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How Many Cutting Boards Should You Have?

Different type of wooden cutting board.

You might not know this, but you should always have 4 cutting boards at all times. Use separate cutting boards when preparing raw meat and veggies. To keep your kitchen as sanitary as possible, it’s best to designate one cutting board just for veggies, another just for meat, and two backups. 

Cutting meats on the same board that you use to slice fruit and vegetables will contaminate the board, risking your health and making you vulnerable to foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli.

Why It’s Important to Have 4 Cutting Boards

Having at least four cutting boards is vital in a home kitchen. Having multiple cutting boards helps ensure that you’re only working with foods that won’t cross-contaminate one another. 

You should have one board for raw meat, one for veggies, and two for backup if your dish requires more than two boards to prepare

If you have plastic or wooden cutting boards, be sure to regularly sterilize them to prevent bacteria growth. This can be done by putting them in boiling water for five minutes and then letting them air dry completely before using them again.

Why It’s Important to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Sliced meat, carrots and broccoli and a cutting board.

Although most bacteria are harmless, a few common foodborne illnesses—such as E. coli and salmonella—can lead to severe illness and even death. One of your kitchen’s greatest enemies is cross-contamination: when bacteria from raw meat, poultry, seafood, or eggs get onto a surface (cutting board, countertop, utensils) that can come into contact with other foods. 

Cross-contamination can occur whether you’re cooking in your kitchen or eating out at a restaurant. To keep you and your family safe from illness, it’s important to be proactive about food safety by employing simple prevention strategies such as hand washing after handling meats and practicing safe storage methods for leftovers. 

Do I Really Need Four Cutting Boards?

I don’t know about you, but we love our cutting boards! The problem is we have a lot of them…do we really need 4? It turns out: no. In fact, you can get away with using just two in your home. This saves time and money, especially if you buy higher-quality cutting boards made from more durable materials.

If you want to be as safe as possible when handling food, you should have four cutting boards (one for meat/fish/poultry; one for fruits/vegetables; and the two backups). If it makes sense to do so based on space constraints or what’s being cut on each board, make sure they’re easy to identify.

What Type of Material Should I Choose For My Cutting Boards?

People can’t seem to make up their minds about which type of material they prefer. Plastic is cheap and easy to clean, but it is prone to scratching and staining. Wooden cutting boards are sturdy, but they’re difficult to sanitize and are not dishwasher safe.

Wood

Lean meat with pepper in a wooden cutting board.

A sturdy, stable surface with a pleasant smell, wood cutting boards are hard to beat. However, they’re not impervious to juices from meat and vegetables and need to be sanitized immediately after use. 

Wood is susceptible to damage by certain foods or acids, such as tomatoes and vinegar; it’s also more difficult to clean than other types of surfaces. Overall, a good quality wooden board will last you years.

Plastic

Sliced veggies and a green plastic cutting board.

I would suggest having at least one cutting board made of plastic. They’re inexpensive, require little maintenance, and can handle everyday wear and tear. 

These are also good for cleaning up food that can potentially get in between cracks. Make sure to sanitize them on a regular basis so they don’t harbor germs or bacteria. 

Bamboo

Celery, potato, onion and a bamboo cutting board.

If you’re into greener products, bamboo cutting boards are a great choice. But even if you don’t buy into the environmentalist hype surrounding bamboo, it does have some real advantages over other kinds of wood. 

Bamboo is harder than maple and virtually impervious to water—you can soak it in water for months without causing warping or cracking. It also has natural antibacterial properties that prevent bacterial growth on its surface, making it easy to clean in between uses. On top of all that, bamboo is also resistant to staining and scratches easily.

Glass

A knife and sliced cheese in a glass cutting board.

Glass boards may be a little more expensive than plastic, but once you start using one you’ll never go back. And, though it’s technically not dishwasher safe, most will withstand a trip through your dishwasher. 

For those that are curious, yes—you can use them to cut meat. I do all of my meat prep on a glass cutting board with no issues. Another huge plus is that they don’t stain like plastic cutting boards do, which means less cleaning!

Marble

Slicing potato in a marble cutting board.

There are some pretty convincing reasons to go with marble. The first reason being the most obvious is durability. 

Marble will last for years, and it has been used for centuries as a go-to work surface for chefs in commercial kitchens all over Europe. 

Plus, if it’s good enough for The French Laundry, then it’s probably pretty darn good. It’s also easier on your knives – because a properly cared for knife should stay sharp longer than a cheap one – and not getting damaged so easily means less maintenance time.

How Big Should My Cutting Boards Be?

Wooden cutting board and different types of cheese.

Cutting boards need to be bigger than whatever you’re cutting on them. If you’re going to use your cutting board for meat, fish, and poultry, it should be about half an inch thick and about 12″ x 18″. For fruits and vegetables, a thinner board is sufficient. 

The size of your board should also depend on how much counter space you have in your kitchen. 

Final Thoughts

Even the most basic home cook should have at least two cutting boards, but I recommend having four or more. One for fruits and vegetables, one for meats and seafood, and two that you use specifically for bread or cooked food that doesn’t need to be washed before storing. 

Storing cutting boards next to each other causes them to warp, so if you’re tight on space make sure they’re stored separately. To keep your boards from warping, try oiling them every month or so. It will also help get rid of any germs. Plus it smells great!