How to Choose a Cutting Board

A knife is necessary for food preparation. But it isn't the only tool you'll need - there's a few others often overlooked. One of those is the cutting board (manaita in Japanese,) and a good cutting board makes all the difference between a wonderful cutting experience and a chipped knife. A proper cutting board is an essential part of a lovely kitchen experience, and it's important to keep this in mind when you budget for a knife.

There's so many kinds of board though though! What wood should I get? Should I even get wood at all? How do I clean these? What size is important?

We aim to answer all these in this article - welcome to our cutting board master guide! Once you read this, you'll know all you need to know about cutting boards suitable for Japanese kitchen knives, which means your knives will stay sharper for longer. Plus, you'll have more fun cooking!

Why are cutting boards important?

We've already mentioned that a good cutting board is essential, but what a "good" cutting board is varies from situation to situation. To know that, it's also important to discuss why a cutting board is important.

If we select our boards carefully and care for them, it makes our entire cooking experience better and more hygienic. They are more than just a surface you prepare ingredients on, but they can actually enhance the cooking experience for you. Plus, it's important to get one that fits your lifestyle too, whether you can afford maintenance time or need one that is easy to clean.

Of course, cutting boards aren't used in all countries. And some places keep them very simple too. Japanese cuisine is slightly different however when it comes to this cooking utensil. In fact, cutting boards have been inseparable from the cuisine since ancient times. For example, you may have gone into a higher end sushi restaurant where the counter itself is one entire "cutting board" made out of a cypress called hinoki. Japanese chefs can even be called itamae (or itaba in Kansai dialect) - translating as "in front of a board", in this case a cutting board. This link between Japanese cuisine and the cutting board is an unbreakable one. The reasons for this link mainly come down to knife health and durability, and being able to consistently serve the best cuisine possible.

While this could also be for a variety of other reasons, we believe Japanese cuisine and cutting boards are so strongly linked because of the importance of cutting ingredients in Japanese cuisine. For example, sashimi, which is simply raw fish, is prepared by precision perfect cutting every time. To be able to do this, a chef needs to use a cutting board that more gently receives the knife so that sharpness isn't sacrificed in the cooking experience and muscle strain isn't generated in the chef's arm. In a sense, cutting boards have also evolved to allow Japanese kitchen knives to evolve further. A good cutting board allows for the perfect pull cut on sashimi every time, without sacrificing a knife's durability.

How do I choose a good cutting board?

A good cutting board can vary from situation to situation, but the number one reason someone chooses a good cutting board is that it will dull your knife less. This leads to less resharpening work, and a longer lasting and sharper knife overall.

This is because when you're cutting food on a cutting board, you're not just cutting through the food - you're striking the board as well and effectively cutting into it. As the board is harder than the knife, it dulls the knife slightly each time. This is actually the number one cause of sharpness loss. Take a look at the diagram below for an example:

The largest factor that determines what makes a cutting board "good" or "bad" for your needs is the material it is made of. So let's start there!

Cutting Board Materials

When it comes to cutting board materials, while there's many kinds out there, in Japan generally one of the following three categories are used - wood, plastic and rubber.

Of these categories you can expand further into various materials. For example, in the wood section you'll find hinoki (great for Japanese knives) and walnut (bad for Japanese knives) so making sure you know what precise material is being used is crucial.

We'll go into each cutting board category in more detail, but as a general rule of thumb, soft wooden cutting boards are very compatible with Japanese kitchen knives and are comfortable to use, while rubber and soft plastic cutting boards are easy to clean and are better for general cooking hygiene. Here's some basic summaries below before we deep dive into each type.

Soft Wooden Board Rubber Board Soft Plastic Board

+ Great for blade durability and health

+ More compatible with knives than plastic boards

+ Inexpensive

+ Less stress on the wrist when using

+ Easy to clean

+ Easy to clean and maintain

+ Highly durable

- Sensitive to heat, can warp from stoves/hot food

+ Large variety of sizes, shapes and weights

- Hard to maintain, trickier to clean

- Generally thick and heavy

- Not compatible with knives, can cause chipping

Soft Wooden Board Rubber Board Soft Plastic Board

Blade Impact


Blade Durability





As a general rule of thumb, if the board is hard - it's no good for Japanese kitchen knives

Cutting Board Materials in Detail

Our Japanese blog has detailed articles on each of the three major materials, which we've condensed down into this master guide - click or tap the category you wish to learn more about. If you aren't sure which to pick, we recommend going from left to right, or just reading the wooden one.

Wooden cutting boards are generally an excellent choice for knives, as long as it's a soft wood. They generally have a good elasticity to them which helps prevent sharpness loss when cutting, plus they feel nice and comfortable to cut on and tend to also put less strain on a user's hands when using them.

These boards allow for less bounce when the knife hits them, instead more gently accepting the knife into them a little. This has a huge impact on knife durability. Speaking of, wooden boards themselves also are highly durable. Let's go further into advantages and disadvantages.

+ Good for blade health

The largest advantage of wooden cutting boards is that they damage knives the least. Due to their moderate amounts of softness which leads to less damage to the blade.

+ Less fatigue inducing

Because of that softness, less strain is sent through to your hands when cutting through objects, so they're simply very comfortable to use and do not tire your arm.

+ Wood is highly resilient

In particular, softer wooden cutting boards like hinoki and gingko even have some self-healing properties, restoring mild scratches. This is a unique trait that man-made resin cutting boards can't replicate.

- Need special care to keep hygienic

While we have this listed as a "negative" it's actually very easy to turn this into a positive! A common misconception is that bacteria is more likely to grow on natural materials than plastic. However, there's no difference between them if you take care of the wooden cutting board properly. Additionally, wooden cutting boards have naturally-derived antibacterial properties and contain oil, so they drain well and this helps with natural cleaning and preservation. While we say the board needs "special care", it really just means be sure to clean it properly and thoroughly and pay more attention than you might with a plastic or rubber board.

- It does require proper maintenance

Soft wooden boards, much like carbon steel knives do require proper care.

You need to care for them both during and after usage. If you neglect to do so, the board may darken in colour, or the bacteria growth can occur. Plus, it doesn't look as sanitary when that happens, so care is essential. If you take the time though to do proper maintenance, you'll have a great cutting board for a long time - especially so if it's a thicker one you plan on resurfacing.

There are two main structures of wooden cutting board you can consider - single sheet boards and plywood boards. There are differences in performance and price between the both of them. Let's explore that below!

Single Wood Boards

These cutting boards are made up by carving a single piece of wood down into a cutting board shape.

With these boards, you don't need to worry about them coming apart or the binding agent melting as there isn't any. Plus, as long as there is cutting board remaining they can be resurfaced, which means these boards last for a very long time.

These benefits come at a price though, quite literally. You'll often see they are more expensive.

Plywood Boards

A plywood cutting board is made by gluing two or more pieces of wood together. The joints in these boards can come apart during use, which makes them significantly less durable and very difficult, if not impossible to resurface. However, as a result, they're much cheaper to purchase.

Wooden boards can also be chosen by their ring structure. Trees have rings inside them that indicate their age, and a wood's grain changes depending on where in the tree it is cut. Generally, there's two kinds of style to look out for - straight grain (masame) and cross grain (itame) boards.

Straight grain

Straight grain boards are more dense and aligned parallel, which allows for less deformation such as warping in the board.

Cross grain

Cross grain boards have a chevron-shaped grain, and is more prone to warping than straight-grained wood.

While generally we recommend straight grain boards, as they do have to be cut from larger trees, they are more expensive.

Wood is a very vague term - there's a large selection of wood materials out there, and they all serve their own purposes. While we recommend a soft wood for cutting boards, here's some further details about some woods below!

Gingko (ichou)

Ginkgo cutting boards have been used by professional chefs for a long time. The appeal is that they are soft, cause less damage to the blade's edge, and make cutting more comfortable for your hand. Our WONDERWOOD collaborative board is made from gingko wood.

Cypress (hinoki)

Originally used for temples and shrines in Japan, cypress is now also used as a material for Japanese luxury bathtubs and has also long been used as a material for cutting boards because of its low moisture absorption. It also has a natural unique refreshing scent and antibacterial properties. It's popular for its moderate softness that doesn't blunt the blade's edge as much. Additionally, while it's not cheap it certainly isn't expensive either. We feel this is in fact the most popular material for cutting boards on the market. Many of our own cutting boards are made with hinoki.

Willow (yanagi)

Because willow grows slowly, its growth rings are finer than other trees and the fibers are densely packed, making it extremely durable and highly valued as a material for cutting boards.

Paulownia (kiri)

Paulownia is a well-known material for high-end furniture, and because it's extremely light and dries quickly, it's also popular as a material for cutting boards and items like gift boxes as it gives a sense of luxury.

Magnolia (hou)

Magnolia wood is also loved as a material for cutting boards because it drains well, has a moderate hardness, and has a nice feel to the blade. You'll see this wood often used on our knife handles too!


Olive wood has a warm and beautiful grain. It has high antibacterial properties and is extremely hard, making it popular as a cutting board that can be used for a long time. However, a hard wood means it's less healthy for your knives - so keep this in mind.

Hinoki leaf (asunaro)

The biggest feature of hinoki leaves from Aomori Prefecture is that they contain a large amount of a chemical component called hinokitiol, which has a powerful antibacterial effect, making it a very popular cutting board material.


Acacia cutting boards are considered very attractive with a deep reddish brown grain. It's a popular material because it is hard, dries easily, and has high antiseptic properties. Again though, hard boards aren't great for knife health.


Kaya wood is known for its beautiful grain and is known as the "gem of the mountain". This wood is so soft it feels like it absorbs the edge of the blade, making it extremely comfortable to use without damaging the knife blade or tiring your arm.

Wooden cutting boards aren't the only cutting boards that can be resurfaced - rubber boards can be too with the right technique. These boards are sometimes considered as a great jack-of-all-trades board. While they're not the best at anything, they excel highly in all areas. This makes them an excellent all-rounder if all aspects of a board are important to you. Let's show why:

+ Better knife health than plastic boards

Plastic boards exist in the market that are made of a synthetic resin, which have a very hard surface. This surface very easily damages a knife, and hurts your wrist if you cut with too much force or for a very long time. While rubber boards aren't as good as wooden boards for knife health, they do have high elasticity and absorb some shock which is generated when cutting, making them less likely to damage your knife and healthier for your hands.

+ Hygienic

Like plastic boards, rubber boards are easy to clean and maintain sanitary conditions with.

These boards can also be disinfected with bleach - which you can't do with wooden boards. This makes these boards very easy to keep hygienic.

- Sensitive to heat

Rubber material, compared to other boards, is significantly more sensitive to heat. Most rubber boards have a heat resistance temperature of 100 degrees Celsius or less, which means if you place cooked food on it (especially fried food) or keep it in or around boiling water it can discolor or warp. Also, be careful when using these boards open sources of heats like gas stoves as they can melt if they come in contact with fire.

- Thick and heavy

Rubber cutting boards can be very thick and heavy.

While this is a hassle when cleaning or storing them, meaning you need to potentially be particular about the board you choose. This trait however also makes them very stable. The board is likely to move around much less during food preparation compared to a lighter soft plastic or soft wooden board.

In our store we sell a rubber cutting board called the COCOCORO Cutting Board Classic. Here's a picture of it!

This rubber board was produced by Tetsuya Onishi, who owns the restaurant Ryouri Umai BAR COCOCORO (Delicious Cooking BAR COCOCORO) in Chofu City, Tokyo and operates the YouTube channel "COCOCORO Channel", which has over 450,000 subscribers.

Mr. Onishi himself continues to explore the principles and scientific basis of "why something is good" in not only cooking, but also cooking utensils, which resulted in this cutting board. It's produced by Parker Asahi Company as part of their "Asahi Cookin' Cut" project.

The thickness of the cutting board is only 8 mm and the weight has been reduced as much as possible, giving it a thickness and weight that is opposite of most other rubber cutting boards. The synthetic rubber material is mixed with wood flour, making the feel of cutting on it with a knife similar to that of a wooden board as well, while retaining rubber's hygienic properties. COCOCORO Channel has a YouTube video about this you can watch (with English subtitles) here:

Soft plastic boards are often very readily available, plus antibactierial in the sense that they're easy to keep clean. Additionally, their price point is considerably cheaper than other cutting boards yet can be bought in an almost endless variety of shapes and sizes, making them great in many ways, like owning one as a flexible backup cutting board. It's likely the most popular cutting board in use at home today. There are downsides too however, and sadly they are major ones.

+ Easy to clean

The biggest advantage of plastic cutting boards is just how easy they are to clean and maintain sanitary conditions on. If you're time poor or do a lot of home cooking this is a big plus.

They can be cleaned with both detergent and bleach, making them easy to care for.

+ Easy to handle with a wide variety

With a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and color variations, you can more easily find the precise cutting board that suits your purpose. Since they can be made both thin and light, they're easy to handle and can be carried outdoors.

+ Inexpensive

Simply put, they cost less than other kinds of cutting board. This makes them great for those who are on a tighter budget.

- Incompatible with Japanese kitchen knives

The biggest disadvantage of plastic cutting boards is that they just aren't good for using Japanese knives on.

Plastic boards, especially thin ones are extremely hard. This is the exact opposite of what you want with a Japanese kitchen knife. This hardness has various negative effects on knives, such as quickly reducing the blade's durability, straining your wrist, or even chipping the blade, depending on the steel!

From the perspective of a knife maker, even though we can't argue how inexpensive they are, we think the disadvantages are extremely high and that it's better to get a different kind of cutting board if possible. It's worth taking some money out of your knife budget if required and putting it towards a better cutting board. We believe it will make your knives last longer and stay sharper, plus you'll be less likely to chip them.

Cutting Board Care

There's some tips and tricks with cutting boards to make the most out of them and let them be used for a long time, so follow along below and make the most of your cutting board!

Precautions before use

Before cutting on any cutting board, wet it with water first and wipe it down a little before using it.

This is because if you cut on a dry cutting board, the smell and color of the ingredients will seep into the board, which means it won't look clean again even after washing. This can cause mold and darkening on your board.

Creating a film with water beforehand prevents this trasference.

Care after use

Make sure to rinse your cutting board with warm water and then wash with a scrubbing brush and neutral detergent after use so food and smells don't stick to it. Be sure to rinse all the detergent off afterwards as well.

You can be even more hygenic with this approach by splashing boiling water on the board after you have cleaned it with the warm water, brush and detergent.

If you splash boling water on the cutting board before washing it, you might find proteins or other substances actually stick to the board, making stains difficult to remove - so please avoid this. Only use boiling water after the washing procedure as a quick splash.

With rubber boards they are susceptible to heat also - so make sure your rubber board is compatible with boiling water first.

Disinfect with bleach

No matter how well you care for your board, eventually it's going to stain. Dark or dirty spots will appear on the surface.

Disinfecting compatible boards regularly with bleach removes those spots and stains, restoring your cutting board to a better condition. Don't forget to thoroughly clean off the bleach, though!

Avoid using bleach on wooden boards - keep it strictly for rubber and plastic resin boards.

Cutting Board Resurfacing

No matter how good a cutting board is, after years of continuous use, the surface will become scratched and have stubborn stains that can't be removed, even with bleach.

In such cases, there is a special cutting board resurfacer that allows you to easily resufrace them. For plastic resin boards, due to their price it might make more sense to simply replace them.

Should I get a big cutting board?

Material isn't the only important thing when it comes to cutting board selection - size is too! It's very easy to buy a cutting board that's too large for your space, or too small to easily work on. This is especially important when used in the home as every kitchen is different.

Our opinion is the larger the cutting board, the better. Cutting on a small board can be stressful, and food can fall off the cutting board and be wasted as a result. Or, you may have to transfer the ingredients to a different bowl, which takes extra effort and dishwashing later.

But if you just go for the largest thing you can find, you may have trouble cleaning it and storing it. Or it may not fit on your kitchen bench! So focus on the largest that will fit in your area that is still comfortable for you to use, clean and store.

A great way to do that is to decide precisely where you think you'll use your cutting board in your house. For example, you may have a spacious kitchen with lots of desk space. Or, you may have a small one-room kitchen with just a sink and a gas stove with very little space. Measure this space out if you have a measuring tape handy and are able to. If you still aren't sure, we have some recommendations based on how many people you're cooking for:

Recommended Size

If you live alone in a studio or other small apartment

Around 250mm to 300mm wide

If you cook for two or three people

Around 300mm to 350mm wide

If you cook for four people or more

400mm wide or more

For board thickness, this is a personal preference. Keep in mind though, a thinner cutting board will move around more easily and thus be less stable. A thicker board will be more stable, and last longer if you plan on resurfacing it.

This is not quite the case with wooden cutting boards however, as they can warp more easily if they're thin. In that case, we recommend going for a board which is at least 30mm thick.

What We Recommend

So there's a lot here to consider - what do we recommend?

As a knifemaker, based on all the information above we recommend the following as the best style of board for kichen knives. Of course, ultimately get what is best for your budget but we aren't factoring that into our recommendations below:

We strongly recommend a wooden cutting board, using a soft wood like hinoki or gingko, that is made of a single board of wood and has a straight grain. Make sure it's at least 30mm thick and at least 250mm wide, wider if it's more than just for you. Be sure to maintain it.

If you're time poor, go for a rubber board instead. They're easy to care for, but still are good for knives.

If you're after an inexpensive board, look for a plywood wooden board with a cross grain that is a little smaller. Still try to aim for 30mm thickness.

If you're time poor and have to work near very hot surfaces or have to put hot food on the board, only then should you consider a plastic board. If you do this, make sure it is a softer, thicker plastic resin.

Do not get a thin, hard plastic board if possible. Also, avoid hard woods like walnut.

If you have further questions you can always come into our store as well. We have all three major kinds of boards (wooden, rubber and plastic) at our store in Osaka so you can get expert advice or try holding them. We feel the wooden style are so light they're even suitable for travel and taking home with you!