Cutting boards are an often-overlooked item in the kitchen. Most of the time, they’re purchased as an afterthought behind flashier products like knives, pots, pans, and dinnerware—when in reality, cutting boards are the one object you’re likely to use every day.
Selecting the right cutting board comes down to features like price, maintenance, and material, but the good news is that you really only have two of the latter to choose from: wood or plastic. Sure, you’re bound to run across some seemingly-snazzy cutting boards made of glass, ceramic, or marble, but those options can be pretty hard on your knives and are prone to breaking.
Easier on knives
More aesthetically pleasing
Requires more maintenance
Easy to clean and sanitize
Usually dishwasher safe
Often more affordable
Wears down faster and prone to scratches
In the end, there are pros and cons to both wood and plastic—and many of us will benefit from a combination of both. We’ve done all the research to help you navigate the wood vs. plastic cutting board battle and choose the right one for the different jobs in your kitchen.
John Boos Chop-N-Slice Maple Wood Reversible Cutting Board
What It's Best For: Cutting vegetables, cheeses, fruits, bread, cooked meats, and ready-to-eat items, as well as presenting foods like charcuterie.
If you’re looking for a stunning kitchen piece that will last years to come with the proper care, the John Boos Maple cutting board is as versatile as it is beautiful. It can be used as a regular cutting board and a cheese or charcuterie board. While this cutting board is not safe to use in the dishwasher and requires occasional treatment with food-grade mineral oil, it will look good enough to leave out as a permanent addition to your kitchen counter.
During testing, we were blown away by the cutting board’s sturdiness and sleek look. Keep in mind that this board is hefty (about 20 inches across), so it may be too bulky for smaller spaces. On the other hand, a larger surface area makes for more room to prep—which is a definite plus.
Price at time of publish: $87
Dimensions: 20 x 15 x 1.25 Inches | Material: Wood, Maple | Weight: 9 Pounds
Oxo Good Grips Utility Cutting Board
What It's Best For: Cutting raw fish, poultry, beef, and other raw meats.
This plastic cutting board by OXO is a versatile, no-fuss tool that has a place in every kitchen. We love how this practical cutting board has grooves on its edges to catch any loose liquid that may spill during slicing. It’s also easy to clean by running through the dishwasher and has nubby feet on both sides to keep it from slipping on the counter.
It's a bit lacking in the aesthetics department—though that’s easily overlooked in favor of its value and convenience. Another plus? Both sides are usable, which essentially doubles the 14.78-inch surface area.
Price at time of publish: $19
Dimensions: 10.39 x 14.78 Inches | Material: Plastic | Weight: 1.5 Pounds
If you take proper care of them, wooden cutting boards will last much longer than plastic ones. A plastic cutting board will attract more scratches and stains while potentially wearing out your knives faster (depending on the specific material). If you encounter scratches on your wooden cutting board, it can be easily sanded down, washed, and treated with food-safe mineral oil back to its original state. The best wood for cutting boards are hardwoods like maple, walnut, beech, and cherry.
There’s also the factor of sustainability to keep in mind, as plastic will take longer to degrade in the environment than wood once the cutting board has reached the end of its life. If you’re looking for a more environmentally-friendly plastic option, the Material reBoard Cutting Board is made using post-consumer recycled plastic and renewable sugarcane.
To put it simply, wood cutting boards are more challenging to care for since they’re not dishwasher safe and require more overall maintenance. Not only must a wood board be properly cleaned, it usually needs to be occasionally conditioned with mineral oil to keep it from absorbing too much moisture or cracking. Wood cutting boards also have to dry under the right conditions (upright) since they can warp if kept wet for an extended period of time. If you have access to a dishwasher, plastic cutting boards can go straight in without any worry or additional care.
A beautiful wood cutting board can become a statement piece in your kitchen as well as a useful tool. You can also use them to present cheese, charcuterie, or loaves of bread on the table. Wood cutting boards are also constructed with different design choices in mind, so there are more options for matching the overall aesthetic of your kitchen style.
Likewise, a wood cutting board can act as decor if left out on the countertop while not in use. For example, the Sonder LA Motley Cutting Board doubles as a serving platter and is made from a gorgeous combination of edge-grain black walnut, cherry, and maple.
Wood cutting boards come in varying sizes and qualities, from very high-end to more affordable, but will still typically cost more than plastic (the caveat to this is that wood cutting boards tend to last longer). Since they’re cheaper, plastic cutting boards are also more lightweight and easier to store or move around— and you can often purchase multiple plastic cutting boards for the same price as a single wooden one. Some plastic cutting boards come in assorted colors, making them easier to use for different ingredients and avoid cross-contamination.
For a long time, plastic was believed to be the more sanitary choice since its non-porous surface makes it harder for bacteria to spread. However, natural hardwood has low porosity and antimicrobial properties that can prevent bacteria growth.
A 2015 study tested this theory and found no significant differences between the microbiological status of maple, beech wood, and plastic cutting boards after being contaminated with raw meat and eggs and subsequently cleaned. Even the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says that wood and plastic are both safe as long as they're cleaned thoroughly and replaced when they “become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves."
Should you buy a wood or plastic cutting board?
Plastic may be of higher quality and sometimes less attractive than wood, but it is also easier to clean and more affordable. If you can swing it, it’s a good idea to purchase one wood cutting board and one plastic cutting board to use for different tasks. A high-quality wood cutting board is definitely worth investing in for the long haul, but if you’re on more of a budget or don’t cook as often, a plastic cutting board is a great place to start before adding or upgrading to a wooden one.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Katherine Gallagher is an associate commerce editor for The Spruce Eats who loves finding the best products for preparing and serving food and drinks. Apart from editing, Katherine previously wrote for Dotdash Meredith's travel and sustainable lifestyle brands and has 10 years of experience in the restaurant industry.
Lücke FK, Skowyrska A. Hygienic aspects of using wooden and plastic cutting boards, assessed in laboratory and small gastronomy units. J Verbr Lebensm. 2015;10(4):317-322.
Food Safety and Inspection Service. Cutting Boards | Food Safety and Inspection Service. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/cutting-boards. Accessed March 3, 2023.