How to Choose The Right Cooking Board
Can you believe how many types of cutting boards there are today? How do you choose one from another? Here are some of the key things to look at before going out to purchase a new one.
It's All A Question of Size
Some people may say it should depend on the size of your kitchen and where you are going to store it but I think you should base your decision on what you are going to use it for and how often. You can always make room on your counter for a big board if it is your main work station. A stylish cutting board may also enhance the look of your kitchen. I once used a piece of butcher block to cover a burn mark in an apartment I lived in.
Another factor you want to consider is the size of your sink. You have to clean the thing a lot so make sure you buy one that you can get into your sink to scrub with hot water after cutting up a raw piece of meat. You don't want to get sick from a dirty cutting board. Now I'm not suggesting the whole board has to be able to lie flat at the bottom of your sink. You aren't going to soak it especially if it's made out of wood. You just have to be able to get half of it in at one time.
I'm not sure it really matters unless you are a butcher or a professional chef prepping large quantities of meat. I once owned a big thick butcher block cutting board that was so heavy I could barely pick it up to clean. It looked great and was fun to work on, but oh so heavy. I got rid of that monster and now use a smaller, thinner board for big jobs and a flexible chopping mat for everyday use. Because they are so thin and flexible, it makes adding chopped vegetables easy to add to the pan.
What Does It Matter About Shape
This depends on what you are going to use it for. I prefer a square board with enough space to do my cutting but some people like to serve cheese and hors d'oeuvre on them so they buy an assortment of shapes and sizes. This makes sense to me. You don't want a huge cutting board to serve three little pieces of cheese and some crackers. On the other hand, if you are putting out a giant spread of cheese, sliced meats and vegetables, you don't want to crowd them on a tiny little board.
Wood or Synthetic Argument
Here's the big question because it not only depends on style and function, but it brings up the question of safety. If you want to learn more about the safety issues associated with wood vs plastic, click here.
Some folks purchase wood because they like the look but remember if you use your cutting board a lot, it's not going to look the same in a couple of years because of the wear and tear. Eventually the surface is going to have a lot of cut marks which in my opinion is what a cutting board should have.
Some of you may decide to go with synthetic because it offers you more choices in colors and shapes. It also typically weighs a lot less than a similar sized wooden one. But you also want to know that plastic cutting boards are a little rougher on your knives. Not enough in my opinion to keep you from using them but some you might want to consider.
Another negative about synthetic boards is staining. As you cut into them while working, you are carving grooves in the the plastic that permit blood and juices to get into and stain. I just recently threw out a bunch of my older plastic cutting boards because they were looking a bit ragged even after I tried to clean them with bleach.
Over the Sink - I used to have one of these and never used it over the sink so I guess you could call it an Non-Over the Sink model. I suppose it has a purpose so you can cut stuff up right next to your garbage disposal. I found I needed my sink for too many other jobs and couldn't afford to cover it up with a cutting board.
Groovy Cutting Boards - this style features a carved groove around the cutting board to capture juices and blood that may leak out. I'm sure they work well when carving at the table but I just don't like the look or feel of them.
With cutting boards, it's not always you get what you pay for. Sometimes a cheap plastic chopping mat that sell for under $10 for a set of four may be all you need. You can even find lesser quality wood boards for around $10 but they aren't going to look that great a year from now and may not even hold up that well. But for $10, who cares.
When you start looking at better quality boards, you are going to be looking at $30 - $50 - up to and more than $100. If you decide you want the new boards made of bamboo, you could be looking at as much as $200 for a large one. These are more than just cutting boards. They are beautiful pieces of wood that will last forever if properly maintained and give you kitchen an added accent.
What does the Reluctant Gourmet use?
I now own a use an 8 x 14 wooden board for cutting meat or when I am using it to display an appetizer of cheeses, slices meats and vegetables, a 11 x 14 Gripper plastic board for small chopping chores and inexpensive flexible plastic mats for everyday, quick jobs.
What I really like about the mats is how flexible they are. You can chop up an onion and use the mat to funnel the onion right into a pan. They are also easy to clean and don't take up much space in the dish drain.