One of the most commonly used pieces of kitchen kit, a good chopping board is an absolute essential. But which model is right for you? We talk through the choices available, the best material for the task, prices, aesthetics and durability.
By coincidence, I bought this board years ago and use it at home everyday, so I was thrilled that it made it past our stringent testing matrix. This affordable board is made from recycled plastic and flax husk, making it an ethical choice, and the green speckled finish and angular design look really swish. It’s a good size and can accommodate a large loaf of bread or joint of meat, and the coarse surface is non-stick by nature, plus it grips the blade of the knife nicely. It has a handy handle for storage, although Barney warns of food dropping down into it, which is something to consider when choosing a board with a handle.
£20.00, buy from John Lewis
Best… wooden board
Chunky wooden butcher's blocks win on the style front and look impressive when brought to the dinner table with a juicy hunk of beef and a pile of Yorkshire puddings on top. This IKEA board is made from bamboo – Barney’s favoured material – and feels really resilient (it easily survived the Drop Test), plus it’s reversible and has the best moat we tested. It also doubles up as a carving board, and when you look at the price range of similar butcher's blocks, this is incredible value.
£15.00, buy from IKEA
This simple board has no airs or graces, but it clocks in at under a fiver so we’re not complaining. The diminutive chopper is as strong as an ox, and compared to other affordable boards it’s attractive enough to double as a breadboard or serving platter. If you’re buying a board for someone going off to university, this one should be your first choice.
£4.00, buy from Wilko
Best… for small kitchens
This utilitarian board gets around the problem of being non-stick without resorting to rubber feet by moulding the rubber grips around the edges of the board. It’s lightweight but feels ultra sturdy, plus it has measurement markings for fastidious choppers. If you only have space for one board and don't need it to be big, this is a great all-rounder.
£11.99, buy from Lakeland
Best… board set
Buying a nest of chopping boards to be used for different purposes is a good way of getting around storage issues as they usually come in a compact holder. Good for hygiene-conscious cooks who want to avoid cross-contamination, this version by Joseph Joseph has coloured boards marked for different ingredients – very cheffy. Each board has a clever special feature, so the meat board has a moat, the fish board has grippers, and there are crumb catchers on the cooked food board. Barney also points out one important boon when it comes to sets – less washing up between tasks!
£50.00, buy from Joseph Joseph
If you’re a keen cook, you’ll probably use a chopping board everyday, and unless you’ve got a huge kitchen or penchant for investing in kit, chances are you’ll use the same one for everything. In reality, some materials are better for certain tasks than others, and when you factor in size and added features, like moats and knife sharpeners, the whole thing becomes a bit of a minefield. So which is the best chopping board for you? We tested 15 high street models to pick five excellent all-rounders.
A good chopping board will be your best friend in the kitchen. A bad chopping board will crack under pressure (quite literally), warp in heat, spill juices all over your work surface and harbour nasty bacteria if you’re not careful when washing it. But as our review reveals, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to get a quality chopping board, and when you think of how often you slice, dice, cut and carve ingredients, spending time considering your choice of board is a no-brainer.
What should I buy?
There are myriad chopping boards to choose from. Many people like a solid wooden board, some of which are good-looking enough to double as a serving platter. Wooden boards are great for bread and carving meat – they often have a little moat for catching juices. However, they’re more likely to absorb odours and stains than plastic chopping boards, although hard wood is less absorbant than soft. A wooden chopping board shouldn’t be exposed to lots of water as it might warp or crack, and if you’re a real geek you should treat it with oil to keep it in shipshape. Our food editor-at-large and chief tester Barney rates teak as a wood type, but equally as important is the style of chopping board – one solid piece of wood might be more likely to withstand the test of time than a board made up of lots of layers or pieces of wood joined together.
Plastic (polypropylene etc) chopping boards are seldom as attractive as their wooden counterparts, but they win on the hygiene (and often price) front as they can be colour-coded for particular tasks, as seen in professional kitchens (red for raw meat, blue for raw fish and so on), and can withstand rigorous washing and sanitising. Clever new designs include chopping boards with folding sides, to funnel your chopped food into a pan or bowl. Bamboo chopping boards are excellent and often quite reasonable, so we included them in our test but we didn’t bother with glass cutting boards. Whichever board you choose, remember to consider the tasks you’ll be using it for, where you’ll be storing it, whether you want a handle on your board to hang it up, and whether it’s non-slip as you don’t want your board skidding all over the place.
What we looked for:
The Good Food Drop Test: Reasoning that over its lifespan, a chopping board suffers lots of knocks and scrapes in a household kitchen, Barney and I set out to give the kit a bit of rough and tumble. Enter the Good Food Drop Test. We think a chopping board should be able to withstand being dropped from knee height – although we were surprised by our findings.
Extra functions and aesthetic: Boards come in all shapes and sizes – some with spikes to secure meat, others with knife sharpeners and folding sides – so we rated the extra functions on whether they're worth the extra money. We poured water over boards with moats to check whether the groove captured all the liquid – in an everyday kitchen, a substandard moat equals wasted meat juices!
No marks: We put each board through a rigorous test of chopping and hacking with a sharp knife to check whether the surface was left with irremovable marks. Chopping boards naturally suffer wear and tear as they’re constantly exposed to sharp edges, but we wouldn’t expect them to damage easily on first use.
Ease of washing: We used beetroot during testing to check whether the board would absorb colours and odours that can’t be removed with warm soapy water.
How we tested: We tested 15 plastic and wooden boards. Each chopping board was subject to the Drop Test, plus we used our sharpest knives to test for markings and subjected the boards to water.
What didn’t make the cut:
Barney’s many years of experience in professional kitchens taught us to discount boards with ‘feet’ as while they make the board non-stick, it stops them from being reversible. Moreover, rubberised feet might mark light work surfaces. We didn’t test glass chopping boards as they’re impractical and can blunt knives, plus badly-designed moats take up valuable board space, only to spill liquids all over your nice clean work surface – not good enough! Barney's gruelling Drop Test proved interesting as the most expensive board tested completely split in two.
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This review was last updated in March 2016. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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