Oct 04, 2023
Best Wooden Cutting Boards 2023
Stately yet utilitarian, a beautiful wooden cutting board is an essential
Stately yet utilitarian, a beautiful wooden cutting board is an essential building block in any distinguished home kitchen. It may not hold the lead part—that's taken by the agile chef's knife—but it plays a crucial supporting role, providing a spacious surface for all your chopping needs. Following a month of rigorously testing nine of the the best wooden cutting boards, I believe the John Boos Maple Edge-Grain Reversible Cutting Board to be the top all-purpose option for most home cooks. Made of handsome blond maple, this sizable block offers unmatched durability without being overly hard on knives. If you’re seeking a more affordable option, though, the Teakhaus Edge-Grain Professional Carving Board is a similarly impressive pick that's naturally water-resistant.
While their plastic counterparts are less costly and easier to maintain, the best wooden cutting ... [+] boards are handsome, gentle on knives and built to last.
While their plastic counterparts are less expensive and lower-maintenance, quality wooden cutting boards are built to last—they can remain functional for well over a decade, so long as they’re cared for properly. Additionally, whereas plastic boards must be thrown away once their surfaces are scarred with deep grooves, as such cracks become a niche in which bacteria can flourish, a wooden block can "heal" those grooves as it dries—and in the process, pull the pathogens into its core, where they suffocate. Wooden cutting board upkeep may seem daunting, but if you can care for cast iron, you can maintain a wooden chopping block. (For more on proper upkeep, check out our wood cutting board cleaning guide.)
The following is a list of all the winners from my testing process:
As a home and kitchen editor at Forbes Vetted, I’m well versed in the expansive and overlapping food, drink and cooking spheres. Arguably, I know almost too much about the functional differences between the various KitchenAid stand mixers and the dizzying configurations of knife sets, as I’ve edited long-form tested pieces on such topics. For the past decade, I’ve written and edited a wide variety of cooking-adjacent stories, tested recipes for cookbooks and food publications and operated commercial restaurant equipment in professional kitchens. My writing has appeared on Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Saveur, Grub Street and Punch.
For this piece, I passed countless hours flipping through long-running knife, cutting board and woodworking forums, which ended up being one of the most productive steps in my studies, as forum participants aren't known to mince their words. To supplement my research, I also consulted three specialists. For a better understanding of foodborne pathogens and illnesses, I tapped the expertise of Ben Chapman, PhD, a food safety researcher at North Carolina State University who has studied the risks that plastic and wooden boards carry. Next up was Angie Yang, cofounder of Brooklyn woodworking school Bien Hecho Academy, who outlined everything I needed to know about woodworking basics and how they apply to cutting boards. To gain the insight of a knife aficionado, I spoke with Josh Donald, co-owner of Bernal Cutlery in San Francisco and author of Sharp: The Definitive Introduction to Knives, Sharpening, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs.
Once I completed my initial round of research, I finalized my list of contenders, landing on nine top-rated wooden cutting boards. While I limited my search to medium-large boards—those with dimensions around 12 x 18 inches and 15 x 20 inches—I sought to reflect the market's wide variety in other ways. Altogether I tried out seven different kinds of wood, each of which carries its own unique perks and disadvantages: maple, walnut, acacia, teak, beech, hinoki and ash. Beyond wood type, chopping blocks typically feature one of two types of construction, both of which I tested: end-grain (which is easy on knives, though higher-maintenance and more expensive) and edge-grain (which is more resilient and affordable, though somewhat harder on your knives).
A selection of the popular wooden cutting boards I put through the paces in my home kitchen.
As I unboxed each board, I started with one of the most important tests: a thorough visual examination. Was the board smooth and glistening with oil, indicative that it was treated with due love and care right up until it was shipped, for example, or was it rough and downright parched? Upon noting my first impressions, I next considered each board's construction more carefully, from the wood used to its overall size. The thicker the board, the less likely it is to warp, which is why well-crafted boards are typically between 1.25 and 2 inches thick. Finally, I inspected each board for superficial flaws like cracks, indentations and warping. (If a board needed to be washed or oiled before its first use, either because it appeared dry out of the box or the brand explicitly called for it, I also performed the necessary maintenance.)
After scrutinizing the boards, I put them through the paces in my kitchen. Using my chef's knife, I started by slicing carrots and cutting onions two ways (pole-to-pole and diced), noting whether the boards slid as I chopped or remained stable on my countertop. Generally speaking, the heavier the board, the better able it is to hold its place. To aid in stability, some brands affix rubber feet to their boards, which help prevent the surface from sliding or spinning. With the boards that refused to stay in place, I placed a towel underneath, as I didn't want to slice open a finger due to an unsteady board. During this stage, I also tested the functionality of juice canals and hand grips. While not all boards had these additional features, I wanted to test the functionality of those that did; to do so, I measured how much liquid the canal was able to catch and noted how easy it was to lift the board using the hand grips.
To observe whether the boards retained stains or odors, I then chopped up roasted beets and anchovies on each surface, allowing the foods to rest for half an hour. It's an unfortunate reality that over time, wooden cutting boards can absorb the smells and flavors of pungent foods like garlic and onion, as well as the vibrant juices from turmeric and beets. Because this is inevitable, I didn't expect any of the boards to be fully scent- or color-free following this test. Therefore, after I thoroughly cleaned and let the boards dry for a few hours, I noted only the cases where the staining or odor was excessive.
Between each test, I washed the boards with lukewarm water, using unscented dish soap from Seventh Generation and a Scotch-Brite heavy-duty sponge, then immediately wiped them with paper towels. With wooden cutting boards, drying them promptly is of the essence, as moisture can cause them to crack or warp. (It goes without saying that under no circumstances should they ever be soaked or put through the dishwasher.) Once the boards were fully dried, I inspected for knife scarring.
There's one crucial criterion I have not yet been able to assess (but will eventually). Because my formal testing process transpired over the course of a month, I cannot yet speak to how the cutting boards hold up to regular use over a long period of time. I’ll eventually be able to judge this important quality, though, as I’m continuing to informally test the winning boards by using them in my kitchen.
Wood: Northern hard rock maple | Construction: Edge-grain | Size: 20 x 15 x 1.5 inches, among other size options | Weight: 12 pounds | Additional features: Hand grips, reversible | Suggested maintenance: At least once per month, apply an even coat of Boos Block Mystery Oil, followed by Boos Block Board Cream
A longtime bestseller, the John Boos Maple Edge-Grain Reversible Cutting Board proved itself worthy of the distinction in my testing. Made from hardwood, this handsome blond block strikes the perfect balance between function and beauty. It is durable yet relatively easy on knives, and its classic look would add distinction to any kitchen. (You can read my full review of the board here.)
Based in Effingham, Illinois, John Boos & Co. is one of the older butcher block manufacturers in the country, beloved by home cooks and professional chefs alike for their premium cutting boards. Therefore, I had high expectations for this board—which is why I was a little disappointed when I first opened the box. The wood was crying out for hydration, though it was nothing a quick rubdown with Boos Block Mystery Oil couldn't help. After allowing the board a few hours to drink up the oil, I was then able to really admire the revitalized piece's thoughtful construction. Made from NSF-certified northern hard rock maple, the board features a classic edge-grain construction, lending the wood—which is known for its optimal hardness and durability—added resiliency. Because of its 1.5-inch thickness, this board is less likely to warp than one that's thinner and more lightweight. While the hand grips are on the shallower side, this isn't the kind of board you’d want to carry about that much anyway. Measuring in at 15 x 20 inches with a weight of 12 pounds, it's designed to occupy a permanent spot on your kitchen countertop. The only time I needed to lift the block during testing was after washing and wiping it down with a dry towel, when I leaned the board against a wall to ensure all sides dried fully.
As for its performance, this board left little to be desired. Thanks to its heft, it didn't budge one bit as I chopped through onions, carrots and beets. While the beet juice didn't lift entirely, that's to be expected—maple is a lighter wood, and therefore more susceptible to staining. While some may prefer the look of a pristine board, I think the light-grain maple wood looks even handsomer with a little wear and tear. After all, light stains and scars are evocative reminders of great meals past. If a single mark ever starts to bother you, though, you can always flip this board over. In fact, for longevity's sake, it's best to alternate using the two sides of this reversible board.
Here's how much beet juice lingered on the John Boos Maple Edge-Grain Reversible Cutting Board after ... [+] one washing. Three washings later, the stain is barely visible.
Here's where I note this pick may carry a downside, depending on what you want in a cutting board: It doesn't have a juice groove. A nonnegotiable for some home cooks, this additional feature is designed to prevent liquids from fruits and tender roasts from spilling onto your countertop. For what it's worth, I didn't find myself missing the groove during testing; because the board is so spacious, no juice dripped over the edge. Additionally, juice canals aren't without their disadvantages. Notably, they make it harder to scrape and transfer ingredients from the board, as tiny pieces of diced onion and carrot can easily fall into the trench, plus they’re harder to sanitize.
For its premium construction, durability and reasonable price, the John Boos Maple Edge-Grain Reversible Cutting Board is, based on my firsthand experience, the best option for most home cooks. If you’re looking to make this your main chopping surface, opt for the 15 x 20 inch board, which provides you plenty of room to slice up multiple ingredients, leaving each in their own little pile. If you’re short on counter space, though, John Boos also sells a standard 12 x 18 inch board. And for those who subscribe to the philosophy that bigger is, in fact, always better (as many home cooks do), there's also a spacious 18 x 24 inch version.
Wood: Teak | Construction: Edge-grain | Size: 20 x 15 x 1.5 inches, among other size options | Weight: 12 pounds | Additional features: Hand grips, juice canal, reversible | Suggested maintenance: Apply a few drops of food-grade mineral oil twice a month
For those looking for something slightly more affordable but nonetheless high-quality, you’ll do no better than the Teakhaus Edge-Grain Professional Carving Board. Featuring hand grips and a juice canal, this reversible board was a true delight to use, and better yet, easy to maintain. For less than $100, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more reliable all-purpose board.
Though this board earned the title of best value pick, nothing about it feels cheap. Made from sustainable teak harvested from FSC-certified forests, this tropical closed-grain wood is naturally water- and mold-resistant. When using a quality hardwood board, "The knife will skate over the surface of the wood, like an ice skate going over ice," says Donald—and that's exactly how it felt to slice on this piece of wood. After rinsing and drying the board, per the included maintenance pamphlet's suggestion, I admired the way my knife glided across the surface as I chopped through onions and carrots. While a juice canal isn't one of my nonnegotiables, I appreciated the wide and deep trough on this board, as it captured a rogue carrot slice that was careening toward the surface's edge. Additionally, the slick surface repelled the vibrant beet juice, holding onto the lightest of stains; after washing the board, no scent of anchovy was detectable.
The Teakhaus board's deep groove proved especially effective at catching rolling carrots.
Based on testing, the board carries only one not-insignificant downside. Similar to bamboo, teak has a relatively high content of silica, which can wear down a knife's sharp edge. While this may seem like a trivial disadvantage at first, "The performance of a knife's edge and therefore the performance of the knife is really tied to the surface that the knife gets used on," says Donald. And the duller the knife, the more force it requires to cut, increasing the risk that the blade will slip and slice where it shouldn't.
If you don't mind potentially upping the frequency of your knife sharpenings, though, this board is a fantastic option—especially for those who may find standard cutting board care to be intimidating. Compared to hardwoods, teak is relatively low-maintenance: Thanks to its high oil content, it's naturally water-resistant and therefore less likely to crack or warp. Teakhaus recommends applying only a few drops of food-grade mineral oil twice a month (though you should still, of course, dry the board immediately after washing it, and don't even think about the dishwasher). Also worth noting, this board comes in three sizes: 15 x 20 inches (the one I tested and believe to be the best size for most home cooks), as well as a smaller 12 x 16 inches and a spacious 18 x 24 inches.
Wood: Maple | Construction: End-grain | Size: 12 x 18 x 2 inches (without plastic feet), among other size options | Weight: 9 to 10 pounds (depending on oiling) | Additional features: Plastic feet, plus a juice canal and hand grips for an additional fee | Suggested maintenance: Apply Boardsmith Board Butter (or a combination of warm mineral oil and beeswax) periodically
For those who want only the most premium of cutting boards, the Boardsmith Maple End-Grain Cutting Board is a regal block—so much so, you almost don't want to glide your knife across its surface, sullying it with food. That’d be a mistake, though: You’d be missing out on the experience of using an expertly crafted board that's gentle on knives. For those who are willing to make the investment, this butcher block will reward you.
As I removed this board from my box, I was immediately impressed by its hydration: Its plastic feet were slick with the brand's proprietary blend of beeswax and food-safe mineral oil. I then promptly washed, dried and oiled it, per the Boardsmith's recommendation, so I could then move on to a more thorough visual inspection. Whereas the winning John Boos and Teakhaus boards are edge-grain, this block features an end-grain construction. Distinguished by its bricklayer pattern, end-grain boards require a higher level of craftsmanship, resulting in a surface that's gentler on knives. Crucially in the Boardsmith board, the pieces of wood are offset, not checkered. "Glued seams are a weak spot," says Yang, which is why this construction makes for a stronger board—no four corners of wood blocks ever meet. Adding to its durability, this board is made from sustainably harvested, premium-grade maple, the industry standard for cutting boards. Better yet, it's a full 2 inches thick.
It was simply a delight to cut on such a gorgeous piece of wood, as my super-thin Japanese knives glided smoothly across its rich, golden brown surface. While the board did absorb more beet juice than the John Boos or the Teakhaus, the staining was much lighter than that on the other artisan maple end-grain block I tested. The only (removable) feature on this board that I don't endorse wholeheartedly is its feet. Automatically installed on each block, the feet lift the wood just shy of an inch, resulting in a board that stands nearly 3 inches off your counter. While the feet are affixed to provide stability and encourage even drying—which they certainly did—I sometimes struggled to get adequate leverage over my knife, due to the board's height.
The rubber feet (which you can opt to remove) add an extra .75 inches to the board's overall height.
While taller home cooks may appreciate this extra boost, I’d advise those who are shorter to request the feet be removed (which you can do on the website with a simple press of the button). Without them, the board becomes reversible. That said, you have to put more thought into maintenance without the feet. Chiefly, you need to lean the board up against the wall or place it on a rack to thoroughly dry, which can take overnight. While this step is essential with any wooden cutting board, it's especially important with end-grain boards, as they’re more likely to warp or crack. (They also need to be oiled more.)
All things considered, extra care is a small price to pay for an heirloom-quality board—especially one that gives you options. Though it doesn't come with a juice groove or hand grips, you can add one or both for an additional fee. Additionally, the board comes in three sizes: 12 x 18 inches, 16 x 22 inches and 18 x 24 inches, all of which are 2 inches thick.
Out of the nine cutting boards I tested, six didn't didn't quite make the cut. To be clear, this isn't a list of losers; I really loved some of the aspects of the boards below. They just didn't earn quite as high marks as my three winning boards, which I believe to be the best all-purpose boards for home cooks at varying price points.
Ironwood Charleston End-Grain Prep Station: Made from durable, affordable acacia wood, this end-grain board was one of the cheapest I tested. While I really enjoyed using it—the board stayed put as I chopped produce and showed little scarring or staining—I ultimately couldn't excuse the imperfections in its build. Not only were there a few tiny divots in its surface, but also a large glue splotch.
Made In The Butcher Block: As excited as I was to test this board, I ended up disappointed. It simply looked unfinished. The beechwood was so splintered around the juice canal, I couldn't run a paper towel over its surface without the cloth catching every inch or so. Additionally, the sides and corners of the board were so sharp, it was actually somewhat painful to handle. For $129 (and from such a respected cookware brand), I expected more.
Misen Cutting Board: Made from light ash wood, this board came out of the box so smooth, I couldn't stop rubbing my hands all over it. Using it, too, was a delight; it effectively repelled the beet juice and remained sturdy, despite its lightweight construction. For an everyday, all-purpose board, though, you probably want something thicker; thin boards are more likely to warp, and this one measures a mere 0.75 inch thick.
Shun Hinoki Cutting Board: While testing this board, the only one in the group made from Japanese hinoki, I fell in love with the wood. With its fragrant scent of cedar and citrus, this medium-soft material is extremely gentle on knives, making it a great material for home cooks who use sharp, thin Japanese blades. That said, I don't think it makes sense for the average home cook, as it's not as durable as hardwood, plus you’re supposed to wet the board before every use.
Our Place Walnut Cutting Board: I was immediately impressed by this beautiful dark walnut board from direct-to-consumer brand Our Place, which makes a great affordable chef's knife. The board arrived so slick with oil, I couldn't get a sticky note to adhere to its surface. The unique juice trench, too, proved to be effective at capturing over half a cup of liquid. That said, I didn't find this board (which is on the smaller side) to be worth the $95 list price. Additionally, one of the corners of the block has a tiny crack that I anticipate will turn into something that could compromise the board's integrity.
Brooklyn Butcher Blocks End-Grain Maple Butcher Block: Were I to buy a cutting board purely based on aesthetics, I’d undoubtedly go to Brooklyn Butcher Blocks—the craftsmanship that goes into their pieces is unparalleled. That said, the Boardsmith end-grain maple block simply outperformed it ever so slightly during testing. (For example, the chopped beets left behind a vibrant, stubborn stain on the Brooklyn Butcher Blocks board. I also like that the Boardsmith attaches rubber feet to its board—if you so desire them—whereas with Brooklyn Butcher Blocks, you have to add them yourself.)
While I considered testing bamboo boards, I ultimately decided against it. To start, bamboo isn't technically a wood, but rather a hard grass. And though it's an extremely popular material, as it's both eco-friendly and affordable, it's unforgiving toward knives. Owing to its high silica content, bamboo wears down the edge of your blades significantly faster than hard or soft woods. "When people drop off knives at our sharpening service, we can tell most of the time when they’ve used a bamboo board," says Donald. "It looks like the knife has gone onto a really hard surface. If it's a much softer steel, then the edge might look a little bit mashed in, like a little mushroomed. And if it's a real hard steel, it might see little tiny chips. It might be bent as well."
Perhaps you’re still unsure of what you want in a wooden cutting board. After all, they come in a wide array of woods, each of which has its own set of perks and disadvantages, as well as sizes. You also have to consider whether you want additional features, such as juice canals, hand grips or rubber feet. If the shopping process still intimidates you, here are the key factors to consider while weighing prospective options.
Considering wooden cutting boards are made almost exclusively out of wood (a little glue is involved), it goes without saying that the type used matters quite a bit. Here are some of the most common types of woods used in the kitchen staple:
If you’re in the market for what will become your main cutting board, you probably don't want to go smaller than one that measures 12 x 18 inches, which is the standard cutting board size. If you want a little extra room, 15 x 20 inches is a popular size that affords you a little more space to chop. And if space is no object in your kitchen, you can always opt for an extra-large board measuring 18 x 24 inches. Just remember, says Donald, "You don't need to have something that's super massive necessarily."
Also worth taking into consideration is weight. Generally speaking, the bigger and heavier the board, the better able it is to remain stable on your counter. If you have wrist weakness or mobility issues, though, you might not want something super hefty. In that case, you can always place a towel under a lightweight cutting board to prevent it from sliding around during use.
No matter which wooden cutting board you select, it's imperative you not only wash it promptly after use, but also towel down all its sides to remove any excess water. Then, you either want to prop the board on its side and lean it up against a wall or place it on a rack to ensure it dries thoroughly. More so than poor knife skills or pungent foods, moisture poses the biggest threat to wooden cutting boards, as blocks of wood that aren't dried properly can split or warp. By allowing the board to dry thoroughly before using it again, you can also virtually eliminate the risk of foodborne illness.
Wooden cutting boards also need to be periodically oiled or waxed. Here's where the type of wood makes a difference. Whereas some hardwoods, like maple and walnut, should be oiled once a month (or even more), woods like teak don't require nearly as much oil to stay hydrated. Additionally, end-grain boards require more frequent conditioning, as they’re more susceptible to warping and cracking.
While not universally necessary, additional features can make wooden cutting boards easier and more enjoyable to use. If you carve a lot of juicy meat or fruit, you might consider boards with juice canals or trenches, which are designed to catch liquids so that they don't spill onto the countertop. Hand grips, shallow indentations that help you lift and maneuver the board with the tips of your fingers, are another standard add-on. While less common, some boards come equipped with rubber feet to prevent them from sliding around countertops, which can be useful if stability is a top concern for you. Just keep in mind that the feature renders one side of the board unusable (unless you don't mind moving your knives and ingredients around the feet).
After Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland invented the world's first synthetic plastic in 1907, eventually leading to the advent of plastic cutting boards, a prevailing belief emerged: that plastic boards were safer, as they’re easier to clean thoroughly. But in the late 1980s, a food-safety researcher named Dean Cliver debunked the myth, determining that using a wooden cutting board is just as safe—if not safer—than one made of plastic. While it's true that plastic is easy to sanitize, as you can easily toss it in the dishwasher, wood has antimicrobial properties. As wood dries, it sucks pathogens deep into its core, choking out the bacteria.
"The thing with plastic cutting boards is that the older they get, the larger the grooves get, and those grooves could be a niche for pathogens to grow in," says Chapman. "With plastic, the groove is the groove."
That said, plastic boards aren't unsanitary. "I utilize my plastic cutting board the most for things that I am going to do that are the riskiest because I know I can utilize the dishwasher for it," says Chapman.
While a top-of-the-line wooden board may not last a lifetime, a well-crafted board can last well over a decade, depending on how often you use it and how meticulously you care for it. "I have two wooden cutting boards that are at least 15 years old that I use weekly or every other day," says Chapman. "I’ve gone through multiple plastic cutting boards in the same amount of time." Even if your board starts to show deep grooves, you can sand the surface to prolong its lifespan. If your board splits, though, you shouldn't hesitate to say goodbye, as large cracks can harbor bacteria that's difficult to kill.Best Wooden Cutting Board Overall: Best Value Wooden Cutting Board: Best Upgrade Wooden Cutting Board: Wood: | Construction: | Size: | Weight: | Additional features: | Suggested maintenance: Best for: Skip if: Wood: | Construction: | Size: | Weight: | Additional features: | Suggested maintenance: Best for: Skip if: Wood: | Construction: | Size: | Weight: | Additional features: | Suggested maintenance: Best for: Skip if: Ironwood Charleston End-Grain Prep Station Made In The Butcher Block Misen Cutting Board Shun Hinoki Cutting Board Our Place Walnut Cutting Board Brooklyn Butcher Blocks End-Grain Maple Butcher Block Maple: Walnut: Cherry: Teak: Acacia: Beech: Hinoki: