Bamboo cutting boards have become increasingly popular due to their sustainability, affordability, and low maintenance. However, there is a common concern among knife enthusiasts and culinary professionals about whether bamboo cutting boards dull knives.
In this blog post, we will explore the properties of bamboo cutting boards and their impact on knife blades.
Bamboo: A Sustainable Choice
Bamboo is technically grass, not wood, and it grows at an astonishing rate. Some bamboo varieties can grow up to 36 inches in just 24 hours, making it a highly sustainable and cheap material for various products, including building materials, furniture, paper, clothing, and cutting boards.
Bamboo Cutting Boards: Pros and Cons
Bamboo cutting boards have become increasingly popular due to their affordability, natural anti-microbial properties, water resistance, and low maintenance. They don't require frequent seasoning and maintenance like wooden cutting boards. However, despite these advantages, bamboo cutting boards have a significant drawback – they are terrible for your knives.
Why Bamboo Cutting Boards Are Bad for Knives
One of the best features of bamboo is also the reason why it’s bad for blades: bamboo is durable, hard, and strong. Most bamboo has a tensile strength of about 28,000 pounds per square inch, which is the amount of pressure or stress that can be placed on the bamboo before it cracks or breaks. To put this into perspective, steel has a tensile strength of 23,000 pounds per square inch.
Bamboo's hardness is attributed to its high percentage of silica, also known as silicon dioxide or quartz, which is the main component of ceramic and glass.
Chopping on a bamboo cutting board is akin to doing so on a slab of porcelain or glass, something strongly discouraged. When you take a knife, made of steel, and hit it against a material as hard and strong as bamboo, the softer material (the knife) is the one that is going to give and become dull and damaged.
The Impact on Knife Blades
Knife and food professionals are generally against bamboo cutting boards. Bernal Cutlery in San Francisco even offers a discount to customers who "turn in" their old bamboo cutting boards for new wood ones. According to Josh Donald, co-owner of Bernal Cutlery, they can usually tell when someone is using a bamboo board with their knives as the edge is usually mashed in a bit or has small chips depending on the hardness of the knife's steel.
Jared Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Bros., agrees with this sentiment. He states that while bamboo cutting boards are great for their natural density, which helps to seal and protect the board against water damage and bacteria buildup, they are pretty brutal on your knife edge due to the hardness of the bamboo.
Light chopping on bamboo boards is possible, but end-grain cutting boards are recommended as they offer a high level of softness to reduce unnecessary knife dulling.
Alternatives to Bamboo Cutting Boards
Earl Gonzalez, master woodworker at EVG Design, recommends maple and walnut wood for cutting boards. Donald Bernal, of Bernal Cutlery, agrees and also recommends Japanese Hinoki wood, a Cypress relative, for those who use Japanese knives.
Hardwoods like Maple and Walnut allow the knife to slide over them more than softwoods. Hinoki cutting boards grab the knife edge a little more, as they're dense softwood, but they offer the best protection for the edges of very hard Japanese knives.
While bamboo cutting boards are sustainable, affordable, and low-maintenance, they are not the best choice for maintaining sharp knives. The hardness and strength of bamboo can cause knife blades to become dull and damaged. Instead, consider using cutting boards made from materials like maple, walnut, or Hinoki wood, which are gentler on knife edges and help maintain their sharpness.
Hi there, I’m Sam Billings, and I’m all about sustainability. Running a printing business is my thing, but my real passion is preserving nature. That’s why I run the Live Health blog, where I focus on Bamboo plants and their eco-friendly goodness.