touch to a bigger investment: if you’re going to have one of these cutting boards for a long time, you might as well make it your own. Our updates editor Jacob Dean customized his end-grain board to be at least two inches thick and custom-sized to his countertop, with beveled edges that make it easier to pick up.
Since cheaper boards are made in bulk, these types of customizations aren’t possible. Our budget pick comes with feet attached, which we’re torn on: while rubber feet can prevent skidding, they also render one side of the board unusable as a cutting surface. With a custom order, you can make the choice on whether you want feet or not, which could double the workspace your cutting board offers.
So, Are Expensive Wood Cutting Boards Worth It?
We think so! Our top picks from The Boardsmith and Brooklyn Butcher Blocks are made from high-end wood, and they’re gentler on your knives and last longer than many lower-cost options. If you do have a hard time with their price point, however, we also recommend this acacia option from Ironwood Gourmet. It won’t be up to the quality of our top picks, but it’ll still perform pretty well.
What is the best hardwood for a cutting board?
The best hardwoods for cutting boards are maple, walnut, and cherry. All three have slightly different properties, but they’re all sturdy enough to prevent kitchen knives from making deep cuts while still being soft enough to be gentle on a knife’s edge.
Can I cut raw meat on a wooden cutting board?
While you can cut raw meat on a wooden cutting board, it’s harder to sanitize and clean than a plastic cutting board. At the same time, older plastic cutting boards can have deep grooves that collect bacteria and are harder to clean, so be sure to throw out any cutting board once you start to see deeper knife marks showing up on its surface.
Should you seal a hardwood cutting board?
Yes—hardwood is still porous, and an unseasoned cutting board risks swelling, cracking, and warping if it isn’t properly sealed with mineral oil. We have a guide to show you how to perform regular seasoning, and we recommend reasoning your cutting board whenever you notice drops of water are no longer beading on the surface.
Why do people prefer wooden cutting boards?
Most professional kitchens use an array of plastic cutting boards because they’re easier to clean (and they’re cheaper, which matters when you need one board for each prep station), but at home, many chefs and professional cooks prefer wood. Wooden cutting boards are versatile and they’re easier on knives. If someone has a collection of high-end knives that they’d like to protect, a wooden cutting board is the best choice. They also come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and high-end wooden cutting boards can be customized to the user's liking.