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What is the Healthiest Cutting Board to Use?

2023 Guide to Non-Toxic Cutting Boards



There's been quite some debate about what exactly is the healthiest cutting board material. In this post, we'll share the pros and cons of the most popular cutting board materials. In fact, choosing a safe cutting board is important for maintaining food safety, preventing cross-contamination, and ensuring the well-being of you and your family. That's because a cutting board is an essential tool in the kitchen, used for chopping, slicing, or even displaying beautiful appetizer assortments on delectable charcuterie boards.



Healthy wooden cutting board with organic bread


What is the Best Type of Cutting Board?


The best type of cutting board can depend on how well it performs, and that includes looking for an antibacterial cutting board surface. Some specific reasons for selecting a safe cutting board are crucial, including - first and foremost - food safety. The primary purpose of a cutting board is to prepare food, and it comes into direct contact with raw meats, vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients. If the cutting board is not safe, it can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, leading to foodborne illnesses. Such illnesses can lead to discomfort, hospitalization, and, in severe cases, life-threatening consequences, especially for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems.


Cutting boards can also prevent cross contamination. Using a safe and healthy cutting board helps prevent cross-contamination between different types of foods. For example, cutting raw meat on a cutting board and then using the same board to chop vegetables without proper cleaning can transfer harmful bacteria from the meat to the vegetables, making them unsafe to eat.


Other safety considerations include the size of the food prep surface. If you plan to cut large veggies on a small board, you may end up missing the target all together. Also some cutting boards have a harder, more slippery surface texture, which means it's important to be skilled with a knife to use one of these.



cutting vegetables on a wood cutting board
Using multiple cutting boards can help reduce cross contamination.


Best Materials for Cutting Boards


Choosing the right material for your cutting board is essential as well. The healthiest cutting board material is typically glass/stone or wood (hardwood, not softwood). These materials are either nonporous or have antimicrobial properties that make them more resistant to bacterial growth.


Some cutting boards made from unsafe materials or treated with harmful chemicals can release toxins into the food when in contact with hot, acidic or even wet ingredients. This includes cutting boards made from MDF (medium density fiberboard), which can release formaldehyde fumes. Being said, it's essential to choose quality cutting boards that are free from toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, and harmful glues, too.


Another factor to consider includes ease of cleaning. When it comes to the healthiest cutting board, it's important to be able to thoroughly disinfect the surface after each use to ensure removal of any food particles and bacteria. Nonporous materials like plastic are easier to clean compared to wood, as wood can absorb moisture and trap bacteria. Then there’s longevity to think of—investing in a safe and high-quality food prep surface can ensure its durability, and a well-maintained cutting board can last for years.



Healthy Cutting Board Tips


To ensure you have a safe and healthy cutting board, follow these tips:


cutting meat on a wood cutting board
  • Choose cutting boards made from materials known for food safety, such as plastic, glass, stone or wood. More on this in a bit.

  • Clean and sanitize your cutting board after each use.

  • Use separate cutting boards for different food types (e.g., different cutting boards for meat prep vs chopping vegetables) to prevent cross-contamination.

  • Avoid cutting boards with deep scratches that can trap bacteria and are difficult to clean.

  • Replace cutting boards that show signs of wear, damage, or deep scratches.


But the most important part is the first one we mentioned: choosing the right materials. And we’ll keep this simple, as there’s only three big options worth considering: plastic, wood, and mineral surfaces (stone and porcelain). Let’s rank them first, then go into a lot more detail!



The Top 3 Most Sanitary Cutting Board Materials


Most of us think of sanitary surfaces as a major consideration for safe food prep. So, when you're asking, "what is the healthiest cutting board to use?" -- we like to start with the most sanitary options.


  1. Wood: The pros of wood cannot be overstated. It’s attractive, lasts for years, and is naturally sturdy and antimicrobial. The primary cons are that it requires maintenance and is not dishwasher safe.

  2. Stone / Porcelain: With such a solid surface, you know you’re getting a material that is safe for meal prep. Not only that, but it can stay cold or hot for serving, and it’s long-lasting and durable. The downside is some stones (ie. marble) and ceramics can chip or crack if dropped.

  3. Polyethylene Plastic: This durable nontoxic plastic won’t leach or offgas and is also dishwasher and meat-prep safe. The downsides? Plastic is not a renewable resource, and deep scratches can become breeding grounds for bacteria over time.






The Healthiest Cutting Board:

best cutting boards for meats


The two most common types of cutting board materials, plastic and wood, are readily available throughout the world. While they are both excellent to use for meat prep, both materials offer certain advantages and disadvantages. Let’s compare plastic vs wood cutting boards in terms of meat prep performance and the healthiest cutting board materials.



meat charcuterie board
Wood cutting boards make excellent charcuterie board displays!


Plastic vs Wood Cutting Boards



antibacterial wood cutting board
Wood has natural antibacterial properties.

Are Wood Cutting Boards Safe?


Wooden cutting boards have been used for centuries and are prized for their natural beauty and durability. They are typically made from hardwoods such as maple, pecan, walnut, or cherry. Wooden boards offer several distinct advantages, including their ability to absorb impact, which is beneficial for maintaining the sharpness of knives.


Research has shown that many wood cutting boards possess antimicrobial properties. Wood contains natural compounds such as tannins that can inhibit the growth of bacteria, making natural wooden cutting boards a great option for food preparation. However, it is essential to note that wood is porous and can absorb juices from the meats, leading to the potential growth of bacteria if not properly cleaned and maintained.


To ensure the healthiness of wooden cutting boards, it is crucial to clean them thoroughly with hot soapy water after each use. Additionally, they should be regularly conditioned with non toxic food-safe oil to maintain their integrity and prevent bacterial growth. It is advisable to have separate wooden cutting boards for different food groups (meat vs fruits and vegetables) to minimize the risk of cross-contamination.



safe plastic cutting board
HDPE plastic is non toxic and won't absorb moisture.

Are Plastic Cutting Boards Safe?


Plastic cutting boards are widely used in both commercial and domestic kitchens due to their affordability, lightweight nature, and ease of maintenance. They are typically made from materials like polyethylene (HDPE), which are non-porous and resistant to moisture.


Plastic cutting boards offer the advantage of being dishwasher-safe, making them convenient for cleaning and sanitizing. However, they can become easily scratched over time, providing crevices where bacteria can thrive. Even worse, deep knife grooves can harbor harmful pathogens, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.


To maintain the healthiness of plastic cutting boards, it is important to replace them when they become excessively worn or develop deep knife grooves. Regular cleaning with hot soapy water and occasional sanitizing can help eliminate bacteria. Color-coded plastic cutting boards can be used to differentiate between different food groups and minimize cross-contamination risks.


If you're looking for plant-based bioplastic (PLA) cutting boards derived from renewable, organic sources such as corn starch or sugar cane, make sure they are moisture resistant. Many are not moisture, heat or acid resistant. Those labeled 'dishwasher safe' are water-resistant.



glass cutting boards
Other eco friendly options include glass, porcelain & stone.

Other Types of Cutting Boards to Consider


There are a few other materials cutting boards can be made from. For instance, bamboo cutting boards have gained popularity in recent years due to their natural beauty, sustainability, and strength. Bamboo is a sustainable, fast-growing grass that is harder than many hardwoods. These cutting boards are nonporous and less prone to moisture absorption compared to wooden boards. This characteristic helps prevent the growth of bacteria and reduces the risk of cross-contamination. However, similar to wooden cutting boards, bamboo boards require proper cleaning and maintenance to ensure food safety.


To maintain bamboo cutting boards, they should be washed with hot soapy water after each use and periodically treated with food-safe oil to prevent drying and cracking. Additionally, deep knife grooves should be avoided to minimize the potential for bacterial growth. A con about bamboo cutting boards, even if they're organic, is the engineered strand board typically uses glues with phenol formaldehyde, a harmful chemical. More on this later.


wood and stone cutting board

Glass cutting boards and porcelain platters are non-porous, hygienic, and easy to clean. They top our list of the healthiest cutting board materials and are resistant to stains, odors, and bacterial growth. Glass and ceramic porcelain are non-reactive materials, which mean they won't absorb odors or transfer any harmful substances to the food being prepared.


Ceramic and glass cutting boards are also heat-resistant and can withstand high temperatures. This makes them suitable to protect countertops from hot pots and pans and dishwasher safe. However, glass cutting boards and ceramic can be hard on knife blades and may cause them to dull more quickly compared to other materials.


You may also have heard of Epicurean cutting boards, which raises several questions. What does Epicurean mean? Are Epicurean cutting boards toxic? What are Epicurean cutting boards made of?


First, Epicurean is the brand name, and the proprietary material used is called richlite. It is a composite of hundreds of food-safe, resin-soaked sheets of paper, which are pressed together under extreme pressure and heat to fuse the sheets into a solid whole. While these are made from paper, a renewable resource, there are some concerns about formaldehyde release after the boards get wet and their long-term durability.



What Is the Best Wood for a Cutting Board?


So, we’ve established that wood is our favorite material for cutting boards. But there are lots of different types of wood, each with its own unique characteristics. The best wood for a cutting board depends on various factors such as hardness, durability, grain pattern, and resistance to moisture and bacteria.




Top 7 Best Woods for a Cutting Board


  1. Acacia: Acacia is among our favorite materials for cutting boards due to several advantageous characteristics. First, acacia wood is reasonably hard and durable, making it less prone to deep scratches from knives. This wood also contains natural oils that give it a level of water resistance, so it’s less likely to warp or crack when exposed to moisture. Acacia wood has natural antibacterial properties that can help inhibit the growth of microorganisms on the surface of the cutting board. Plus, it’s a beautiful wood with rich, warm colors, and eco friendly too because acacia is a fast-growing tree compared to most hardwoods.

  2. Maple: Maple is a preferred choice for cutting boards due to its hardness and tight grain pattern, which helps prevent deep knife marks and makes it easier to clean. It's also less porous than other woods, reducing the chances of bacteria growth and features neutral wood tone colors with subtle character. Look for SFC certified maple products, which means the timber was harvested responsibly.

  3. Pecan. Pecan wood is more durable and harder than maple, so larger cutting boards are less likely to crack or get damaged. However, the grain is not very close, which means the board should be dried off thoroughly after it's cleaned to keep it safe and sanitary.

  4. Teak: Teak is a tropical hardwood known for its natural oils, which make it highly resistant to moisture and decay. This makes teak an excellent choice for cutting boards that are exposed to water and frequent use. Look for the SVKL label for teak sourced from Indonesia, which certifies it was sustainably sourced through biodiverse, environmentally friendly efforts.

  5. Walnut: Walnut is a dense and attractive hardwood known for its beauty and durability. It's a bit softer than maple, but still a great option for cutting boards, especially if you want a darker-colored board.

  6. Oak: Oak is a beautiful hardwood with a neutral blond color and high hardness rating. Naturally finished oak wears well (it's a popular choice for stairs and flooring) and won't ooze sap. While oak is also knife friendly and won't dull your blades, it does have an open grain. Maintaining your cutting board with an organic oil that’s light in color, like safflower oil, will help to protect the wood from stains.



Remember, when choosing a wood cutting board, it's essential to choose one that's food-safe and not treated with synthetic oils or sealers. Make sure to avoid woods with toxic properties or ones that have been treated with chemicals not suitable for food contact.


Regardless of the wood you choose, it's crucial to regularly maintain your cutting board by cleaning it thoroughly and oiling it with food-grade cutting board oil or beeswax to preserve its appearance and durability. More information on cutting boards conditioners is available in the Healthy Kitchens ebook. Also, remember to separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry, and fish from those used for fruits, vegetables, and other foods to prevent cross-contamination.



Are Bamboo Cutting Boards Safe?


There are a few reasons why we do not recommend bamboo cutting boards at Healthier Homes. The first is that bamboo cutting boards are made by gluing together lots of bamboo strips. If these adhesives are not food-safe or contain harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, they can pose a risk of contaminating the food and producing harmful health effects to the cook using the board.


Also, bamboo is not as hard as some other hardwoods like maple or walnut, so it can be more prone to knife marks and cuts. These knife grooves can create crevices where bacteria may thrive if the cutting board is not properly cleaned and maintained. While bamboo is naturally somewhat water-resistant, it can still absorb moisture over time. If a bamboo cutting board is not dried thoroughly after use, it may lead to swelling, warping, or cracking, providing more spaces for bacteria to grow. For these reasons, we have not included bamboo cutting boards on the healthiest cutting board list.



Finding the Healthiest and Most Sanitary Cutting Board


So here you have it. The safest, healthiest cutting boards, in a nutshell, are:

  • WOOD. When it comes to selecting the healthiest cutting board material, wooden cutting boards, specifically those made from hardwoods, stand out for their antimicrobial properties and knife-friendliness. Maintenance is important for keeping the wood surface conditioned to avoid cracking. Wooden cutting boards are also an amazing way to serve up your charcuterie boards.

  • PLASTIC. Plastic cutting boards offer convenience and ease of cleaning but should be replaced when excessively worn. No maintenance is required.

  • MINERAL SURFACES. Glass, stone and ceramic cutting boards are hygienic and easy to clean but may dull knives more quickly. They also double as beautiful appetizer boards.



Tips for the Perfect Charcuterie Board


We mentioned that larger cutting boards make fantastic appetizer platters. In fact, some of our favorite charcuterie boards are actually large cutting boards. So, we felt it was important to include our favorite charcuterie tips, too.



charcuterie board tips and tricks

Ultimately, personal preferences and priorities will play a role in choosing the healthiest cutting board material for your needs. Whether you're looking to entertain or just use your cutting boards for food preparation, we got you covered! Be sure to check out the curated collection of healthy cutting board options here.



Have any tips or questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.



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