The ideal cutting board is the one you like, since nearly all of them work. Pick one at random and it probably won’t be ideal. Instead of one choice there are now many — each one is right for somebody.
If you intend to use the board for serving at the dining table — for holding the Thanksgiving turkey or a rack of barbecue ribs — you’ll need a board with a moat to contain the juices. Hardwood trays add beauty to the service and won’t damage the edge of your fine carving knife. Tempered glass cutting boards double as serving trays for pastries, condiments and cheeses — anywhere you’d use a serrated knife or one that cuts only by pressure. On the kitchen counter the glass board will ruin your finest prep knives.
Plain wooden cutting boards protect the edges of good blades and clean easily by hand, but if you depend on the dishwasher for cleanup choose plain old polyethylene instead. Poly boards machine-wash easily and don’t require oiling and careful storage, like wood. Plastic boards do nothing for the kitchen decor — a good rock maple cutting board or butcher block adds beauty and character to the workspace.
One of the best working surfaces — and one that will still look good ten years and more down the road — is rock maple, the material used in our pick for the “best cutting board”: a John Boos model. Unlike polyethylene, it’s heavy enough to stay put.
Though it’s a new idea, the laminated bamboo board is a good idea. Bamboo is both lighter and harder than rock maple, and the pattern of each board is unique. One of the best features: the bamboo grove grows back only three years after harvest.
For anyone who just wants a board that works well and cleans up easily, an inexpensive white polyethylene cutting board is the best. Use it with any knife — in a couple of years when it’s scarred up and ugly, buy another.