How to Choose the right Cutting Board
When shopping for a cutting board whether it's a gift or for yourself, you have two main choices.
Side Grain (aka Edge Grain) vs. End Grain
End Grain is the most expensive, it means the fibres of the wood stand on end, which allows knife blades to slide between the fibres, keeping the knives sharp and leaving the cutting board undamaged. To make one of these, we essentially make a side grain board first, then chop it into pieces and turn each piece 90 degrees, then glue it back together. For this reason End Grain boards are more expensive than side grain to to the increased labour, as well as the extra waste of making more wood into sawdust through the extra cuts.
End grain boards last the longest, and keep their smoothness without showing deep marks from usage. While you can sometimes see marks, if you run your fingernail over them you'll find they are smooth.
They also require the most maintenance - but it's not much. Keep them away from water, aside from a brief shower to clean them. The end grain fibres act like straws soaking up liquids and if left in water they can crack or warp, needing repair.
When they lighten in colour, spread some food grade mineral oil on them and let it sit overnight, do this again if the board soaks it up. Doing this periodically will help the board stay flat like new.
Side Grain boards are the most common ones out there you'll see in stores. Strips of wood are glued together here to make a solid cutting board, the same type of high quality wood is used. They look great, but show less of a pattern when compared to the distinctive look of end grain boards. They are also more resistant to water - as the end grain on these boards is only showing on two ends instead of the surface of the board. They are not as resistant to knife marks as end grain boards are, so they may benefit for a light re-sanding over the years.
Side grain boards can also be thinner and still be stable (as in staying flat), while end grain boards tend to be a minimum of 1.5 inches thick.
In my kitchen, I chop on end grain boards but I also keep a few side grain boards around for things like serving big charcuterie trays or pizzas.
Side grain boards are very good, end grain boards are the best.
Side Grain: Shows knife marks, not as easy on knives, but better than plastic or bamboo.
End Grain: Doesn't show knife marks, easy on knives. Need to be careful about letting it sit in water.
Our most popular side grain board: