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End-Grain Chopping Block

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Sep 30, 2010
Category: Home

Why would you buy a wooden cutting board too heavy to lug to the sink for cleaning when you could, for much less, get a plastic board you can easily slip into the dishwasher?

Esthetics, for one. The end-grained cutting board is a piece of natural sculpture that draws the eye — and, like sculpture, it’s a permanent island in your kitchen, an attraction no matter how many Vikings and Sub-Zeros and Corian countertops your kitchen may boast.
 
Protection against illness, for another. Oh, you may think the shrewd purchase to keep salmonella away is the plastic cutting board — doesn’t the extreme heat in your dishwasher kill all bacteria? Not really. Sharp knives create ruts and crannies in plastic boards. And bacteria can lurk there, dishwasher heat be damned. But a high-quality end-grain wooden board presents an unbroken surface when you clean it. And if you wipe it dry, you’re pretty much assured of a bacteria-free surface — the tiny buggers die if there’s no water around.
 
And then there’s the efficiency/economy factor. An end-grain wooden board is a friend to sharp knives. The science of this is beyond me, but every expert says something like: “Instead of crushing against the wood fibers the blade goes between them much like cutting into a firm brush. You will find that your blade edges last much longer, and you’ll see no knife marks on the board.”
 
Why no marks? Again, an expert:
 
When the individual boards of wood are arranged so that the grain of the wood runs vertically (up and down), this puts one end of each board up so that the cutting surface is actually the end of many individual pieces of hardwood. With the grain aligned in this manner (up and down), when the knife strikes the surface during cutting, the grain of the wood actually separates and then closes when the knife is removed. This accounts for the self-healing aspect of the end-grain surface. The wood itself is not cut, but instead you are cutting between the fibers.
 
Got that? I barely do. But I do know that the Catskill Craftsmen 17-Inch End Grain Chopping Block is the best addition to our kitchen since we started grinding our coffee ourselves. Yes, it’s $59.95, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. (Indeed, I’ve told the little one, “Some day, darling, this will be yours.”)
 
Heavy? About 20 pounds — which is what you’d expect from a board that’s 2 inches thick, 17 inches wide and 13 inches Deep. Not that it’s going to slide around on your countertop, but it’s nice that it has small feet for added stability.
 
Want a bigger board?  Catskill makes a 2 inch thick board that’s 19 inches by 14-1/2. Same price: $59.95. For $79.99, you can get a board that’s 21 inches by 17 inches.
 
Care for wooden boards is minimal, but necessary. Every week or so, it must be lightly oiled — mineral oil, never olive oil or a vegetable oil — and wiped clean. To wash it, use unscented soap and water, then wipe dry. If you used garlic and want to make sure no garlic taste lingers on the board, rub with fresh lemon juice. And that’s it.
 
Do you use high-quality knives? If they could talk, they’d thank you for buying an end-grain cutting board.