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Best chopping board: The best wood, plastic and bamboo chopping boards for your kitchen

21 May 2019
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Want to slice n' dice without ruining your knives? Find your ideal chopping board with our buying guide and bite-sized reviews

What a tale your tatty old chopping board could tell. You've spent years slashing it to bits and slathering it in gunk, goo and even blood from your chopped-up fingers (ouch), and there it lies, silently festering.

A bad chopping board will always get the job done (it's a dirty job but not a complex one, let's be honest), but it won't survive well. It'll fester with harmful bacteria, warp, stain and blunt your knives. A good chopping board, though, could be your best friend in the kitchen for many years. And the price difference between good and bad isn't that much.

For this article, we've picked out the six chopping boards that win on durability, ease of use, design features and value for money. First, here's a quick guide to choosing the right board for your kitchen.

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How to buy the right chopping board for you

Aren't wooden chopping boards unhygienic - or is that plastic?

The wood vs plastic debate is the Brexit of the chopping board world, inflaming passions and forging divisions. Who's right?

Food hygienists historically recommended plastic, which in chopping board context generally means polypropylene. The idea was that wood has tiny holes that harbour harmful bacteria, while plastic does not.

But then scientists found that wood can help to resist harmful bacteria, turning food hygiene orthodoxy on its head. In 1994, Wisconsin University researchers infected plastic and wood boards with E.coli, salmonella and listeria, then found the wood retained 98-99% less bacteria than plastic. Plastic became an even worse microbe-harbourer when it was scarred with knife marks.

That's not to say wood is self-cleaning: you still have to wash wooden chopping boards. However, it possesses anti-microbial properties that make it somewhat more resistant than plastic.

So I should definitely buy a wooden board?

Not so fast. Plastic boards are much easier to clean than wood, not least because you can sling them in the dishwasher and sanitise them using chemicals and bleach, which rinse off plastic far more easily than wood.

What's more, retention of bacteria isn't really the problem. The biggest hygiene risk in any kitchen comes from cross-contamination between different types of food, such as raw meat, fish and dough. It hardly matters what material you use to chop them, as long as you use different surfaces for each food type – and keep them clean.

What are the other pros and cons of different materials?

There's plenty else to consider when shopping for a chopping board, including durability and weight, and materials such as silicone, bamboo and glass...

Wood

Pros: A thick wooden chopping block looks magnificent in your kitchen, but its sturdiness has practical benefits, too. You can hack hefty cuts of meat and slice giant loaves of bread (using different sides of the board, of course) without the block budging while you work. Wood also keeps your knives sharp, especially if you go for an 'end grain' board that effectively absorbs knife marks. And when it is covered with knife marks, it still looks great, unlike plastic.

Cons: Those cheap wooden boards in the pound shop fall apart much quicker than cheap plastic boards. And even a pricey wooden board is harder to keep clean than plastic. Wood absorbs odours and stains more easily than plastic, but you can't put it in the dishwasher or even soak it. Large wooden blocks are also too heavy to be easily portable when you're moving around the kitchen.

Plastic

Pros: Even cheap polypropylene boards are dishwasher-safe and can withstand rigorous abuse with chemicals, hence their popularity in professional kitchens. They're also lightweight and easy to manufacture in different colours, so you can buy a full colour-coded set to avoid cross-contamination.

Cons: Plastic boards warp fast, especially if you dishwash them regularly. Their lightness also makes them prone to slipping, which isn't ideal when you're handling sharp knives. A knife-marked plastic board quickly looks tatty and harbours bacteria unless bleached to smithereens, so you'll need to replace the boards fairly often, which isn’t exactly eco-friendly.

Silicone

Pros: Silicone may one day end the wood/plastic debate by out-doing both materials. Pro chefs already love its knife-cushioning and non-slip properties, its lightweight versatility and its ease of cleaning. Designers love silicone, too, because it's flexible enough to morph into pourers, funnels and even bowls.

Cons: Silicone's soft surface is easily damaged by knives. Very high-end thick silicone boards are better at resisting damage, but they're expensive. And no matter how much you spend, silicone is hopeless at resisting stains.

Bamboo

Pros: Bamboo is a strong, lightweight, affordable alternative to end-grain hardwood. It grows fast and is cultivated without pesticides, so it's more eco-friendly than wood or synthetic materials (plus it makes pandas happy). And because it's so light, a huge slab-type bamboo board is still easy to lift.

Cons: Bamboo is harder than any hardwood, and its grain doesn't have much 'give', so it'll dull your knives faster than wood, plastic or silicone. And, if you wash it, it'll warp, so you have to wipe it instead, and oil it to keep it ship shape.

Chopping board materials that deserve the chop

Glass: Fine as a worktop saver, terrible as a chopping board. Glass blunts blades faster than almost any other surface except marble.

Marble: Stays cool, so it's ideal for rolling pastry and dough, but it's not designed for chopping and will completely ruin your knives. Oh, and if you expose marble to acidic foods, such as tomatoes and fruit, it'll dissolve.

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The best chopping boards you can buy in 2019

1. Joseph Joseph Index Large Chopping Boards: Best chopping board set

Price: £62 | Buy now from Debenhams

This classic colour-coded set from kitchenware specialists Joseph Joseph is the priciest item on our list, but if you love your cooking it's worth the investment.

The four polypropylene boards are illustrated with different ingredients to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Each has built-in features designed specifically for that ingredient. The meat board has a moat to stop juices spilling everywhere, the fish board has grippers, and the cooked food board is equipped with crumb catchers. All four have rubberised feet on both sides, so they're fully reversible and won't slip.

You will see knife cuts in the boards after some use, but that's almost impossible to avoid with polypropylene – and these boards don't mark as easily as cheaper plastic boards.

Key specs – Material: Polypropylene (dishwasher-safe; case is wipe-clean only); Dimensions: 34.6 x 27.3cm; Weight: 2.53kg full set; Colours available: 2

2. T&G Beech Wood Chopping Board Medium: Best wooden chopping board

Price: £44 | Buy now from Nisbets

You'll see boards made from all sorts of wood these days, including hip-looking oak boards with actual tree bark down one side. But you can't beat a solid beech board for quality. Beech is hard enough to provide robust support and durability; soft enough to extend the life (and sharpness) of your knives; and light enough to carry around the kitchen with ease.

T&G's board foregoes fancy features and instead focuses on utilitarian design that's easy to handle and built to last, while also looking beautiful. The smooth grain construction is designed to resist warping, but you still wouldn't want to put this board in the dishwasher or immerse it in the sink for hours. Nisbets recommends using wood treatment oil to keep it in top condition.

Key specs – Material: beech (hand-wash only, do not immerse); Dimensions: 38 x 30.5 x 4cm; Weight: 3.1kg; Colours available: 1

3. OXO Good Grips Cut & Carve Board: Best plastic chopping board

Price: £25 | Buy now from John Lewis

True to the Good Grips name, the winning feature of OXO's polypropylene board is a soft, tapered rubber edge that stops it moving while you work and makes it comfortable to lift, even when loaded with food. You can flip it for double-sided use to prevent contamination, and there's a moat on each side to trap juices.

This board's non-porous, odour-resistant polypropylene is probably the best-quality plastic in our rundown, built to withstand many rounds in the dishwasher without warping. It's better at resisting stains and knife marks than cheaper boards, according to reviews from long-term users, and has enough 'give' to keep your knives sharp, though not as much as wood.

OXO's board is exclusive to John Lewis. Incidentally OXO (utensils) isn't the same company as Oxo (beefy cubes), but they both have the rights to the original brand name. Wikipedia unpicks the mystery!

Key specs – Material: Polypropylene with rubber edges (dishwasher-safe); Dimensions: 53.5 x 36.8 x 9cm; Weight: 1.72kg; Colours available: 1

4. Joseph Joseph Small Chop2Pot: Best bamboo chopping board

Price: £16 | Buy now from Joseph Joseph

This fabulous foldable board will keep you in stir-fry for life. Chop anything and everything on its super-hard bamboo surface, then fold it using the silicone hinge and lift it (it weighs barely anything) and tip your ingredients into the pot without spilling a morsel. It looks beautiful, won't skid around thanks to silicone feet, and is the most eco-friendly board on our list.

There are a couple of reasons why it's not higher in the list, though. One, it'll blunt your knives with lots of use, like any bamboo board. Two, bamboo is incredibly hard-wearing, but water is its kryptonite. It isn't dishwasher-safe and will warp if you soak it, but you can wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Oil it with food-safe oil such as linseed for maximum durability.

Key specs – Material: Bamboo and silicone (hand-wash only, do not soak); Dimensions: 25.7 x 21 x 1 cm; Weight: 332g; Colours available: 1

5. Dreamfarm Big Fledge Cutting Board: Best multi-function chopping board

Price: £22 | Buy now from Lakeland

This black and grey mat looks more like a generously-proportioned (35cm) in-flight dinner tray than a chopping board. But beneath its unsettling exterior lies a clever piece of kitchen kit. The rubbery moat edge of the Fledge ('flip edge') is made from silicone, and can be flipped up to create a tray for ferrying your choppings safely into the pot. There are non-slip silicone feet on both sides, and an ingenious knife-edge texture pattern to camouflage cut marks.

Key specs – Material: Polypropylene and silicone (dishwasher-safe); Dimensions: 35.5 x 25cm; Weight: 0.95kg; Colours available: 1

6. Lakeland chopping station: Great all-in-one board set

Price: £33 | Buy now from Lakeland

Can't choose between wood and plastic? Then have both - in a colour-coded set that'll help you keep your meat juices from your raw pastry.

The large (37 x 33.5cm) oiled beech wooden board doesn't feel as sturdy as the Good Housekeeping board further up our list, and some users have reported that the wood splits and bows after a few months. But it certainly feels solid at the outset, and is heavy enough to stay still as you work. It has non-slip feet on one side, but doesn't need them - and they get in the way if you want to flip the board over.

The smaller (28.5 x 18.5cm) green and red polypropylene boards are less grippy but are at least reversible, and they fit neatly inside a slot in the wooden board to save on storage space.

Key specs – Material: Polypropylene (dishwasher-safe) and oiled beech (hand-wash only); Dimensions: Beech board 37 x 33.5cm; Red and green boards: 28.5 x 18.5cm; Weight: 2.72kg; Colours available: 1

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