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Butcher’s Block vs. Cutting Board (The Differences)

A butcher butting meat on a butcher's blockrawpixel /123RF

Butcher’s blocks are still your best option for heavy-duty, slippage-free cutting.

Cutting meat is essential when cooking any main course dish. There are a few things to consider when deciding which one is better for the task at hand: the cutting board or the butcher’s block.

Looking into each of these features makes a difference in which one is best to use, from the points of view of safety, size, type of meat, and type of material used.

Wooden cutting boards are porous, made with edge grains, and designed thin. In contrast, butcher’s blocks are thicker, non-porous, and made with the end grain of the wood, and they can also be used as standalone surfaces or as countertops.

Both have pros and cons, but the cutting board can be used on any flat surface, making it more versatile than a heavy, bulky butcher’s block.

We are here to help you sift through the details of each to offer the best advice as to what works best for you in the kitchen. In the end, it is whatever works best for the user when it comes to space and user preference.

The Three Main Differences

The three most notable differences between a butcher’s block and a cutting board are what keeps them labeled separately. A butcher’s block is made with the end grain and is no less than 1½ inches thick. It is also no less than a 12-inch x 12-inch surface and can also be used as an island countertop.

If the board does not meet these standards, it is labeled as a cutting board. Within the end grain of a butcher’s block, the end of the wood fibers is exposed, leaving restraint to damages such as cracks, scarring, and cuts. Some wood fibers will even go back to their original place, causing a healing effect over time.

Cutting boards have edge grains, which means the wood grain runs along the outside of the board. This is why cutting boards show their wounds over time, making them less durable.

Cutting boards are designed for light cutting, slicing, and dicing for smaller items like sausages, vegetables, and other minor ingredients, so the board does not have to be as significant. 

Butcher’s Blocks For Heavy Cutting

Butcher’s blocks are called that because it was butchers that used them first in China centuries ago. It is also called a “chopping block” and is used for cutting large pieces of meat such as chicken, turkey, slabs of beef, lamb, and pork.

We recommend putting a towel underneath for the lightweight blocks to prevent slipping and movement. Larger blocks, on the other hand, will hold in place.

Butcher’s blocks can cover the size of a 20-inch tabletop with drainage to catch any liquids or blood as the meat is chopped up. It is ideal for professionals to use as it is in constant use and durable, but it works perfectly for those who often cook at home with a lot of meat to cut. 

Several forceful blows with a chopping blade will not scar the block while cutting through bones, and it is easier to clean as it is non-porous, and the wood won’t soak up blood and juices from the meat. It takes a larger work area to handle butchering jobs such as chopping, deboning, quartering, and filleting.

The thicker the block, the more chopping you can do, and the better the block will stay in place thanks to the added weight. We advise you to try and find all cutting boards and butcher blocks with rubber feet for stability and safety first.

Cutting Boards for Lightweight Cutting

Cutting boards are designed to cut items on the board and not so much chop. Slicing and dicing fruits, vegetables, and other small pieces of meat without the bones are perfect for cutting boards. They are made to hold up to cutting without scaring.

Keep in mind some people ask if they can use a cutting board in place of a butcher’s block. We do not recommend doing this because, over time, the cutting board will crack from the heavy blows. Since they are made thinner, a chopping blade might even cut through the board, causing damage to whatever is underneath the board, like your kitchen table or countertop.

Cutting boards are not as heavy or bulky as butcher’s blocks and can be used anywhere—and are easier to carry and clean. Prepping is also accessible and saves from cleaning an entire kitchen table or countertop every time a spot is used.

Remember to keep it lightweight on the cutting board because cracks and holes are harder to clean, leading to leftover food remaining on the board even after being washed.  

What to Look for When Purchasing Butcher’s Blocks 

Every item you buy in the store should make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Durability is perhaps the first thing to look for when purchasing a butcher’s block, and you want something that will last and not break at the first blow of a chopping blade. Thickness plays a role in this as well, so you need to know every purpose for the block.

Non-porosity is an advantage. Stay away from a porous material because items like raw chicken can contaminate the block, increasing the risk of bacterial transfer to your food as it will seep into the pores of the block.

You want the surface to remain smooth, and cheap material will deteriorate over time, causing contamination. This is why the end grains are so important to act as an antibacterial property.

Find a block that is easy to clean and maintain. A good cleaning idea is two teaspoons of bleach to a gallon of water mixture, which will kill all the bacteria that detergents will leave behind. Make sure you rinse well with hot water till all the mixture is removed from the block. 

What to Look for When Purchasing Cutting Boards 

There are different types of cutting boards, unlike butcher’s blocks which are mostly wood. You will find cutting boards made with these materials, and listed we offer suggestions on what they are best used for and maintenance tips:

  • Wood: Used for all lightweight cutting. Clean with diluted bleach and water mixture. Do not soak in water or put in a dishwasher;
  • Plastic: Used for all lightweight cutting. Clean with diluted bleach and water mixture. Soaking helps with the process of cleaning; 
  • Bamboo: Used for all lightweight cutting. Clean with diluted bleach and water mixture and a bristle brush. Do not soak in water or put in the dishwasher; 
  • Rubber: Non-porous and non-absorbent material for cutting all ingredients. Do not put it in the dishwasher. Clean with bleach and water mixture, and it is okay to soak in water and detergent.  

Final Suggestions and Tips

We love offering the best advice to our readers as it saves time and money for everyone. However, when it comes to cutting boards, the final decision is in the user’s preference for size, material, and which one works best for you, the butcher’s block or the cutting board.

The best suggestion is to have more than one cutting board or butcher’s block. Designate them each for specific cuts and ingredients. Doing this will eliminate contamination from raw ingredients and keep you and your family safe.

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