Late in 2019, Chef Jordan Terry of Dirty French showed me the way. “This isn’t some thin, plastic malarkey. It’s a solid, beautiful and terribly functional cutting board,” he said of the three-quarter-inch-thick rubber cutting boards on sale at JB Prince (now out of stock, sadly). “They are just a joy to cut on,” Chef Terry said. He goes on to say the rubber board has the upper-hand on the wood and plastic board in almost every way. How could that be? Here’s what you need to know.
Longer Lasting Edges
The base function of a cutting board is to provide a surface to piece apart food that won’t damage your knife, not to protect surfaces from your knife. Chopping onions on a granite countertop is odd and dangerous to a blade’s integrity. Plastic boards are too hard, still, and some wood boards are too tough (bamboo in particular). Rubber boards absorb knife strokes instead of fighting back against them. This means the edge on your knife will last longer and won’t require as much honing and sharpening in the long run.
Rubber cutting boards are meant to stay put. Where a 12″ x 24″ plastic board may weigh in around half-a-pound, a rubber board of the same dimensions will be close to five pounds. This added weight — and thickness, depending on what you buy — mean warping is less likely (high heat situations are the only real risk) and the board won’t be going anywhere.
Plastic boards win the clean-up round by way of machine-wash safe materials, but lose every other round. But rubber boards have an advantage over wood boards in one key area — they don’t need to be oiled. If you don’t oil a wood board, it will become brittle and crack. Rubber boards require a quick soap-and-water hand wash and they’re good to go.
Knife-friendliness and longevity are where rubber and wood boards separate themselves from plastic. After months of abuse, boards will have gashes, stains and divets all over them. Rubber and wood boards can sand those away with ease. Rubber can even be sanded by sans-machine.
Ones to Buy
Because they’re favored more in Japan than Stateside, rubber boards are typically pricier and harder to find than their wood or plastic counterparts. Sani-Tuff boards are the exception. Made in the US and almost always under $100, its antimicrobial cutting boards are National Sanitation Foundation-certified (NSF) and come in various sizes and thicknesses. These are solid blocks of rubber and require handwashing (machine-washing can warp 100 percent rubber boards).
The most available Japanese-made rubber boards are made by a company famous for its high-carbon steel knives. Yoshihiro’s Hi-Soft boards are made of a polyvinyl acetate that’s softer than any wood or plastic and most rubber boards, meaning the board takes the beating instead of the knife. Like most rubber boards, you can sand (or thoroughly rub) off unsightly cut marks or stains.
Hasegawa boards are the gold standard in rubber cutting boards. They’re made of a synthetic rubber that covers a wood core. The combo makes the board lighter — 1.5-inch blocks of rubber are not easy to handle — and prevents serious warping issues. The downside is the price and availability; you’ll be hard-pressed to find a suitable Hasegawa board for under $200, and they’re only available at specialty shops and restaurant supply stores.