. . . let’s talk cutting boards!

No doubt we’re all aware there are flotillas of great cutting boards out there. But the fleet winnows down quite a bit if you’re a serious cook and you care about keeping your knives super sharp. Here’s a short list of the best cutting boards as far as the edges of your kitchen knives are concerned (i.e. how to choose the best cutting boards for your knives). We’re talking types and materials, not so much brand names, and will go from most knife-friendly to least. (Please note: There’s no point in getting too strict about the exact order—it’s simply being aware of generalities that will help the most. And, no affiliate links, just plain love and learnings to share!).

Butcher-Block, or End-Grain Wood, Cutting Board

The clear, hands-down winner of this best cutting boards list because of the nature of it’s construction. Picture the grains of wood pointing straight up like an extremely tight brush. When your knife slices down into them, they part slightly, offering little resistance to the cutting edge. Sharpness is preserved. Not to underline the obvious, but one of my favorite professional sharpening services confirms this is his preferred choice. If only they didn’t have to be so thick and heavy (John Boos End-Grain Maple Chopping Block, 15 x 15 x 3″).

Sani-Tuff (Hard Rubber) Cutting Board

The standard for professional kitchens. It’s easy on knives, can last and last, and can even be resurfaced by sanding. Its only major flaw is its looks—industrial beige. It also tends to grab knife edges a bit and, depending on the thickness and size, be a bit hefty to move around (Apex 157-651 Beige Sani-Tuff Cutting Board, 12 x 18 x 3/4″).

Edge-Grain Wood Cutting Board

Probably the most popular type of wooden board because it blends functionality with cost quite nicely. No, it’s not as knife-friendly as an end-grain board, but as long as it’s made of hard maple (or something comparable), it’ll protect your knife edges and hold up for eons. And the price can be quite reasonable. This is the type of wooden board we own and use every day (J.K. Adams Maple Wood Kitchen Basic Cutting Board, 14 x 11 x 3/4″).

Plastic (Polyethylene) Cutting Board

As long as it’s a soft pliable polyethylene, NOT impenetrable, plastic’s hard to beat. It’s got plenty of pros: 1) comes in fun colors, 2) is thin, light, and maneuverable, 3) can be washed in the dishwasher, and, to top it off, 4) is terribly affordable. The only major con is that (although it will still be functional) it will score and turn ugly faster than wood. We humans tend to find distressed wood aesthetically pleasing, but distressed plastic cheesy. (Oneida Cutting Board, 16-Inch).

Bamboo Cutting Board

Many may be surprised and chagrined to hear this, but bamboo is NOT a sharp knife’s best friend. While it’s definitely durable and tre stylish to boot, it’s got this these thingies called “nodes” (sort of the knuckles in the stalk) that are super hard and nasty on knife edges. For lighter prep work bamboo’s fine, but as a main cutting board? . . .you’ll be wearing down your blades faster than necessary (Totally Bamboo 3-Piece Stripe Cutting Board Set).

Richlite (Wood-Composite) Cutting Board

This falls under the same category as bamboo—stylish, very popular, but less than ideal for keeping knives sharp. It’s just too hard! Use it as a backup (i.e. slicing up apples, etc.), but not for mincing garlic. (Epicurean Non-Slip Gripper Cutting Board, Natural with Brown Silicone Grippers).

Wind-up Review

Wood, plastic, and hard rubber cutting boards—as far as your knives are concerned—will all work well as your main chopping board. If you’re especially concerned about keeping your edges sharp, then stick with the top top three (end-grain/butcher-block, Hinoki, or hard rubber). If price and ergonomics are paramount, then edge-grain wood or plastic will do just fine. And if you really have a thing for bamboo or Richlite, cast them in supporting roles, not as stars. Stick to these tips on best cutting boards and your kitchen knives will flourish!

Guest article posting thanks to Nate Ouderkirk on how to choose the best cutting boards for your knives.