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Wood Cutting Boards: Everything You Need to Know About End Grain, Edge Grain & Face Grain Cutting Boards - The Bamboo Guy

Wood Cutting Boards: Everything You Need to Know About End Grain, Edge Grain & Face Grain Cutting Boards

When it comes to getting things done in the kitchen, having the right tools for the right purposes is an essential part of cooking. Not only will it make your life, and the tasks you're doing, far easier, but it'll also help you take care of your things and ensure that they last as long as they're supposed to.

For some, it may come as a surprise that the type of cutting board you use for chopping, slicing, and dicing has the potential to change the way you cook. And it's not just about finding a cutting board that boasts good quality – in fact, quality is only one small factor.

Rather, it's about the utility of the cutting board in question – the materials it's made from, its construction, and what it was intended to be used for. These things, and more, all contribute to what makes one cutting board good for a specific purpose and another the right choice for something else.

Today, we're focusing on wooden cutting boards and the three main types you have to choose from. That is, end grain, edge grain, and face grain cutting boards. I'm going to start by telling you all of the things you need to consider when you're buying a cutting board, and then, I'll dive right into explaining the three main types of wooden cutting boards and what they’re best suited for.

So, without further ado, let’s get into everything you need to know about end grain, edge grain, and face grain cutting boards.

What to Consider When Buying a Cutting Board

Each type of wooden cutting board is best suited for specific purposes. So, you need to decide what your needs are and then prioritize your needs. That way, you should be able to find yourself the perfect match!


Determine your use or how much money you’d like to spend, and you'll most likely narrow down your choices immediately. But remember, price and quality don’t necessarily correlate.

The Effect on Your Knives

The other avenue that involves price and money is your knives. If you've spent a decent amount of money investing in high-quality, special knives, it's important to take care of them, and using the right whetstone is an integral part of being able to do that.

If your top priority is looking after your knives – protecting them from becoming damaged or getting blunt very quickly – then you're going to need a cutting board that is gentle on blades.


Generally speaking, kitchen aesthetics are more important to some people than others – you need to decide how important it is to you to have a cutting board that looks good. It's possible to find boards that offer great quality and look good, but if you don't care much about the aesthetic aspect, it'll be easier to exclude that from your search criteria, and it'll give you more choices.


Everybody wants to invest in a product that offers good quality, excellent durability, and a long lifespan. However, it's the relative importance you place on durability that you need to consider.

You need to consider how often you're going to be using your cutting board. If you’re going to use it a lot, then durability is likely something you’re going to need to prioritize. But if not, then there are probably more important things for you to consider before the durability factor.

Maintenance and Sanitization

The first (albeit obvious) thing to make clear is that no matter what type of cutting board board you settle on, you’re going to need to sanitize and maintain it. However, the degree to and ease of which is what matters here.

Some types of wooden cutting boards are easier to clean properly and require less of a procedure, while others are more fickle, and while it may be worth the effort, they need some real TLC. The same goes for maintenance.

So, you need to consider whether or not you will, take the time to do some occasional upkeep for the cutting board you choose to purchase.

End Grain vs Edge Grain vs Face Grain

It’s time to have a look at the other side of the coin – what our three main types of cutting boards have to offer you. And, from there, it’s up to you to match your priorities to the qualities of each board.

But first, I'll explain the difference between horizontal and vertical grains.

Face grain and edge grain cutting boards both have horizontal grains, while end grain cutting boards have vertical grains. The main difference between the two is that horizontal grains tend to show cuts and marks quite clearly, while vertical grains don't.

In the case of the former, the knife actually cuts the board when it strikes it (and can damage the knife too if the board is hard enough), but in the case of the latter, the vertical grains snap back, protecting both the board and the knife.

Now, let's get into our three main types of cutting boards: face grain, end grain, and edge grain.

Face Grain Cutting Boards

Face grain cutting boards is where you see the most gorgeous part of the grain. They are made by gluing the edges of narrow boards of wood together to create one large surface. As I mentioned above, face grain boards have horizontal grains, which means that when you cut on them, you're likely to leave marks. This part of the wood is also softer and will absorb moisture faster than edge grain cutting boards, which exacerbates the issue of leaving cuts on the boards.

This is bad for two main reasons – firstly, it doesn't look great over time. Second, it makes cleaning  boning knives more important since there’s a higher chance of having a buildup of bacteria. Another issue with horizontal grains is that it’s pretty abrasive on knife blades, so there's a chance that you'll damage your knife or accelerate the process of it becoming blunt. This becomes a bigger issue with high quality knives because they tend to be made with harder more brittle metals.

Face grain cutting boards are also not the long lasting – not only because they often end up with lots of deep cuts, but because they’re more prone to warping and cracking over time. To extend the life of your face grain cutting board see our article on maintaining cutting boards.

Tip: if you want to cut on your face grain cutting board, keep the best-looking side unused and cut on the other side.

Thus, for all these reasons, face grain cutting boards are not recommended for constant use and heavy cutting.

However, what face grain boards do have going for them is aesthetic. The second advantage of face grain boards is that their horizontal grains can make maintenance a little easier than end grain boards, for instance, because the top and bottom of the board doesn't have exposed wood fibers – you’ll only find these on the edges – so they simply don't require as much TLC.

So, if you're looking for a board that's not going to need to withstand lots of chopping with sharp knives (perhaps more of a display board or something similar) and doesn't require extra maintenance, a face grain cutting board may be just what you’re after.

Edge Grain Cutting Boards

Now, edge grain boards also have horizontal grains, but that doesn't make them the same as face grain cutting boards. They tend to be made from strips of wood that are glued together face-to-face (not edge-to-edge, ironically, like face grain boards). Edge grain boards are stronger, and less prone to warping and cracking over time.

Edge grain cutting boards can be made with one or many different types of wood, but either way, they tend to be made with hardwoods. This is a contributing factor to one of the main cons of edge grain cutting boards – they tend to cause blades to become dull. Indeed, this is why some people argue that the best part of the wood for cutting boards is the face grain and the end grain.

Furthermore, much like face grain boards, they leave lots of cut marks, making them more difficult to clean. These dents and knife marks become more prominent over time, since the wood being fashioned in this way doesn’t allow it to be self-healing, so after a while, edge grain boards will start to lose their aesthetic appeal. I still have some face grain and edge grain cutting boards, I made over 30 years ago. They still look great. See my article on maintenance to see how you to can keep your boards looking and working great.

They are considered a step up from face grain boards, however, due to their structure. Pricewise, edge grain cutting boards aren’t exceptionally expensive.

Let’s have a look at end grain boards.

End Grain Cutting Boards

Generally considered the best option when it comes to cutting board quality and knife preservation, hi hereend grain cutting boards are the only type with vertical grains. As we explained previously, the vertical grains are gentler on knife blades, and it also means that you won't be left with long lasting cut marks as the vertical grains are able to self-repair. This makes end grain boards easier to clean too.

End grain boards are easily identifiable by their checkered or brick appearance – the result of gluing many pieces of wood together. This is also part of what makes these boards the most expensive, as the process is more complicated than with edge and face grain boards, and it requires more time.

Another pro of the vertical grains of an end grain cutting board is that the texture creates grip for the knife blades, so these boards are particularly ideal for working with slippery foods and you’re less likely to injure yourself while using one.

Two of the cons, however, are the cleaning and maintenance procedures they require and the fact that they’re heavy. Starting with the latter, end grain cutting boards are heavy and cumbersome because of the thickness and how they're made.

So, if you’re looking for something you’ll need to transport or move around a lot, this may not be the way to go. However, the weight can be a pro when it comes to ensuring it stays still on the countertop you’re working on.

In the case of the former, end grain cutting boards tend to need more deep cleaning and attention because they absorb moisture more easily than face and edge grain boards. So, although cut marks heal themselves, you still need to be aware of a buildup of bacteria due to the moisture issue.

But as long as you clean it properly and regularly, and apply the correct oils and other products, you’ll be able to take good care of your board.

Right after using your End Grain Cutting Board, you need to clean it and wash it. The sooner the better, helps lesson any stains and odors that might soak into the surface. A non-scratching sponge, kitchen scrub brush or a sturdy dishcloth to remove larger food particles from the cutting boards surface. If you find food particles are being more stubborn you can use plastic or silicone spatulas to remove those stubborn fragments. You can get hard silicone pot scrapers at most kitchen stores or online and they are extremely useful for removing any larger food particles, that may be resisting removal. Do not use steel brushes or steel wool, they will scratch and damage the wood surface.

Once you've removed the visible food particles, gently wet all the surfaces of your board, with warm to hot water. Then add a little Cutting Board Soap on it. With a sponge, dishcloth, or dish brush scrub in a circular motion, do this to all areas where food was present. This removes visible as well as all non-visible food particles and any microbes that might be present. The longer you scrub the board, the more the soap can lift any dirt and food particles left on the surface. If you don't have a good cutting board soap, a mild antibacterial dish soap is also effective.

Important Tip: Why wet all surfaces evenly. End Grain cutting boards are great on your kitchen knife blades since the end grain allows your knife blade to sink in instead of bouncing off, like edge and face grain cutting boards. While End grain allows your knife blades to sink in, it also allows for more water absorption, than edge grain and face grain cutting boards. Uneven water absorption is what causes end grain cutting boards to bow or warp. Once washed and rinsed off, wipe off the moisture with a dry towel. Do not place it back on a wet counter or on a wet dish towel.

Final Thoughts on Everything You Need to Know About Face Grain, Edge Grain, and End Grain Cutting Boards

There you have it – all the most important things you need to consider before buying a cutting board, and all the most important aspects of face grain, edge grain, and end grain cutting boards.

Ranging from cleaning and maintenance to how the boards affect your knife blades, with this information, you ought to be able to match your priorities with the type of board that best suits you.

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