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At some point or another, you’ve probably had a cutting board slip on the counter while you were preparing a meal. While this disconcerting problem is more common with boards that are lightweight or lacking rubber grips, it can occasionally occur even with some of the sturdier cutting boards we like best. Sure, you could just wet a paper towel and stick it under your cutting board—this simple hack can do a lot to prevent your board from moving. But a dedicated cutting board stabilizer promises to work even better, with less fuss and no water. Available as mats that go under your board or as clip-on feet that attach to the board’s corners, these stabilizers are supposed to anchor your board to the counter and keep it from budging.
We had just reviewed large plastic cutting boards, so the threat of slippage was especially fresh in our minds. (Our favorite large plastic cutting board, the Winco Statik Board Cutting Board 15" x 20" x ½", was one of the few that didn’t budge.) Curious to see if any of these stabilizers actually worked, we bought five models—a set of clip-on feet and four mats—priced from about $3 to about $41, and used them to stabilize wood and plastic boards on different types of counters. While several of the mats came in a range of sizes, we focused on those that were compatible with boards that measure at least 20 inches long and 15 inches wide, as this is the size of cutting board we recommend for most home cooks.
The good news? Because they were made of grippy silicone or rubber, all the stabilizers kept the boards from slipping around on wood, Formica, and metal counters—even when those surfaces were wet or dusted with flour and regardless of whether we were mincing parsley or hacking chicken parts with a cleaver.
The bad news? Some of them were a pain to use, introducing new problems as we cut on the boards or proving extra-hard to clean. The dimensions of one mat were its downfall. This mat was plenty long but measured just 8 inches wide—about half the width of the boards we were using—so we had to center it under the middle of each board or else the boards sat unevenly. Worse, it was the thickest of the mats, sitting more than ¼ inch up from the counter; as a result, it elevated the cutting boards a touch too high. The board itself didn’t slide on the counter, but it rocked back and forth over the mat as we cut, making for a somewhat precarious experience.
We had a similar problem with the set of clip-on feet. Because the feet were more than ¼ inch thick, they also raised the boards higher on the counters. Consequently, the centers of the plastic boards had no support, so when we cleaved chicken parts or pounded cutlets on them, they flexed and bounced a bit. The effect was pronounced with our favorite lightweight plastic cutting board, which is particularly thin and slightly flexible to begin with; with the feet attached, it bounced so vigorously during these tasks that it threatened to send raw poultry ricocheting into our faces.
But that wasn’t even our biggest gripe about the clip-on feet. In order to attach them to the boards, we had to pry the two halves of each foot apart, a task that was surprisingly difficult because of the tension on the metal wire that connected them. At the same time, the wire itself was a bit too thin; after securing and removing each foot 12 times, the wires flexed out of shape, so it was hard to get the foot halves to align. The feet still kept the boards stable on the counter, but the fact that the wire deformed after so few uses left us wondering how well they’d fare after many more. By contrast, the mats looked as good as new even after we’d washed them 10 times.
We also considered how easy the stabilizers were to clean and store. While all were dishwasher-safe, the set of clip-on feet had a bit of an advantage when it came to washing by hand. Because they were so small—only about an inch in diameter each—they were a cinch to clean thoroughly in the sink and tucked away neatly in our utensil drawer when not in use. The mats required a bit more care. One had tiny perforations and another had a surface like a LEGO piece, with little raised nubs; both these mats provided lots of hiding places for bits of minced parsley to get stuck, and because the mats were so grippy, those flecks of parsley really resisted extraction even after a run through the dishwasher. Our previous favorite, which comprises many interconnected rings, fared better. Because its holes were relatively large, much less food debris got trapped in them; a single cycle in the dishwasher usually took care of any bits of food that remained. Better still was a mat that was just a solid sheet of rubber; all we had to do was wipe it down to get all the parsley off it. Unfortunately, it—and the LEGO-like mat—were a touch harder to store. Because they were stiffer and heavier, we had to find creative ways to either roll them up or lay them flat under baking sheets or other cutting boards when not in use. We preferred the other two mats, which were much thinner and more flexible and could easily be folded up and stuck in a drawer or cabinet.
If you’ve never used a cutting board stabilizer, we highly recommend trying one—it’ll make even the most vigorous chopping or pounding feel much more secure, giving you total peace of mind as you wield the knife. Our favorite, the Architec SmartMat, did a great job of keeping cutting boards of all materials from sliding around on all types of counters, and because it was made up of Cheerio-size interconnecting rings, it didn’t collect as much food as some of the other models. Thin and flexible, it was also easy to store. And at just under $16, it’s a relatively small price to pay to ensure that you never have to worry about your cutting board slipping again.