If you have been in your kitchen chopping vegetables or cutting into cooked meat and found that your flimsy cutting board was not working for you, it may be time to look for a butcher board.
A butcher board can provide many benefits but also requires some care to ensure it lasts as long as you need it. Continue reading to find out more information about butcher blocks and how they can work for you.
What is a Butcher Block?
A butcher block can be an entire countertop or a portion of one. It can also be a table or cutting board. The purpose of a butcher block is to provide a stable and sturdy work surface in the kitchen.
It is made from straight cuts of wood that are glued together to create thick slabs. They are more often found in commercial kitchens and butcher shops; they are becoming more popular in home kitchens.
Types of Butcher Blocks
There are many different types of butcher blocks. Each one has benefits and requires additional care.
1. American Cherry Butcher Block
Cherry wood has been a favorite of wood lovers for a long time. It has a rich and warm look. In addition, Cherry wood is strong yet workable. It is strong enough to last a long time, but the wood is easy to cut.
An American cherry butcher block is a great balance to stainless steel or black appliances in your home. This butcher block does need to be sealed to enhance the color. However, sealing and proper care will keep it looking fresh and new.
2. Ash Butcher Block
The ash tree is a fast growing tree that is easily found growing in the U.S. This wood is unique because it is strong and pliable. In addition, it is easy to work. An ash butcher block can help brighten the kitchen. It can work with any decor or color palette. This makes it ideal for blending into your existing kitchen.
An ash wood butcher block is a lighter, more blond color wood. It is affordable and durable to last for a long time in your kitchen. This is a ring porous wood so that it may have distinct markings or rings in the wood.
3. Bamboo Wood
A bamboo wood butcher block is the best choice for those that care about the environment. It is sustainable and renewable. There are no chemicals used in growing or harvesting bamboo. Technically bamboo is not wood, but really a hard grass.
It only takes about three to six years for a bamboo sprout to reach full maturity. It is incredibly hard and harder than just about every wood type. It resists scratches and water, but it can be tough on knives.
A bamboo butcher block has a fine grain and a light color. It is an ideal fit for a modern kitchen.
4. Maple Wood
Maple wood is a common selection and the industry standard when it comes to a butcher block. It is one of the hardest woods, making it the most durable. In addition, it is one of the least expensive types of wood.
Maple wood has a light and warm tone, making it perfect for any kitchen, no matter the design. This butcher block holds up to regular cutting and chopping. It will not ruin the edge of your knives.
This type of butcher block has a closed dense grain with tiny pores that can help block bacteria. However, you should not cut foods that will bleed into the wood, such as beets.
5. Edge Grain
An edge grain butcher block is the most common type for a counter. It is stable, strong, and affordable. This type of butcher block is made by putting long boards on their sides and joining them, allowing the long narrow edges to form a surface.
The boards are continuous lengths of wood that do not have joints or random-length boards that are finger-jointed. This type of wood is best for larger areas like a countertop or an island.
This wood goes in one direction, which is across the width, making it more stable than other countertops.
6. End Grain
An end grain construction is made from small rectangular blocks that are arranged, so the ends are visible. The ends shows the growth rings. End grain takes more labor and wood, which also makes it more expensive. It is also strong.
This is a great surface for cutting foods because it hides the marks from the knives. It is safe for knife blades because they slide along the grain. This is a thicker grain because it is likely to move. It has a checkerboard look.
7. Face Grain
The face grain butcher block is made from boards that have been laid flat with their full width creating a surface that has a streamlined appearance. It may show marks from cutting. This is not the best butcher block style for a commercial kitchen.
This type of butcher block is also known as a plank grain or a flat grain. These boards are typically 4 inches to 12 inches wide. The edges are glued to make a seamless surface to highlight its natural patterns. This is a great style for the tops of bars, tables, and islands.
8. Hickory Butcher Block
A hickory butcher block is the heaviest and hardest wood. It is almost indestructible and makes your kitchen look rich and luxurious.
9. Maple Butcher Block
A maple butcher block has natural beauty as well as durability and is water resistant. It is a hardwood making it perfect as a butcher block. It gives a kitchen a clean look.
10. Walnut Butcher Block
A walnut butcher block that is a fairly hard wood. Walnut naturally has bends to it but still creates a wood with a straight grain. This type of butcher block has a chocolate brown color that can deepen over time.
What Should I Look For in a Butcher Board?
When you are looking for a butcher board, there are certain characteristics that you want to consider. These characteristics determine food safety, usability, and lifespan of your butcher block.
Cutting boards and butcher blocks come in varying sizes. You can have a butcher block that takes over your entire countertop. If you do not want it to replace your countertop, then you could consider a cutting board.
You can find them in small sizes of 6 inches x 8 inches to a larger sizes of 24 inches x 18 inches. However, many people want a cutting board that is the largest size they can find.
A small cutting board limits your ability to cut all the items you want. To determine the best cutting board size, you should lay a knife diagonally across the surface. There should be an inch on either side of the knife.
When you do this, it gives you enough room to cut all food items with enough room for the ingredients. Wood cutting boards that range between 1/2 inch to 2 inches. The thicker the wood means that is less likely to split or warp. They take longer to absorb liquid. These boards can retain their shape over time.
There are two types of woods: hardwood and softwood. Softwoods are usually evergreen and cone-bearing that are cedar, pine, hickory, and redwood. Hardwood bears leaves and produces nuts or fruits, like maple, oak, teak, cherry, and mahogany. There are denser and grow slower, making them the best wood for a butcher block.
There is a hardness test for wood called the Janka hardness test. It was created by Gabriel Janka, a Austrian wood researcher, in 1906. It measures the relative hardness of wood. The way it does that is by calculating pounds of force (lbf). Numbers that are at the low end of the spectrum indicate it is a softer wood. The softest wood is balsa, which comes in at 22. The hardest wood is the Australian buloke coming in at 5,060.
Wood grain is the direction, size, and surface appearance of the wood cell fibers of a cutting board. The grain is what makes the wood look coarse or smooth. Wood with closed grain has smaller pores that are invisible to the eye and gives it a smooth finish.
Wood with an open grain has large pores that absorb liquid and food, which makes it a place where bacteria and mold can grow. This type of wood also stains easily.
Any wood that holds liquid is more likely to deform or warp. Any time the wood absorbs moisture, it causes the wood to have millions of micro-movements. This is what causes it to warp. Also, as a result of wood being organic, it absorbs and releases water faster in some parts of the wood than others. This causes stress and changes the shape of the wood.
Not all wood is safe for food. When wood is toxic, it can irritate you and cause a rash, runny nose, and swelling. You may even have intestinal disorders. The best way to pick wood for a butcher block is to select a wood that is known to produce edible fruits, nuts, or sap. This includes wood like maple, cherry, and walnut.
You should leave exotic wood out of your kitchen. There is a chance that the toxins can be absorbed into your food. In addition, there are other parts of the butcher block that can be toxic, like finishers, conditioners, and glue. You want to ensure that these items are determined to be non-toxic.
When selecting a cutting board, you will find boards that have extra features that are nice to have. For example, you can find cutting boards with handles to make them easy to carry and store. An extra feature to consider is textured grips on the bottom of the cutting board to prevent it from sliding while chopping foods.
Another feature is a juice groove. This is a trench around the edge of the cutting board that collects liquid runoff, especially when cutting fruit or raw meat. You can find a cutting board with feet that give it a pleasing look and are functional. It helps you present your food but also keep the table underneath clean.
Should I Seal My Butcher Block?
When using a butcher block in the kitchen, you must use oil-finished and unsealed wood. A sealed countertop is not intended to be used for food prep because it is not friendly for food or knives. Sealing the wood coves the wood with a plastic surface.
A sealed butcher block shines nicely and is ideal for a bar top or a working area that does not come into contact with food. However, you do not want to use an unsealed butcher block around the kitchen sink because it will begin to rot and discolor.