These days, it seems like everyone is looking to add a little warmth to their kitchen. Adding a wood element is the easiest way to do it – anything from wood floors to barn beams and everything in between. But I think wood features are best when they’re functional as well as decorative. And what’s more functional than a cutting board? Quality wooden cutting boards and butcher blocks can be a gorgeous addition to your space (and a great update for a white kitchen), but there are a few things you should know before you buy.
Cutting Boards Vs Butcher Blocks
First, let’s discuss the difference between a wood cutting board and butcher block. All cutting boards – wood or otherwise – can handle light knife work like slicing and dicing your vegetables. But when it comes to the harder tasks like deboning and chopping meat, just any cutting board won’t do. A butcher block is a specialized cutting board for exactly this purpose. Its increased thickness (at least an inch and a half is considered standard) and heavier weight can handle much rougher knife usage. Cleaned properly between uses, any butcher block can be used as a regular cutting board, but the reverse isn’t the same. If you’re a serious home cook, your best work will be done if you have both.
Wood Elements and Warmth
If you’re looking into switching over to wooden cutting boards, it’s probably at least partially because of their beauty. Wood elements add warmth to any room you put them in, and cutting boards are no exception. Solid wood cutting boards showcase their natural wood grain, and ones made from pieces can have beautiful, intricate designs that have a lovely natural variation between one and the next; no two will be exactly the same. As you use and clean some cutting boards (especially butcher blocks), they slowly develop a unique patina as well. Between aging, staining, and regular use, a unique cutting board will become even more uniquely yours over time. A quality wood cutting board isn’t just a functional element in your kitchen, but a beautiful decoration as well.
A Safer Way to Meal Prep
Knife safety is always a priority, no matter what kind of cutting board you choose. But wood cutting boards have an edge over their plastic counterparts. Simply, wood is heavier than plastic, which means it’s less likely to slip and slide while you’re using it. Quality wood cutting boards are also more likely to have built-in feet or other slip protection than inexpensive plastic. Butcher blocks in particular stay where you put them – either by virtue of their sheer weight, or through a sturdy installation. If you want to ensure your cutting board will stay put, the heavier and more anchored, the better.
Storing Your Cutting Board
You don’t just have to use your cutting board on your countertops. Kitchens can get crowded, and you need all the counter space you can get. Some luxury brands pair their kitchen sinks with wooden cutting boards designed to sit securely on the rim of the sink. This frees up precious counter space and creates new counter space. A sink is a perfect prep area that lets you sweep kitchen waste directly into your garbage disposal. Built-in wood cutting boards are also a common kitchen cabinet upgrade. It takes a little work, but you can replace a standard drawer with either a pull-out cutting board or (if you want to get really fancy) a knife drawer that fits a cutting board securely on top. This allows you to use it as a cutting board without sacrificing the storage space.
Cleaning and Care
Using a higher quality material also means a higher quality of care. You can’t wash a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher or even soak it in the sink without it warping or cracking. If you only use your cutting board lightly, white wine vinegar should be your go-to cleaner. Baking powder and lemons will tackle any lingering odors. If you regularly cut meat, you’ll want a stronger antibacterial cleaner. This may depend on the brand of board you have. To keep it in shape for a long time, a board also needs to be oiled in-between uses and occasionally if left in storage for a long time. There are some mineral oils you may already have at home you can use. But beware, many like olive oil will go rancid and make your cutting board worse. Sometimes store-bought cutting board cleaners are not only easier, but safer too.
The Whole Kitchen is Too Much of a Good Thing
It’s trendy right now to not just opt for a nice cutting board or island butcher block, but to actually replace all your kitchen counters with butcher blocks. But is this worth the renovation? Butcher block is expensive, and while it looks nice at first, things can get a little choppy over time. Even the highest quality, toughest wood is hard to keep pristine; and you won’t be able to use regular cleaners on your countertops. Every inch of your counter space will need the same food-grade, wood-preserving treatment.
My recommendation? If you love the look, start with an island with a built-in butcher block. If you aren’t deterred by the maintenance (or the price), you can always upgrade the rest of your kitchen to match. One last note: not all wood is safe for cutting boards, and not all wooden counters are meant to be used this way. You can get wood (or wood-look) countertops without the butcher block price or maintenance, but you should NOT use them for food preparation.
Wooden cutting boards are a great investment piece. They’re beautiful, functional, and with the right care, can last for years to come. Of course, not all butcher blocks or cutting boards are made equal; if you want one that will really last, do thorough brand research before you buy, and be ready to pay a premium for durability.