A cutting board is an essential part of a home chefs arsenal. It acts as a chopping block, food prep area, and even serving board and more. Pros and amateurs alike regard wood as the ideal cutting board material. It has just enough give so it doesn’t dull knives like marble, glass and bamboo. Wood is also much more sanitary than plastic. So, what’s the difference between edge grain, end grain and face grain cutting boards?
WHAT IS EDGE GRAIN?
Go into anyone’s kitchen and check out their cutting board, odds are it’s an edge grain. Edge grain cutting boards are made from parallel boards stuck together that run lengthwise across its surface. They usually have a pattern that looks like long strips. They are made using the side of a 2×4. They are hard and can be heavy, and are usually made from maple, walnut or teak.
WHAT IS END GRAIN?
End grain boards typically have a checkerboard-like pattern, and are not as common as edge grain cutting boards. End grain boards are made from the short ends of a 2×4 or equivalent piece of wood fused together to form a flat surface. End grain cutting boards can be made of the common types of cutting board wood, but they’re typically made of walnut.
WHAT IS FACE GRAIN?
Face grain is simply the broad front side of a piece of wood. The “face” is typically what is used to make wood tables and cabinets. The face of a 2×4 is the broadest side and has large and pretty wood grain. Face grain cutting boards are made by fusing the edges of wood pieces together so the faces of the wood boards create a flat surface. Face grain cutting boards are not as common as edge grain cutting boards, but they share some of the same properties.
EDGE GRAIN VS END GRAIN: Key Differences
➤ Knife Preservation
End grain cutting boards are much easier on knives than edge grain. This is because the short ends of wood are more fibrous and have an open wood-cell structure, making the the cutting board surface softer and also grips the knife better. You may think this softness is an attribute on a cutting board, as it would leave deep indents and marks. But minor dents and cut grooves are actually only temporary on an end grain cutting board, as the open wood-cell structure of the wood allows it to “self-heal” or fill back to smooth after impressions are left.
Edge grain cutting boards, made from the flat sides on 2×4 pieces of wood, do not have this self-healing ability. They will show marks and grooves more than end grain boards.This edge side of the wood is also harder, making edge grain cutting boards more likely to dull knives faster. That being said, edge grain wood boards are still good for knives, and are much more knife-friendly than other materials such as glass or marble.
End and edge grain cutting boards have quite a difference appearance. Edge grain boards usually have a checkerboard-like pattern since the boards are made up of the ends of many pieces of wood. They sometimes are made with alternating types of wood for added contrast. End grain boards can look quite decorative, complex and striking. End grain boards also tend to be thicker than edge grain boards, making them extremely heavy at times. This could be a drawback if you want a board you can easily pick up and transport.
Keep in mind that due to the self-healing nature of end grain wood, end grain cutting boards tend to retain less deep cut marks, so the boards look better longer.
Edge grain cutting boards are attractive as well. They have the classic wood cutting board appearance and can come in many different varieties of wood. Some might actually prefer the simplicity and minimalism of edge grain cutting boards over dramatic end grain boards. Edge grain boards definitely get deeper cut marks etched into them, but with proper maintenance, these marks shouldn’t stand out too much.
End grain is more expensive, because they are more laborious to make, and use more pieces of wood. End grain cutting boards are around four to fifteen times more expensive than edge grain cutting boards, due to this complex construction. Face grain and edge grain cutting boards are usually affordable.
End grain boards require slightly more maintenance. They tend to be more sensitive to moisture and dry air. In an end grain board, the wood’s grain is fully exposed, so the wood will expand and contract more due to moisture changes. End grain cutting boards should be conditioned at least once a month with oil and board cream. If you live in a very dry environment or you use the cutting board a lot, you may need to oil your board even more.
Of course, edge grain cutting boards do need maintenance as well. Though, edge grain wood will soak up less moisture, making these boards less likely to warp or crack if not properly maintained. You should oil and condition your board once a month, or whenever it looks dry.
WHICH TYPE IS BETTER?
All types of wood cutting boards get the job done and are infinitely better than other materials such as plastic, stone or glass. I will say that I prefer the durability and look of the end grain cutting board, and think they are worth the splurge.
If money isn’t an issue.. get an end grain cutting board for the longevity and knife preservation.
If you can’t afford the splurge.. an edge grain cutting board is great and with proper maintenance, will last a very long time.