Cutting boards are used in a wide range of food preparation processes, from fileting fish to chopping vegetables. They may just seem like food-cutting surfaces that protect equipment and countertops from damage, but there are quite a few features and options to consider when deciding which commercial cutting boards are right for your kitchen. To help you make an informed decision, we break down some of the features you might consider below.
While there has been some debate about cutting board materials, a definitive resolution has not been reached. However, each material has pros and cons that can help you determine which option will best fit your commercial kitchen.
Wood is soft enough to be kind to knives, reducing how often chefs need to hone or sharpen their blades. It is also porous, meaning it can absorb liquids from food prep and potentially harbor bacteria. Wood cutting boards cannot be soaked or fully sanitized, which has led many local health departments to develop regulations forbidding their use in commercial kitchens. However, studies have shown1 that wood has natural antibacterial properties, drawing the bacteria into the interior of the board where it dies within hours. Some operators choose to use wood cutting boards for items like fresh produce and bread, while saving the meat for an alternative, non-porous cutting board.
The material used most commonly for commercial cutting boards, plastic is easy to clean and sanitize. It's not as gentle to knife edges as wood, but it is better than surfaces like metal and glass. However, because it is soft enough to keep knife edge damage to a minimum, it is also soft enough to become scored and damaged over time, which can create places for bacteria to grow. Some plastic cutting boards include antimicrobial protection, but usually only on their surfaces. Because of this vulnerability, it is important to replace plastic cutting boards when they become scored. Plastic cutting boards are made of polyethylene and other co-polymers, which are durable and non-porous. They are also available in a variety of colors, so they can be designated for specific tasks to help prevent cross-contamination from raw meats or allergens.
Another non-porous cutting board option is a rubber cutting board. These dense, sturdy cutting boards have the extra benefit of staying in place on the counter without slipping. Because the rubber is somewhat bendable and elastic, it can essentially self-heal when it receives small scores. The other side of that is that the soft material can be gouged easily. Rubber is dense enough that it can be sanded down to erase damage, and does not require any of the extensive upkeep of wood, like oiling and waxing. Some cooks are not fond of rubber cutting boards because of how the material "grabs" at knives, but its ability to be cleaned and resurfaced makes it a logical choice for some commercial kitchens.
Composite cutting boards are made of wood pulp or paper compressed with resin, giving them wood-like appearances without many of the weaknesses of wood. These cutting boards can withstand heat, can be washed in warewashers, and will not score or gouge as easily as wood, plastic, or rubber. However, because the resin is harder than the other cutting board options, it may dull knives more quickly. Composite cutting boards are great for operators who want the functionality of wood and easy maintenance.
When determining what size cutting board to purchase, you should consider the size and amount of the items you will be prepping. For example, a prep cook may need a large cutting board for preparing steaks, while a bartender would only need a small one for wedging garnishes. Take note of how much counter space you have to avoid getting a cutting board larger than your available prep space.
Storage is also an important consideration, since a larger cutting board may give chefs more room to work, but you will also need more room to store it. While there are storage devices that can accommodate larger boards, they still take up more room on walls or countertops than smaller boards.
Cutting boards sometimes slip across smooth countertop surfaces, which can be dangerous when sharp knives are involved. To help prevent that, some manufacturers offer cutting boards with non-slip corners or feet. While most cutting boards are smooth, some have textured surfaces to help prevent produce from slipping, and some even have pointed grooves for holding large cuts of meat in place. Other grooves are sometimes included to catch crumbs or juices to help contain messes.
Plastic and composite cutting boards often have holes cut into one end to serve as a place to carry or hang the board, while wooden boards might have recessed handles on the sides or have stainless steel handles screwed on. Depending on how you plan to store your cutting boards, these can be very useful features.
Cutting mats are another option. Their thin construction is flexible enough to bend, making them convenient to store, as well as making it easy to transfer minced items pots or pans. However, because they are so thin they must have support under every part of the mat.
If your kitchen is staffed with entry-level chefs, you might also consider investing in cutting boards with visible guidelines. Some boards have lines for cutting pizzas, while others have ruler-like lines down their centers marked in varying increments to help cooks prep food consistently.
Depending on how you plan to use and store your cutting boards, these accessories may help you get the best use out of the boards you choose.