Long lasting wood cutting boards
September 13, 2011 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I would like to find a wood cutting board that will last around 3-5 years of moderate to heavy use.

I'm tired of spending $100+ on wood cutting boards that end up either warping horribly or coming apart at glue lines. The bamboo ones seem to just splinter and fall apart, while my large block (walnut?) was cracked, warped and unusable after 2 years.

Cook's Illustrated recently updated their picks, with this ProTeak in first. I have also seen this acacia one that looks nice. After buying so many boards, and eventually being disappointed, I am hoping people here have some insight.

So, what is the most durable, long-lasting and large (24x18 or along those lines) wood cutting board you know of? I will say a limit of $100, but if there is something life-changing and spectacular that is more than that, I would be willing to reconsider. It should look nice too since it will have a permanent place on the counter.
posted by waitangi to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Are you putting your wooden cutting boards through the dishwasher or soaking them overnight in the sink or something? Mine have lasted much longer than 2 years.
posted by Grither at 11:54 AM on September 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have to admit, I'm not sure I get what the issue here is. I've had mine for over 3 years (mine = a hunk of something or other from Canadian Tire. Possibly a store brand. Cost under $20) with heavy use. Are you soaking your boards or something? Do you remember to oil them?

On preview: what Grither says.
posted by AmandaA at 11:57 AM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Grither has good questions... I have a bamboo cutting board that's in excellent shape after several years of use. Good practices are: wash immediately after use, don't air dry flat, don't allow to soak or stay wet, apply mineral oil a few times a year.
posted by vers at 11:59 AM on September 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

My mom has one about like this (nothing fancy) that she's used for at least the last 20 years. It's, you know, worn, but it's still in one piece and not warped. They run it through the dishwasher, but take it out before the dry cycle kicks in to prop it up vertically to air dry.
posted by phunniemee at 12:02 PM on September 13, 2011

I got one from these guys, and it is amazing.

But yeah, you're doing it wrong. Even the cheapo cutting boards I've had have lasted years and years, and also years. Wash promptly by hand, dry off with a dish cloth, then let it air dry.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2011

The Boos ones seem to be popular.
posted by box at 12:05 PM on September 13, 2011

Also, when they get too craggily, you can just break out some sandpaper. If possibly, Maple is good wood for cutting boards 'cause it's hard as crap.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:08 PM on September 13, 2011

What are you doing to take care of your cutting boards? I treat mine maple cutting board with paraffin and mineral oil, as described here, and it has lasted for a decade so far. I also stand it up so water doesn't get under it on the counter.
posted by procrastination at 12:09 PM on September 13, 2011

Agree with the Admiral, you must be doing it wrong. I've got an largish, thickish cutting board I bought at a yard sale eight years ago--it was well-used even then--for three bucks and it's still in perfect condition. I don't CHOP, I slice. I scrape it off into the compost bin, scrub a bit with a sponge and then towel-dry it and stand it up to air-dry. And oil it with mineral oil when I think of it, which is about every three years, give or take two years.
Can't image what boards you've had or what you've been doing to them (not meant as blame, just true puzzlement).
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:10 PM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Wow. I don't put them through the dishwasher. I oil the hardwood ones with mineral oil. I dry them thoroughly.

Forget how long they last for me. Please tell me: the most durable, long-lasting and large (24x18 or along those lines) wood cutting board you know of? Does anyone have any experience with acacia boards? Thank you.
posted by waitangi at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2011

I got a board from The Boardsmith last year..so I can only vouch for one year's worth of use, but it's held up perfectly and looks really nice.
posted by ghharr at 12:19 PM on September 13, 2011

I have one from The Boardsmith, which has lasted me seven years so far ...
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:20 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I have had a large Boos cutting board for several years and it's still in great shape. It's just a solid block of wood, no glue lines or anything to fall apart.

To care for it, I gently wipe it down with a soapy dishtowel after normal use, dry it with a towel and probably once every two weeks I oil it heavily with mineral oil. I think heavy oiling is the key here. As in, I pour about 1/3 of a bottle of mineral oil into it, push it around with a spatula so it goes all over the top and drips down the sides and let it sit in my sink (elevated on a cooling rack) for a good half hour. Then I flip it over and do the same on the other side.

When I first got it I was not very generous with the oil and it started to show signs of warping/cracking. You can't just wipe it down daintily with a oil-soaked cloth every once in a while and call it good.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:27 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get one made of oak. It lasts forever.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:39 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: I have this one that I got over 20 years ago as a wedding present that was made by John Boos.
I don't oil it, put it in water or do much other than wipe it down. I don't use it for raw chicken or fish.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:01 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Butcher block style boards like Admiral Haddock's or Ideefixe's will last longer than regular boards because you'd be cutting into the end grain. Imagine that the grain of the wood is like a bundle of drinking straws. Lay them flat and cut into them with a knife and you'll chop them up very easily. Stand them on end and push a knife down into them and you'll do little damage, if any.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing several responses above: Warping and failed glue lines is pretty much certain to be an issue with how you're caring for them rather than their initial quality. Wood warps because of changes in moisture content, and ONLY because of changes in moisture content. You're either getting them too wet or getting them too dry. Too wet is, by far, the most likely explanation. Moisture also weakens some glues, and the constant changes in the shape of the wood that go with fluctuating moisture content puts a lot of stress on those glue joints.

I dry them thoroughly.

This doesn't necessarily mean anything. If you leave a cutting board sitting in a sink of water for 20 minutes, or even in a puddle of moisture on a countertop, it will absorb moisture that can't be wiped off.

it will have a permanent place on the counter.

This could be a big part of the problem. If you get it wet, then leave it sitting on a countertop (even after towel drying), the top will dry out while the bottom stays wet because it's not exposed to air, and the uneven moisture content will warp and stress the board. If you want to leave a cutting board on the countertop all the time, get one with feet that raise it up so air can circulate underneath.
posted by jon1270 at 1:48 PM on September 13, 2011

Care questions aside quality wood is the best answer. Some woods are more naturally antibacterial and some woods are harder. Waterproof wood glue is typically stronger and lasts longer then wood, so coming apart at the glue lines is not normally an issue; however I try to make boards with little glue and more wood. It has been my experience that a good board will not have a super fancy design on it because more lines = more places for water or stuff to collect. I make my boards out of Maple, Walnut, purple heart...sparingly, and a few other tight grained woods. Take a look at the wood when you buy the board, it should be as tight as possible with very little early wood (not my photo). You do not need to spend a ton of money, but start looking at the grain of the wood, radial is better. I do not buy bamboo boards, they are too much glue and a little hard for my knives.
posted by Felex at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2011

In situations like this I try to buy stuff that will last forever. The thicker you get it, the less warping, etc. there will be to worry about.
posted by colin_l at 2:30 PM on September 13, 2011

waitangi writes "the most durable, long-lasting and large (24x18 or along those lines) wood cutting board you know of? Does anyone have any experience with acacia boards? Thank you."

We've been using this Mountain Woods cutting board for ~4 years including lots of processing for canning (we even use it for a cooling rack for hot packs). One of the glue lines between two of the edge end grain blocks has partly separated but it's essentially a visual defect, the pieces aren't loose or anything.
posted by Mitheral at 2:40 PM on September 13, 2011

While wood warps due to moisture issues, there are ways to lay up a cutting board such that it will tear itself apart in short order and ways to do it such that it will last much longer.

If I were setting out to make a cutting board that was just a single piece of wood, I'd use quarter sawn white oak. That way expansion and contraction due to moisture issues would be in the plane of the board and not tend to cause cupping or twisting (unless one side of the board stays wet while the other stays dry as John1270 points out. If you use flat or plain sawn wood you're going to get more cupping.

If I was doing a glue up of several pieces (since an 18 inch quarter sawn board is not the sort of thing you're just going to trip over), I'd pick pieces of wood that weren't likely to warp too much to begin with and I'd set up my pieces so that the deformation would tend to subtract out rather than add together (i.e. so that your cutting board would warp like a piece of corrugated steel roofing rather than forming one big curve. (For end grain butcher block, you'd do things differently, but the idea would be more or less the same.)

It won't help for cracking, but if you have a board where the surface is chewed up, a brief visit with a bench plane is all that may be needed.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:50 PM on September 13, 2011

I have to believe this my be an issue with how you wash/store/handle it. I mean, the cutting board my dad cut out of a pine slab as a child (it's shaped like a pig! He made me one, too!) is still useable: dark, yes, but flat and just the tiniest bit cupped.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:23 AM on September 14, 2011

Best answer: I had an old cheap cutting board that was splitting about 1" from the edge and getting really gross about 2 years ago. I was going to toss it and get a new one since it also had some serious cut marks that compromised the integrity of the board then I remembered that I just purchased a palm sander for a home repair project. I decided to cut the part off where it split sand the surface and round the edge with my sander then put layers and layers of mineral oil on it until it couldn't take any more. I am still using that cutting board today and it looks better now than it did when it was new. I make sure I never leave it wet and keep it well oiled (about once a month), it takes about the same kind of care and maintenance as a cast iron pan. One of the benefits of keeping it well-oiled is that it makes it much easier to clean.
posted by any major dude at 8:47 AM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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