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Ready to host the biggest cookout of the summer? Preparing for the greatest Christmas party your unit has ever known? Then pull out all the stops and use the best gear available. Got a grill, a smoker, and a slow cooker for some killer meats? Awesome. What about the proper tools for cutting that meat when it’s time to chow down? The perfect carving knife is an absolute must, but make sure not to forget about the cutting board. Yes, we’re sure you could cut on the countertop or some plate from the cupboard, but really, only amateurs take those kinds of shortcuts. Slicing through linoleum or mutilating the wife’s favorite dishes won’t do you or your pocketbook much good. A popsicle on an August sidewalk at Fort Huachuca will outlast your dream of becoming the base pitmaster. Plan ahead, and get a cutting board.

When kitchen prep is your bread and butter, the Prodyne Prep & Slice Cutting Board BB-16 is sure to win your accolades thanks to its economical yet helpful design. Like many regular kitchen tools of its kind, this cutting board consists of a white polypropylene cutting surface without a dedicated juice groove. However, this board is a cut above the other plastic slabs on the market, coming paired with a black poly tray which serves as something like a juice groove on steroids. This tray comes with plenty of space for excess juice or unwanted stems, seeds, pits, and skins from a variety of fruits and vegetables. The cutting board itself also doubles as a lid or a secondary tray, allowing this combination to handle twice as many burgers on your way to the grill. Best of all, both components are completely dishwasher safe for maximum ease of cleanup.

Whether prepping for a backyard family picnic or roughing it in a chilly November deer camp, the Seville Classics Bamboo Cutting Board and Color-Coded Cutting Mats will serve you every step of the way. This16.5 by 13.4-inch cutting board comes with a set of seven marked and color-coded cutting mats that store easily inside the bamboo board. The renewable board features handle grooves for easy portability, silicone feet for countertop security, and a recess on the cutting surface to accommodate the mat of your choice. Each 15 by 12-inch mat is made with 0.03 inches of BPA-free polypropylene, a non-toxic, dishwasher-safe material (under 170 degrees Fahrenheit, and six mats feature a bold graphic designed to help prevent cross contamination between food types. Their flexibility makes pouring freshly cut foods into small containers easier than flattening an apple with an Abrams, and their flexibility, size, and weight are perfect for camping trips and similar adventures.Bon appétit.

For casual cooks and frazzled parents, plastic may serve well enough, but the Sonder Los Angeles Highland Cutting Board is the cutting board for culinary kings and queens. This particular specimen boasts an eye-catching, sustainably sourced teak wood construction that is just at home in a Parisian bakery as on your countertop. While one side features an entirely flat working surface which is ideal for kneading dough or slicing breads, cheeses, and other dry foods, it can easily flip over to the opposing side with its deep grooves to handle fresh fruits and vegetables and heat meats straight out of the smoker. At 17 by 23 inches, this cutting board is downright massive, and while Sonder Los Angeles may offer smaller versions, some people just need all that extra real estate. While it may not survive a trip through the dishwasher, proper care and a monthly oiling will extend the life of this naturally water-resistant board for years to come.

Looking for the perfect combination of function, class, and toughness? Then pick up a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Tempered Glass Cutting Board for your next big event. This 11.75 by 16-inch board is perfect for both cutting and serving thanks to its tempered glass surface with bold Harley-Davidson script and the cycle company’s classic logo. The glass is durable and boasts both scratch-resistant and shatter-resistant properties. Slice some fruit, cheese, or summer sausage, then repurpose the board into a serving tray. The anti-slip pads keep the board securely in place no matter what its role, and the brushed aluminum handles contribute to both safety and aesthetic appeal. To clean it up, simply give it a bath in some warm, soapy water. Dishwashers need not apply.

Tired of plastic cutting boards? Feel like glass is too fragile? Does wood require too much maintenance? Go bamboo, and purchase a Bambüsi Premium Bamboo Cutting Board instead. Unlike some of its cheaper counterparts, this reversible bamboo board was made specifically with meats in mind. While the bottom is flat and basic, the top side is packed with features. The deep, wide juice groove connects to tributary grooves which are fed by the gripping section in the center. The board’s center is studded with a grid of miniature pyramids designed to provide meats with the perfect place to rest before and to grab hold of slippery pieces when it comes time to cut, slice, and carve. This board measures 13 by 17 inches and consists entirely of Moso bamboo, weighing in at 7.4 pounds. Like any wood or bamboo cutting surface, this board must be hand washed, but true meat lovers will appreciate the results of their efforts.

Related: How to properly sharpen a knife without losing a finger

Why should you trust us

In addition to my years of collecting data and arranging words on paper, I’ve been cooking since before I could drive. I have a repertoire replete with grilling, frying, and slicing skills, and I understand firsthand the incredible value of the proper kitchen equipment. I have an appreciation for quality cutlery for use outside the kitchen as well.

The most common types of cutting boards

Cutting board

As the name implies, these traditional cutting boards provide a solid work surface to protect your counters. While rectangular boards are most common, cutting boards come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Smaller, circular boards called cheese boards are perfect for cutting and serving everything from a sophisticated Brie to a holiday cheese ball. Cutting boards designed for everyday, suburban-esque use consist of polypropylene or some similar material, while most upscale boards are made with bamboo, wood, and even tempered glass. When it comes to finding a cutting board, there is an option (or two) for everyone.

Cutting mat

Sometimes, a cutting board needs to be lighter and more adaptable to meet less conventional needs, but a solid slab of polypropylene or wood won’t cut the mustard. Enter the cutting mat. Like petroleum-based boards, these cutting surfaces fulfill a utilitarian role, but unlike their stiff, plastic competitors, their flexible nature makes them more portable, making them an excellent choice for use on picnics, at the cabin, or in the RV. Cutting mats often come in inexpensive sets with multiple color-coded mats designed to discourage cross contamination, particularly when clean water is at a premium.

What to consider when buying cutting board

Juice groove

While not available on cutting mats, the juice groove is arguably the most common and most useful cutting board feature. These channels run along the edges of the cutting board, forming a ring around the main cutting surface and, as the name implies, collecting excess liquids from any foods being sliced or diced. The juice groove minimizes kitchen messes, and serves as a point for collecting valuable liquids for reuse.

Why do you need a cutting board?

Every cook needs a cutting board, whether they be a professional, an amateur, or anywhere in between. A simple slab of wood or plastic may not seem that important at first, but that boring bamboo board can save you from a surprising number of headaches. Over time, a knife blade’s consistent use on linoleum, tile, or granite will wear down both the blade and the counter with a disproportionate impact on one or the other. While a knife may be easy to sharpen, a countertop replacement can be an expensive proposition. Of course, counters can also be quite dirty, particularly when showered with sneezes and smudged with finger prints. A cutting board easily prevents expensive countertop damage, time-consuming knife sharpening sessions, and food contamination by providing a barrier between everyday surfaces and your food.

Cutting boards can also double as a food transportation platform, allowing busy parents to bring freshly-sliced fruit to a table of voracious kiddos. On the flip side, a wooden or glass cheese board adds a sophisticated touch to any adult event.

Pricing ranges for cutting boards

Cutting boards tend to be affordable kitchen accessories, but for those who love to spend on premium kitchen equipment, there are plenty of upscale options available. Most often, finding a cutting board or even a set of cutting boards for $20 or less is about as easy as it gets, at least if you have no issues with polypropylene or similar materials, and the same can be said for cutting mats which usually come in sets of around six. That said, nicer cutting boards with unique features can fall within the $20 to $40 range, and basic wood, bamboo, and tempered glass options also populate this price range. Any cutting board over $40 usually consists of good quality natural materials. These boards often include features rarely or never seen on its competitors, and both specialty and custom cutting boards will almost always cost north of $40.

How we chose our top picks

When reviewing new gear, we much prefer to go the hands-on route, but sometimes, a lack of resources may thwart our attempts to get our mitts on some cool gear. When that happens, we listen to those who have firsthand experience. We comb through reviews on Amazon, enthusiast blogs, professional publications, and more to bring you the best, most comprehensive information we can. We sift through it all, keeping the gold and tossing the rest.

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