The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cutting Boards

All things wood's picture
All things wood

Cutting Boards

I found a forum about cutting boards So I thought I would give my opinion on the subjuct of cutting boards and butcher blocks.

A little about me: I have been a cabinet/furniture builder for over 10 years I also make wooden bowls, wooden utensils and butcher blocks/cutting boards.

Now just like everybody here my wife and I have owned several plastic cutting boards they are not to pricey and they get the job done, but they will dull your knifes in no time. With that said they do involve a good cleaning when used and newer studies have shown that they actually hold bacteria some say that the plastic surface will even encourage the groth of bacteria. Now I can't say that I have ever gotten ill from using plastic cutting boards but my wife and I tend to scrub them really good after using them and we don't permit food to sit there for very long.

Wood cutting boards and butcher blocks have been around since mid 1800 before that they used chunks of wood or tree rounds for butcher blocks. End grain butcher blocks are still made today. You will not discover them used commercialy but will find them in homes. With little research done, they banned them from commercial use. Studies now show us that wood is a superior cutting surface. That bacteria only lives for about 3 minutes on wood cutting boards. "Scientists from the University of Wisconsin's Food Research Institute stumbled upon the finding while seeking ways to decontaminate wooden boards and make them as "safe" as plastic. Much to their surprise, they found that when boards were purposely polluted with organisms such as salmonella, listeria and Escherichia coli that are common causes of food poisoning, 99.9 per cent of the bacteria died off within three minutes on the wooden boards, while none died on the plastic ones.

When polluted boards were left unwashed all-night at room temperature, bacterial counts increased on the plastic, but none of the organisms could be recovered from the wooden boards the next morning."

With all that said I do preferr wood cutting boards over any other surface. They have a style of there own especially end grain butcher block style cutting boards. Hard Maple is by far the best I have seen for cutting boards it seems to be just the right hardness.

Plastic cutting boards -  They are inexpensive, but they will dull your knives and allow bacteria to live on them.

Face grain cutting boards -
They look nice and can be a good bit thinner but they will dull your knifes about like poly or "plastic " cutting boards. This kind of cutting board is affordable

End grain cutting boards -
These are the easiest on your knifes but need to be at least 2 1/4" thick . They are also not inexpensive

My wife and I have had a 24"x30"x14" butcher block for about 7 years now and we love it. I actually found this butcher block at a place we rented it appears to be really old as it has a cup in it that would take some time to create.

Here is a picture of it.      You can go to to veiw a counter top style butcher block that I made.


pmccool's picture

I'm not sure which forum about cutting boards you may be referencing; there isn't such a forum on TFL.  Granted, bakers tend to be interested in such things but it hasn't come up as a significant topic of discussion here.

Are you posting primarily to advertise your products/services?  If so, I'd suggest you get in touch with Floyd Mann, the owner of this site.  I'm sure that the two of you can work out terms that are satisfactory to both of you.  There are other TFL members who post here because of their interest in baking and as advertisers.  They make a clear distinction between the two types of communications.

If you are interested in bread or other baking, welcome.  I look forward to hearing about your experiences.


All things wood's picture
All things wood

No the post was not on TFL. It was another forum and the talk turned into: Is wood cutting boards safer or better than plastic/poly. It started out with a lady that wanted to build a wood cutting board into her new kitchen island counter top. A lot of the responses were about bacteria growing on the wood and not being able to clean it well enough.

So I decided to check with the cooks and bakers out there to see what they have to say on the subject. I thought that would be the best place to ask around.

And since you are allowed to have a link I leave one for my website as well as in another comment I left a link for Real Milk Paints for which I am not affiliated with.

If anyone has any thoughts on the cutting boards - what they prefer or what they have experienced I would like to hear about it.


                                                                                 Thanks, All Things Wood

pmccool's picture

Since you asked, wood is also my favorite surface for cutting.  I've heard of the claims made for wood's anti-bacterial properties but hadn't seen the source material.  Thank you for citing the relevant study.

My preference has more to do with the effect on my knives' blades.  Cutting on tempered glass boards makes me grit my teeth because I know that the blade is being blunted as it contacts the glass.  Plastic surfaces are less damaging than glass surfaces but wood, for whatever reason, just feels right.  Not very scientific, huh?  I also have a bamboo cutting board that I tend to use primarily for cutting bread.  If I have to chop vegetables or cut meat, I'd rather have a hefty wooden board under my blade.

Wood, particularly if you can get end-grain maple, seems to yield enough that the blades aren't prematurely dulled or damaged while still providing a surface that is highly resistant to wear and tear.  To some extent, it's even self-healing; at least in the sense that the surface usually doesn't chip or gouge.


Ford's picture

I had heard, many years ago, that wood was safer than plastic.  I have never seen the research data, nor an exact reference to that data.  If you can supply that data, I would appreciate it.

I do prefer wooden cutting surfaces.


mrfrost's picture
All things wood's picture
All things wood

Here is a link

Alaska Science Forum

February 17, 1993


On the Chopping Block
Article #1121B

by Carla Helfferich


This article is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Carla Helfferich is a science writer at the Institute.


Bad news arrived with an outspoken dinner guest. "You're carving on that?" she asked, pointing at the wooden board upon which the newly roasted duck awaited the knife. Well, yes, I was. We'd used that board for years, as had a great-aunt before us; it showed its age, so it did not leave the kitchen, but it was kindly to knives and comforting in its family tradition.

The upset guest told me she'd just read an article on how unsanitary wooden kitchen implements were. A butcher block might look elegant, but it was unhealthy, as were bread boards and meat planks of the sort I cherished. "Think of all those pores and nicks," she continued. "It makes sense that germs would thrive on wood. You never can get it really clean."

It did make sense. Soon I too saw articles exhorting cooks to avoid porous, organic, and germ-encouraging wood in favor of inert sterilizable plastic. Sadly I replaced my cherished wooden things with inorganic, impervious plastic, stuff so hostile to bacteria that nothing seems to cause it to decay.

Science giveth bad news, but sometimes it taketh away again. Recently, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have concluded that wood is good---and plastic is unhealthy.

Microbiologists Dean Cliver and Nese Ak were looking for ways to clean wood safely after it had been in contact with food contaminated by bacteria. The first step was to be sure their study boards had appropriately unpleasant microorganisms to be cleaned off. They cultured some known disease-causing bacteria, such as Salmonella, Listeria, and Escherichia coli, and anointed wooden boards with about 10,000 cells of cultured bacteria. That's about 10 times the number of organisms that typically wash off a contaminated chicken carcass.

Within three minutes, 99.9 percent of the bacteria were unrecoverable and presumed dead. By the next morning, the researchers couldn't recover any live bacteria from the wood.

Next, the scientists upped the germ count, inoculating the boards with a million or more bacteria apiece. Then they had enough survivors to work with, but not for long. Within two hours, again 99.9 percent of the bacteria had vanished.

Cliver and Ak tried the same procedures with plastic cutting boards. All the bacteria survived. The organisms even lived through hot water and soap washings in good health and high enough numbers to contaminate clean meat later placed on the plastic.

The scientist tried inoculating wood and plastic boards with bacteria on three successive days, and not cleaning the boards between inoculations. They maintained the boards under identical conditions of warmth and high humidity, comparable to a busy restaurant kitchen. At the end of the three days, once more 99.9 percent of the bacteria had vanished from the wood boards. The plastic boards were thriving germ farms.

The researchers have no idea what makes wood inhospitable to bacterial growth and survival. They aren't even sure that the bacteria are dying. According to the Science News article reporting their work, Cliver admitted "we've not recovered the little critters' dead bodies." But if the germs are hiding somewhere in the wood, nothing seems to lure them back out again.

The mysterious natural antibiotic effect of wood on food contaminating bacteria seems to work with old wood as well as new, and with every species of wood tested so far. The only thing they've found that does enhance bacteria growth is treating the wood with mineral oil. By sealing the wood, oiling makes it more like plastic. As far as bacteria are concerned, that's a good thing.

So great-aunt's board is set for use again, old, unoiled, and even barely washed. As Cliver explained, for cleaning wood, "a good wipe will do fine---and if you forget to wipe the board, you probably won't be too bad off.

Daisy_A's picture

All Things Wood,

I found this information reassuring, particularly as it was backed up by reference to a University of Wisconsin study. I live in a British Victorian house and we are really fortunate to have built in old wooden pine dressers. A local cabinet maker made our small kitchen mostly out of old pine to match. I use only wooden chopping boards and prepare my doughs on boards on a genuine old (rather than reconstituted) beech kitchen table.I had heard that wood has natural anti-bacterial properties and therefore favoured wooden chopping boards. However the cabinet maker who made our kitchen couldn't confirm this.

Your comment was timely. I am new to bread making and although I try to keep everything scrupulously clean - mostly using natural cleaning products - it is harder to keep the dough out of the nooks and crannies of the wood than it would be with other work surfaces. It's getting better as I get more experienced - particularly at kneading(!) but I felt I couldn't compare my surfaces to the stainless steel work surfaces favoured by catering establishments, which have no indentations and therefore can be more easily swabbed down.

Your advice was helpful as it confirmed that wood was not a 'dirtier' surface. Rather the opposite - it has natural anti-bacterial characteristics. I was also using plastic spatulas and metal spoons to mix my starters and scalding them with boiling water, but may turn to wooden spoons in the light of this.  Kind regards, Daisy_A



alabubba's picture

This is very interesting. I use several this plastic cutting boards for meat, fish, and poultry, as they can be put in the dishwasher. I would assume that the high temp of a dishwasher would be enough to kill any bacteria on the boards.

My second favorite board, and the one I use for almost everything else is Bamboo.

What is the "Dirt" on them.

davidg618's picture

I use inexpensive plastic sheets. They usually are sold four to a package. and cost about $12.. They fit in the dishwasher, curl nicely to put chopped veggies, or herbs directly into the cooking pot, and don't seem to dull my knives any worse than the hard maple cutting board I use for bread. On the other hand, they are tough enough that I've only cut through one once using a utility knife to cut vinyl tile. It was one I'd retired from food prep, and was using it to protect the surface of my workbench.

My daughter made my wooden bread board for me in high-school wood shop, nearly forty years ago. About once a week I clean it with hydrogen peroxide. And about every six months I sand its surface clean of knife scores. I started doing that about six years ago; I can't discern any thinning of the board's thickness, but of course, it is happening, just not at an unacceptable rate.

I replace the plastic cutting sheets about once a year.

Your butcher's block picture brought back old memories. When I was thirteen (WWII had only ended three years prior.) after school and Saturdays, I delivered groceries from a Mom & Pop neighborhood store. The owner sold a modest offering of fresh meats--steaks, hamburger, pork chops, sausage, and cold meats--he used a butcher's block to cut and trim the meats. It was my chore, at the end of the day, to clean the butcher block, using a large, stiff steel wire brush to scrub its end-grain surface. When I was done, the owner would carefully inspect the surface for any remaining blood, or fat residue. Winter or summer I worked up a sweat scrubbing that block.

David G