Most helpful critical review
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Good for bamboo, but not good for heavy usage, not good for nice knives, not very sustainable....better options exist
on July 30, 2013
Bamboo is popular because it is grass...in other terms, it's highly sustainable. For most things, it's a great option of purchasing a product that doesn't wreck the earth we live in and will not sit in a landfill for a bazillion years after we are long and gone. However, with cutting boards, this is not exactly true. Bamboo on something getting hit with a knife means that, since it is grass, it has to be glued together, generally with something along the lines of an epoxy resign or hard and durable glue. The glue is hard, rough on knife blades, and eventually comes apart as the glue begins to degrade...and as it comes off, you get to enjoy it in your food. In other terms, the board eventually shreds and splinters and reaches the point of uselessness of most stick-free pans after a few years of heavier service. Bamboo cutting boards will not last decades in the large majority of cases. They are not a good investment. And, consequently, they are not a sustainable purchase because you will have to buy a ton of them over the years.
With that said, these are nice. I've owned 5 sets from different makers and these are my favorite by far. They are well-fashioned and hold up reasonably well to light usage. The way they are bound helps increase their longevity. If you do not use them heavily or use a knife in a fashion that the blade will not hit the board with any degree of heavier force, you will probably like them for at least a few years. They are also very pretty for the price...oil them up with the right oil and they will look even better. They are great for serving...cheese and fruit dishes look better on these than any expensive serving dish you will find.
I use these more for serving now than I do cutting. I quickly saw them splinter and expedite the dulling of blades on my fine Japanese knifes, which have extremely thin blades and edges for better cutting and correct usage involves a fashion that makes many frequent contact strokes with the board. Rather than going to the other side and doing the same thing, I stopped using these for cutting and started using them for serving. So now I have three really, really nice serving platters which, for 25 bucks, cannot be beaten in price.
If you have (real) Japanese knives, you want maple or cherry, hold the glue. Even if you don't, bamboo boards will expedite dulling. I ultimately went with a nice maple board from a local artisan which I use for 98% of everything I cut now...you can find maple boards from sustainable sources (mine was). You pay more, but a solid wood board of over an inch or two is what is going to last decades...the sustainable part further comes from the fact that when the board looks bad, you sand it, oil it, and you have yourself a brand new board without needing to consume further resources. Further, the works of art you see with local artisans working with maple, cherry, walnut, chestnut, etc. is absolutely stunning, and believe be when I say that when you throw a dinner party and people see a gigantic piece of beautiful cherry with a hand-forged Japanese damascus knife, it will quickly become a conversation piece. But I am a nut and I like really nice kitchen products rather than mass-produced crap...my flatware and cookware is hand-forged in America by highly skilled third and fourth gen metal-crafters who are paid a living wage, my cooking knives are handmade by a guy in Japan who has been doing it a certain way since recorded time, and my appliances are made by some nut in Germany who wears a lab coat and spends his entire life making incremental improvements to products that most people cannot even understand. I'm not rich, I don't eat out a lot, and I have very few hobbies...and yet I cook every day. I really appreciate the people who are ridiculously anal and dedicate their lives to making something that history will look back on and say "wow, that dude/chick really made something awesome and pushed the limits of good quality". The guy or gal who dedicates their life to making beautiful and quality creations I have incredible respect for and further willingness to open my wallet wider (Lone Star Artisans or BoardSmith, if you want cutting boards). Why did I note on the above? Mainly so you can make your own judgment of how much or how little my review holds weight based on my own personal preferences and biases.
In the above sense I noted, it is an investment like anything else. If you use cheaper knives or the very thick German blades like Wustoff with very blunt edges, you may like bamboo (if you are using high-carbon Japanese laser Gyutos, believe me when I say you will hate bamboo boards from the start). Still, there is no knife on the market that will not stop them from splintering over an extended period as the glue fails, and therefore you will have to spend this money again, and again, and again. Unlike wooden boards, you CAN NOT sand these and refinish them, because of the glue.
Like other wooden boards, you CAN use these for raw proteins if well-oiled, BUT it makes very little sense...for that, use a cheap plastic board that goes in the dishwasher. Life is easier that way because once you use these for raw meat, you have to factor in sterilization with every usage, and these cannot withstand most sterilization practices. When cutting vegetables and fruits on them only, cleaning is as simple as hot water and a towel, maybe with a little oil. Long-term exposure to water will destroy these boards, and any chemical will speed the process substantially (especially given many soaps will degrade the glue that hold these together). Further, use of olive oil or vegetable oil will destroy these boards because both oils eventually go rancid and you cannot sand them to refinish them...for oiling, use something with a food-grade mineral oil base. If you have used olive oil or other oils that spoil, get it off ASAP and use a bamboo oil with mineral oil. And for that matter, any bamboo treated with bamboo oil will have a much longer usable life, and will look a bazillion times better. Actually, ANY wood or grass-wood will look better and last longer when treated with the correct protectant...so protect your investments!
Again, oiling will reduce the splintering and delay it, but it will not stop it (notice a few reviews here noting this). Frequent oiling may help a little more, but the reality is that heavy usage will eventually degrade the glue used to hold the strands together. Use these enough and they will eventually need to go in the trash. In that sense, I do not see these as sustainable even though everyone touts bamboo as the environmentally-responsible choice...in most cases, it is...but not here. You may have to purchase 10 or more of these to get the same duration of performance from a single maple board. That is neither economical, nor environmentally-responsible...the glue on these boards and most bamboo are not nearly as biodegradable as the grass itself, and that's a lot of bad cutting boards in a landfill, plus a huge chunk of change spent over a period of years or decades.
So if you want the Cliff Notes' version, these are IMHO one of the best bamboo cutting boards made. However, bamboo is a poor choice for a cutting board, because: 1) the glue used to bind the bamboo eventually degrades and the board begins to splinter/shred and must be replaced, 2) unlike hard wood boards, bamboo boards cannot be sanded and refinished due to the glue, and 3) the glue used is generally some type of epoxy resin, which is hard, possibly unsafe to eat, eventually wears away meaning the demise of the board, and dulls, chips, and rolls knife blades far more than hardwood. So in conclusion, I think you are better off purchasing one really nice hardwood maple board. Buy it one time, buy a nice one, take care of it, and it will last for decades rather than years...of course all of the above is my personal opinion...your mileage may vary. :)