What are the benefits of an end grain cutting board
I get asked all the time about the benefits of a "professional end grain cutting board" compared to the more commonly retailed cutting boards. The answer is simple: "End grain cutting boards" have been scientifically proven to be the most hygienic cutting board on the market today and that's not all,,,,Lets elaborate...
A properly maintained end grain cutting board is a hygienic cutting board. "Properly maintained" meaning; properly oiled. End grain cutting boards should be oiled with mineral oil to prevent the wood fibres from drying out and to saturate the wood fibres. Saturated wood fibres are unable to absorb other liquids such as juices from your foods. Preventing your board from drying out will also prevent your board from cupping or warping. Simply put; a properly and regularly oiled end grain board is a hygienic board that will last generations.
But there's more:
End grain cutting boards perform an action referred to as "self healing" Due to the grain configuration of an end grain board, the cutting surface is comprised of the growth rings or the severed capillaries of the wood grain, a vertical grain. These vertical fibres splay apart during the cutting action and then close up again once the knife has completed its pass. The reclosing of these wood fibres is what we refer to as; self healing.
Due to the grain configuration and the act of self healing, end grain boards do not show visible cut marks the same way "edge grain" or "face grain" boards do. Edge grain and face grain boards do not provide "self healing" benefits due to the cutting surface being comprised of horizontal grain. Thus when a knife is drawn across the cutting surface, due to the grain being a horizontal grain, the knife actually cuts these grain fibres instead of parting them. This leaves very distinct cut marks in the surface of the boards. Furthermore, one must consider "where do these small pieces of cut wood end up?" This answer is also easy; the small cut wood grain pieces end up in your foods.
(The self healing action would be compromised if the end grain board was neglected and allowed to dry out.)
Also worth mentioning is that wood has been found to have natural anti-bacterial properties. Scientist think this explains why the very early users of end grain boards & butcher blocks, dating as far back as the 1400's didn't all die of disease.
Not just hygiene benefits.
End grain boards are often referred to as "professional end grain boards", for end grain boards are what professional chefs demand. End grain boards do not dull your knives like edge grain or face grain boards, simply because the knife isn't cutting the wood on an end grain board, this allows the knife to remain sharp. The same can not be said for all other style boards, if they are constructed of wood then your knife will cut the grain, this will quickly dull your knife. Should you be using stainless steel, glass, bamboo, (bamboo is actually a grass & not wood) or any of the many poly plastic boards, the damage to your knifes edge will be exponential in comparison.
Another benefit to one of my end grain cutting boards is the aesthetic benefit. I make boards of many different, complex, classic, 3-D and artistic designs and wood species. To plate a beautifully cooked roast on a custom design board will make a grand statement at the dinning room table. According to many master chefs, presentation is half of the meal.
Another benefit to purchasing an end grain board is the cost. Certainly one can find a cheap poly plastic board down at a discount store for often under ten bucks. However they don't last very long before they are a complete embarrassment to bring out should company be around. Lets not even address the potential health risks from ingesting small pieces of poly plastics. Over the next 10-15-20 years you will pay out more than the one time cost of a professional end grain board. All the other listed benefits you can just consider a bonus; the hygiene, preventing your friends and family from ingesting wood or plastic particles, keeping your knives sharp and lasting, (a sharp tool is safer than a dull tool, as a wood worker I know this to be fact), and finally; the beautiful design and accent a custom boards bring to any kitchen. You certainly don't want to hide these cutting boards under the sink!