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Plastic cutting boards don’t get no respect. Sure, they’re not as beautiful as their wood and bamboo counterparts, and they aren’t designed to last forever—nobody buys one expecting to hand it down to their grandchildren. But these utilitarian boards have their own advantages. Unlike wood cutting boards, plastic boards require no maintenance. They’re thin and relatively lightweight, so they’re much easier to maneuver and clean by hand than heavy wood cutting boards. What’s more, they can be thrown in the dishwasher, a boon for cooks who worry about hygiene when working with meat or poultry. And best of all, they’re comparatively inexpensive, making them accessible to most cooks and easy to replace in the event that they crack or warp.
We’ve never devoted an entire review solely to large plastic cutting boards, and we thought it was high time we put a spotlight on these practical, economical options. So we bought seven models, priced from about $19 to about $70, including the redesigned version of the OXO Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board, our favorite plastic cutting board in an earlier testing of different types of cutting boards. Each model measured about 20 inches long and 15 inches wide—the minimum size we’ve found to be best for all-purpose use, providing enough room to break down a chicken without feeling cramped.
We put the cutting boards to work, using them as we diced onions, minced parsley, pounded chicken breasts into cutlets, and cleaved nearly 10 pounds of chicken parts. We smeared chipotle chiles in adobo sauce on each model to evaluate if it stained and retained odors, and we washed all the boards by hand and in the dishwasher 50 times to test how they held up to extended wear and tear. We also sent copies of each cutting board home with staffers to see how they all fared over the course of a month.
Preferences started to emerge during the very first tests we ran. Stability was critical. While we don’t mind using a gripper mat or a damp paper towel under a board to help keep it steady, we’d prefer not to use one if we don’t have to. Used without these aids, some models just didn’t stay put on the counter. Weight helped: The heavier the board, the more likely it was to stay still as we chopped or diced. We preferred boards that had a little heft to them, weighing between 4 and 5 pounds, or about a third of the weight of our favorite heavy-duty wood board. Weight alone wasn’t enough to keep the boards from moving, though. Rubber grips—feet, strips, or ridges that help anchor the board to the counter—were even more important. Smooth plastic boards that lacked these grips skidded occasionally when we pounded cutlets or cleaved chicken parts. The best boards were heavier and had grips on both sides to keep them from sliding around during use.
These stabilizing features did come at a slight cost. Heavier boards required more muscle to maneuver and clean by hand than lightweight ones, and the grooves of most of the rubbery grips proved to be great hiding places for flecks of parsley or bits of onion, so we had to spend a little extra time extracting them. And the grips often took up some room on the board, cutting into the usable space. However, most users were willing to accept these minor trade-offs if it meant that their cutting boards stayed rooted to the counter. That said, testers did have a limit: Boards weighing more than 6 pounds were deemed ungainly, requiring a bit too much effort to wrestle into a sink. After all, plastic cutting boards are supposed to be portable.
We also considered the durability of the boards. There were no significant differences in how extensively the boards were damaged by knives over the course of testing. All the boards were scarred by knives to similar levels, regardless of the type or types of plastic from which they were made. And while all the boards stained slightly when we smeared chipotle chiles in adobo sauce on them—particularly along those scar lines—the pigment and odor faded after a wash or two.
We did see some differences when it came to warping. As we’d found in previous cutting board testings, the thinner the board, the more likely it was to warp. Measuring less than ½ inch thick, two of the three thinnest boards warped after just a few washes; the third became concave every time we put it under a stream of hot water, though it always returned to its natural flatness once it cooled down. Boards that warped were impossible to use securely, as they rocked and slid around. After her board warped during at-home use, one tester fumed, “My husband hates this board with the anger of a thousand suns.”
Even when the thin boards didn’t warp, they were often less pleasant to use than thicker boards. The thinnest board—essentially a glorified cutting mat set inside a hard plastic frame—was so flexible that it sometimes bounced a bit when we cut on it. The next-thinnest board was elevated on rubber feet; because its middle didn’t touch the counter, it also bounced slightly as we chopped, and it proved especially springy during vigorous tasks such as cleaving chicken parts or pounding cutlets.
By contrast, boards that were at least ½ inch thick didn’t warp, even after 50 washes. And they didn’t bounce at all. We generally preferred these thicker boards, even though that added height meant that these boards were also a bit heavier.
Finally, we considered some of the extra features that a few of the boards came with. One board had a ruler of sorts along the bottom edge, allowing for accurate measurements while chopping or making pastry. While some testers loved having this information handy, others thought that the raised numbers were hard to read or that they got in the way when they were chopping, limiting workspace.
All the boards were reversible, but two boards had sides with trenches around their perimeters to collect any water from wet vegetables or juices from a roast, theoretically allowing them to serve as carving boards as well as cutting boards. While many testers liked the versatility and the safeguard that these trenches provided, the trenches themselves didn’t actually hold all that much liquid—just 3 to 4 tablespoons—a fifth of the capacity of our favorite dedicated carving board. And those trenches collected debris, requiring some extra work to detail during cleaning.
Testers also universally disliked the glorified cutting mat, which had to be placed inside a separate frame. While testers initially liked the idea that the mat could be replaced (an extra mat was included), the fact that there were two parts to scrub instead of just one made this set more trouble than it was worth, especially when we had to deep-clean it after pounding and cleaving raw chicken.
Several boards came with loops or holes cut out of their corners; some testers liked that these loops helped them get a better grip on them while transporting or cleaning, but others thought that they subtracted from usable workspace.
Ultimately, preferences were personal; there were no must-have features besides the grips that helped anchor the best boards to the counter.
When all the knives were laid down, we had a new winner. We think that the best large plastic cutting board for most home cooks is the Winco Statik Board Cutting Board 15" x 20" x ½". A food-service stalwart, this utilitarian board is about ½ inch thick, so it didn’t flex during use and didn’t warp even after 50 washes. Best of all, it sat ultrasecurely on the counter, thanks to its moderate weight and the four rubberized feet that helped stabilize it. If portability is your greatest priority, or if you really want a board that has a trench on one side, we also recommend the new OXO Good Grips Carving and Cutting Board. Weighing just over 3 pounds, it was the lightest board we tested, making it especially easy to move and clean, and its two rubberized strips helped keep it relatively stable on the countertop. While this thin board didn’t warp, it did bounce a bit, especially when we cleaved chicken parts and pounded cutlets.