The Difference between Cutting Boards, Chopping Mats & Butcher Blocks
Having the proper surface in the kitchen to use knives on and to aid in food prep is simply essential. Enter the family of cutting boards. Designed to be supercharged kitchen helpers, it pays to have a trustworthy cutting surface at the ready.
But between cutting boards, cutting mats, and butchers blocks, there’s a variety of options to sift through before making a purchase. A handful of considerations should go into deciding which cutting surface is right for you. Size & space, budget, the type of prep work (cutting veggies vs meat), and material/design are are important qualifiers before making a decision.
We’ll go over the key differences between cutting boards, chopping mats, and butcher blocks to keep you up to date on everything that’s important to know.
The gold standard for chopping surfaces, every kitchen needs at least one reliable cutting board. While cutting boards can vary in shape and size, the standard cutting boards are rectangular, and designed to fit snuggly in most cabinets and shelves.
- Should have at least 1 in every kitchen.
- Sturdy surface provides great support when chopping/cutting.
- Sizes vary, but generally around 12 inches wide & 18 inches long.
- Made from varying material like wood, bamboo, plastic, composite or glass.
- Nice models can double as serving boards.
- Ideal for chopping vegetables and prepping for normal sized meals.
- Maintenance varies, but plastic is dishwasher safe while wood & bamboo should be hand washed.
- Can retail between $5 (for cheap plastic types) to well over $200 (for wooden models).
If you operate in a small kitchen, are tight on space, or just want something no frills, a chopping mat is a terrific option. These super thin cutting surfaces are all business, and generally pretty affordable. They provide an excellent cutting surface to go to work on, and are flexible enough to bend and mold with ease.
Want to dump chopped veggies into a boiling pot? Bend a chopping mat to funnel everything in with no mess. Don’t want to break the bank for a cutting board? Grab a flexible chopping mat. Ideal for folks who prioritize price point, functionality, and flexibility.
- Light weight (generally a couple of ounces)
- Generally made of plastic or silicone
- Great for chopping veggies
- Since they are so light weight, can sometimes shift under heavy pressure/speed
- Easy to store, ideal for small kitchens or spaces
- Sizes vary, but typically mirror the sizes of cutting boards
- Often have ridged/textured bottoms to provide extra grip
- Easy to clean; dishwasher safe
- Super cheap – usually retail under $15 for packs of multiple mats
- Supremely flexible; can bend, twist, and funnel without breaking or cracking
- Great for transporting food around
- Can show some wear and tear under heavy use
- While not bad on knives, can be harsh on blades over time
The hefty, hulking cousin of the cutting board, a butchers block means business. A butchers block is typically pretty massive, designed to handle heavy duty carving and cutting without moving. They are usually made from wood, and can be stand alone boards, or feature pieces built into the kitchen, as part of a workable countertop.
Butchers blocks are usually statement pieces in the kitchen. They’re too bulky and heavy to really move around or store, so make sure you have the space to sacrifice. If you chop a ton of veggies, or prep a lot of meat, it’s a great investment. They range in price; but the good ones are an expensive, but worthwhile product.
- Large, bulky cutting surface ideal for heavy chopping
- Can be a couple of inches thick
- Made from Maple, Oak, Cherry, Walnut & Teak
- Heavy, standard models can weigh up to 25lbs
- Retails as low as $25, good models can range into the $100’s
- Can only be cleaned by hand
- A generally stationary product
- Easy on knives and other kitchen products
- Large enough surface to use as a master prep space