Many people spend a lot of time and money picking out the perfect set of knives for their kitchen, but less know the cutting board has a huge contribution to the effectiveness of those knives. They come in many different surfaces: wood, bamboo, plastic, glass, and more. Not all cutting tools give you the same results.
It is actually the cutting board that dulls your knife, not the food you are cutting. Ideally, you want a softer surface for this reason, meaning glass cutting boards are your worst enemy. This also excludes composite, granite, and marble. Only use these as presentation trays, or they can dull your knives within ten strokes.
If you decide to go with a plastic cutting board, pay very close attention to the type. Acrylic is almost as unforgiving as glass–polyethylene or polypropylene are better options. Wood is still the preferred choice. Stronger woods like teak, oak, and walnut are the best bet for durability while remaining kind to knives. If you are cutting meats, it is best to use a thin plastic board on top of your wooden one so as to not cross-contaminate. Woods that have oil in them are better to avoid a board that will absorb everything liquid.
Bamboo boards are the most sustainable and can be easily cared for. This material is naturally antibacterial–all it needs after use is to be wiped down with soapy hot water, then rubbed with a little bit of mineral oil to prolong use.
A lifetime quality set of knives makes cooking easier and more enjoyable. First, it is important to know the different knives and what they are used for–using them for their intended purpose will prolong use. A chef’s knife is the biggest one in your drawer. It’s used for chopping and dicing meats and vegetables (if you have one that is similarly as large but a bit thinner and longer, it is for filleting meats). You peel and cut small items with the paring knife.
A proper chef’s knife is the best place to start. It’s best to try these in store as they are not one size fits all–you may have a preference around grip, weight, and size. It needs to feel comfortable and graceful in your hand. Make sure the knife feels balanced in your hand. Pay attention to the “bolster” ( the part of the knife where the blade meets the handle)– does your finger feel secure, or is it slipping around, putting you at risk for being cut? After you take the knife home, chop some onions and cut a melon to make sure the blade is quality.
Most knives are carbon stainless steel, but some are laser cut from sheets of steel. Neither material is superior, and mostly they just depend on your weight preference. The Messermeister Meridian Elite is a fan favorite for chef’s knives, and it will last you a lifetime. If you prefer something more lightweight, a “Japanese-style” knife may be better for you. The Kershaw Shun Classic is a middle of the road option with plenty of positive reviews.
In order to keep your knives for a lifetime and beyond, they must be taken care of. You should already have the proper cutting board, but it is important to have sharpening tools as well. You need a sharpening stone and a bit of oil–there are plenty of videos showing you how to hold your knife on a slant and run it against the grit to taper its fine edge. With proper keeping, you can build a set of cutting tools that can be passed down for generations.