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Thin, lightweight plastic mats are easier to lift, wash, and store than conventional cutting boards. Does it matter which model you buy?
A good-quality cutting board is essential. Our favorites are big, sturdy, and durable, but sometimes we like to supplement them with lighter-weight options. Enter flexible cutting mats. Lightweight and made from dishwasher-safe plastic, they can be easily tucked into the dishwasher after use—a convenience that we especially appreciate when working with messy raw proteins. They're also generally flexible enough to roll up like a newspaper and funnel ingredients directly into a skillet or bowl. We purchased eight, including products sold in packs of four or five and one that's sold individually, priced from $2.00 to $8.00 per mat. We put them through their paces with a slew of cutting and chopping tasks, evaluating how well they stood up to stains, odors, repeated knife strokes, and washing.
Flexible cutting mats are often double-sided, and they can be used directly on the counter or placed atop a larger cutting board. We tried them in each position. No matter how they're arranged, they're simply more prone to slipping than standard cutting boards. Some rocked back and forth or spun in circles, even when we used a damp paper towel to try to anchor them in place. Slick foods, such as halved onions and raw chicken, also sometimes slid on the mats. In this evaluation, the surfaces of the mats proved to be more important than their thickness or weight. Perfectly smooth mats tended to slip or skate around on the counter. The mats that felt most stable—both on the counter and atop a cutting board—had swirls, tiny raised dots, or grid patterns. If they were textured on only one side, we preferred to place that side on the counter for extra stability, but mats that were textured on both sides stayed put better and provided more traction for slick foods.
We also preferred midsize mats. Some were so dinky that chicken pieces slid off as we pounded them and diced onion spilled onto the counter. But one mat was too big to be convenient; the extra space was useful for cutting, but at 18 by 24 inches, it was difficult to store and wouldn't fit in most dishwashers. The most versatile boards measured about 11 by 14 inches (the same as our winning small cutting board WEB LINK HERE), making them big enough to contain all the food we were preparing but still compact enough to easily maneuver around the kitchen and put in the dishwasher.
A handy benefit of flexible cutting mats is that you can bend them to funnel ingredients into bowls and cookware, so we used the mats to ferry chopped onions, carrots, celery, and broccoli around the kitchen after cutting the vegetables on the mats. We also transferred flour to the bowl of a stand mixer, a simple task that often results in flour spilled everywhere. Mats that were too stiff and rigid could only be tilted into skillets or mixing bowls, and that was no more effective than working with traditional flat cutting boards. Truly flexible mats tidily funneled their contents precisely where we wanted them.
Here, thickness was key. The most rigid mats in our lineup were also the thickest, measuring between 2 and 3 millimeters thick, about the same as the cover of a hardback book. But thinner wasn't always better. One mat was just 0.50 millimeters thick (thinner than a credit card), so it felt flimsy and was hard to pick up from the counter. The sweet spot was between 0.77 and 1.46 millimeters. Our favorite mat, which was both flexible and strong, fell at the high end of that range.
Since most of these mats are inexpensive and come in packs of four or five, we don't expect them to be as durable as traditional cutting boards. Each product had visible knife marks after testing, but some showed egregious wear and tear. A few became stained or warped. The colorful trim flaked off one product, leaving behind a sticky residue. Again, the mats with textured surfaces had an advantage: Those bumps and swirls deflected and concealed knife marks, so the mats were significantly less worn.
In the end, we found a set of flexible cutting mats that we'll be glad to have on hand for quick, messy cutting tasks and to easily transfer ingredients. Dexas Heavy Duty Grippmats ($19.99 for a pack of four) were the perfect size: large enough to fit a significant amount of food but not so big as to make cleaning and handling a pain. They also struck the right balance between strength and flexibility, and they're textured on both sides for better stability.
We tested eight flexible cutting mats, including products sold in sets of four or five or individually, priced from $2.00 to $8.00 per mat. We used one mat from each set throughout testing, preparing raw produce and chicken and transferring those ingredients to a skillet, mixing bowls, and a stand mixer. Three additional testers chopped onions, carrots, and celery on the mats, using them both directly on the counter and on top of our favorite plastic cutting board. We evaluated the mats' size and shape, as well as its thickness, to help determine their sturdiness, stability, and flexibilty. We also rated them on durability, stain and odor resistance, and ease of cleanup. All models were purchased online and appear in order of preference.
Size: Mats that were oversize or too small to contain moderate amounts of food rated poorly. The best mats contained food and mess without dirtying the surrounding counter.
Stability: We rated the mats on how securely they sat on the counter, docking points from mats that spun, slipped, or rocked significantly.
Flexibility: The highest-ranked mats were flexible enough to funnel ingredients into skillets or bowls but didn't feel flimsy.
Durability: We evaluated each mat on how resistant it was to knife damage.
Cleanup: Mats fared best if they resisted stains and odors, were easy to clean, and didn't peel or warp in the dishwasher.
These mats were some of the thickest and sturdiest in our lineup but were still flexible enough to funnel food into skillets and bowls. Both sides are textured, which kept the mats in place on the counter and prevented foods from sliding across the cutting surface. The textured surface also prevented deep knife marks and concealed cosmetic nicks.
These mats are slightly thinner than our winners and felt a bit less sturdy. However, we didn't feel cramped when cutting, and we were able to maneuver them in the kitchen with ease. One side of each mat is textured, which prevented the mats from slipping on the counter. They resisted stains and odors and were still fairly flat after repeated washing in the dishwasher, but knife marks were visible.
We liked the size and thickness of these mats. They also felt fairly secure on the counter and were flexible enough to funnel ingredients into a skillet or bowl. The mats' surfaces are smoother than those of our favorite mats, so knife marks stood out more.
These mats provided enough space to comfortably chop produce and pound chicken breasts, but they're noticeably thinner than our top-ranked models. As a result, they felt a little flimsy and became slightly warped around the edges when we ran them through the dishwasher repeatedly. The slick surfaces meant that the mats slid a lot on the counter in some chopping tests and became badly nicked with knife marks.
There was a lot to like about these mats. They're one of the thickest models in our lineup, so they felt strong and sturdy. And their textured surfaces both prevented slipping and concealed deep knife marks. Unfortunately, they're too small to hold half a diced onion, and pounded chicken breasts spilled off the sides. Their small size and rigid structure made them no more effective than traditional flat cutting boards when we transferred ingredients to skillets and mixing bowls.
These mats taper at the corners, which made them feel dinky. They slipped around the counter when we chopped and sliced, and food slid across their cutting surfaces. The white surface developed an orange tint after we chopped carrots. After just five spins through the dishwasher, the colored trim around the perimeter flaked off, exposing a sticky surface.
Although it's marketed as a flexible chopping board that makes it easy to transfer food, this mat was as rigid as a standard plastic cutting board. It became domed during testing, which caused it to bounce and slip and spin when we chopped on it. The raised handle at one end didn't make it any easier to transfer foods, and it made the small board feel even more cramped when chopping. The cutting surface became badly scratched with knife marks.