Pros & Cons of Butcher Chopping Block

ILoveCookieOctober 14, 2013

I am thinking of incorporating a butcher chopping block into my kitchen island, or having it as the island. I find them attractive, especially the thick, well-worn ones. It gives the kitchen a down to earth feel.

Could you please comment on the pros and cons of having a heavy, thick butcher chopping block in the kitchen? Here is what I think of so far.

Pros:
1. It provides a nice big surface to cut lots of veggies on. Therefore, there is no need to transfer things to bowls until one is done cutting.
2. One could knead dough on it. I read that a typical butcher block is 34" high, a comfortable height for kneading dough.
3. It looks pretty, so there is no need to hide it, unlike a regular cutting board.

Cons:
1. It's heavy, so a freestanding butcher block cannot be easily moved like a wood cutting board (unless it's on wheels).
2. If it sits next to a sink, it might be hard to keep it dry after each cleaning.
3. It might be challenging to clean the surface after chopping garlic and onion, or slicing raw meat.
4. If it's part of (or at one end of) an island, stuff might get caught in between the block and the rest of the island.

Here are some inspiration pictures I found on Houzz. These butcher blocks are mostly antiques... to me, they are more attractive than the newly made ones.

Traditional Kitchen by Other Metro Furniture & Accessories William Olsen Designs

Traditional Kitchen by Buffalo Architects & Designers Murphy & Co. Design

Traditional Kitchen by Brevard Architects & Designers Platt Architecture, PA

Traditional Kitchen by Washington General Contractors Superior Home Services Inc

Rustic Kitchen

Traditional Kitchen by Other Metro Media & Bloggers CustomMade.com

Industrial Kitchen by Emmaus Kitchen & Bath Designers Jarrett Design, LLC

Traditional Kitchen by Scottsdale Interior Designers & Decorators Nelson Barnum Interiors

Traditional Kitchen

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springplanter

Hi Cookie:

we have one similar to the one in foto #4. in the kitchen redo it has been incorporated into a wall of cabinets (not yet in so no pictures). We've had it about 2 yrs now and my husband swears by it for his prep work, for slicing serrano ham, etc. I've used it less, but like you, really like the "feel" it gives to the kitchen.

The only drawback as far as I can see is that it does occupy real estate. Mine, for example, takes the place of a 24" cabinet but since I'm getting a pantry in the new redo I could afford it.

I make sure it is cleaned soon after use and oiled every two weeks or more frequently if heavily used.

Good luck

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 2:46PM
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lavender_lass

Cookie- I wouldn't use it for raw meat, but everything else sounds nice! I think there are lots of way to clean butcher block (lemons?) I could be wrong there. But, I read something a while back and remember thinking it sounded great..just need a washable cutting board for raw meat.

I like your idea for an antique butcher block. Spring planter...hope you post some pictures! :)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 4:31PM
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ginny20

I have a piece of Boos butcher block built into my counter. My GC had it shaved down to make it about as thick as the granite, so it doesn't take up any extra space. I love it. One way to clean it is with salt and half a lemon. I oil mine periodically, too. But it doesn't seem to hold the onion/garlic scents as much as you would expect. I wouldn't put one right next to a sink because of sitting water from splashing. But mine has worked out great. So practical.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 4:32PM
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elphaba_gw

I plan to have my island countertop as butcherblock. 42 inches X 78 inches. Though I don't plan to cut on it. I will use a chopping block on top. Guess that might sound unappealing to some but I'm one of those who likes the look (I'm hoping it will warm up my Ikea kitchen) but I don't want any maintenance so I plan to have it coated/stained with waterlox. Because I will have an undermounted prep sink on the island, I want to be especially careful about water damage. (I have looked for a small drainboard prep sink but have not been able to find what I want in silgranit).
Anyway, I LOVE the look but we are terrible at maintenance in my home - I know our limits. If you can swing the butcherblock without sealing it with waterlox, more power to you. Best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 6:01PM
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ILoveCookie

Springplanter, glad to know I am not alone in wanting a traditional chopping block.

Do you clean yours after each light use? Say someone sliced a watermelon or cut some brie and bread as snack at 3pm or 10pm. Do you just wait till you make the next meal, because 1) you may not know someone has used it, and/or 2) the oil you rubbed in will help prevent stains/moisture problem/etc?

2LittleFishies, thank you for the links! I found Ginny20's built-in butcher block in the first link. :)

Ginny20, yours is gorgeous. Looks super convenient to have it next to your cooktop.

I don't think I will place mine next to a sink, especially after seeing my grandma-in-law's...hers is built in, right next to the sink. After about 55 years of use, now the surface has black areas (mold?), but it's still being used for chopping everything, including meat. Surprisingly, no one has got sick so far!

LL, after reading your response and the two threads linked by 2LittleFishies, I certainly won't put raw meat anywhere near the butcher block, LOL. I've been using separate cutting boards for raw meat vs. veggies/bread/fruits, so it won't be an issue for me to keep them separate in my new kitchen. :)

This post was edited by ILoveCookie on Mon, Oct 14, 13 at 18:24

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 6:02PM
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a2gemini

Cookie - my GF was a butcher and had a big old butcher block. He cleaned it with salt (I don't remember lemon but who knows) and a really stiff brush.

I have some plastic ones that have grown all sorts of things - so not really sure what is correct anymore.

I bought a Boos mobile cart and love it but can't quite use it without a cutting board on top - I know - it defeats the purpose but maybe in time...

I was able to find a home at the end of the right counter run when not in use.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 7:50PM
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juliekcmo

We are in our second kitchen with John Boos hard rock maple in the oiled finish for the island countertop. We cut right on it, roll out dough, do all kinds of prep, put hot pans on it, and generally use it for whatever we want.

At our last house we had for 10 years and the only stain I couldn't get out with salt and baking soda and lemon juice was Sharpie. (we sanded it out and re-oiled)

I would never go back to not having one.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 8:20PM
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a2gemini

Julie- thanks- maybe I will get brave soon

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 9:00PM
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ILoveCookie

a2gemini, I think I would probably do the same if I were you, LOL. It's like a nice new car; the first scratch is painful to accept. :)

2LittleFishies, I just saw your black walnut island top in your kitchen reveal thread. It's gorgeous gorgeous! I have always loved walnut everything. I need to convince DH to put some in our new home.

elphaba, I too like the warm look of a wood island top. I am still assessing our ability to maintain an unsealed surface. :) We might seal the island top, and place a traditional butcher block next to it for chopping, perhaps with both at the same height.

Water is tricky...perhaps you could do a custom silgranit sink with drainboard?

Julie, what you have sounds wonderful. It's always nice to have a large wooden prep surface. I am going to check out John Boos' catalog. They seem to have a large selection of island tops.

There is also another company who makes similar products:

The Wood Welded Companies of Michigan Maple Block Company and Bally Block Company

Have you heard of it? It claims to be one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of butcher block products in the nation. I like their Monarch Double Dovetail Chopping Block. :)

This post was edited by ILoveCookie on Tue, Oct 15, 13 at 14:51

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 12:09PM
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liriodendron

I have an old free standing one (completely unfitted kitchen) and I live in NY. So in the summer I have to clean it (including the sides and bottom) at least every other day or it grows a film of mold.

We live in an old house with no A/C and when it gets hot and humid in July and August and early September,, all oiled unfinished wood surfaces can grow mold: salad bowls, mixing spoons and scrapers, cooking chopsticks, counter tops, clean, dry, stowed-away cutting boards, even my darn toaster tongs!.

If you've noticed anything similar in your house during the hottest months, don't assume it won't also happen to your butcher block.

I have a large mahogany slab from my childhood kitchen that I use as work surface. It is used and therefore cleaned daily so I rarely see problems, but if I go away for a long weekend, it's not pretty when I return!

L,

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 12:36PM
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kam76

This is our antique butcher block that we bought for our new kitchen

we are going to butt it up to our island like this:

I too wanted the warmth from wood and love the old butcher blocks for their "look and feel".

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 12:47PM
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ILoveCookie

kam76, that's a very pretty piece! And it even comes with a towel bar! May I ask where you found it?

liriodendron, do you have a dehumidifier in your home? If not, perhaps consider getting one. I think it will solve the mold problem you have.

We had some mold issue in our finished basement after Hurricane Irene (NJ). After removing mold, my DH got a beefy, standalone dehumidifier for the basement. He connected a hose to the dehumidifier so the collected water can be drained to the sump pit. Anyway, it keeps the entire basement bone dry. It's so powerful that if someone forgets to close the lid of the basement toilet, the water in the toilet bowl disappears!

This post was edited by ILoveCookie on Tue, Oct 15, 13 at 20:08

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 7:51PM
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kam76

I found it on Craigslist. The owner had it in their family for over 100 years (the block part, they made a new stand for it about 30 years ago) I got it for $350 which I think is a really good deal. We are going to put casters on it so we can move it around if we need to. I am trying to figure out if I am brave enough to paint the bottom like my inspiration picture. I think I will wait until it is in the house to decide.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:13PM
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liriodendron

Alas, dehumidifiers don't work in a house that must remain open to outside air for coolness in the summer.

I do run one on occasion in my library for the books' sake, but it wouldn't be a practical, or economical, solution for the whole house.

I live in a very old house with an open spring running through the basement - literally - it's there to keep food chilled.

Liriodendron

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 8:50PM
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ILoveCookie

Liriodendron, now I see what you mean by "a very old house". I feel your frustration that there isn't an easy fix.

kam76, that sounds like a really good deal for an antique. Adding casters is a great idea. Hope you post some pictures once it's in your kitchen! :)

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 10:10PM
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a2gemini

Kam- you did get a great deal! Take a look at the casters used on the boos as they are heavy duty and very smooth running. You will need heavy duty ones for you new beauty! Congratulations.
Since the legs are not original- I say go ahead and paint them:-)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 5:59AM
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cookncarpenter

We have a 39"x25" section of 1-1/2" Maple countertop that I prep everything with the exception of raw chicken on. Nothing but mineral oil for a finish, (and the occasional olive oil that may absorb during prep) Clean with lemon and salt, couldn't live without it!
Here it is after 27 years of good hard daily use...

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:09PM
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ILoveCookie

ctycdm, your maple countertop looks like new! Such a warm and inviting color.

I am convinced my next kitchen needs a maple or walnut butcher block. Just need to decide on the size, style and then the spot. :)

Thank you, everyone, for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 4:28PM
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ILoveCookie

So I've decided to get a standalone butcher block (with four legs) for my new kitchen. The quote I got for the butcher block made by MMB (Michigan Maple Block) is quite reasonable. It's comparable to John Boos.

Now, I have trouble deciding on what size to get. Could you please help me out?

The block is available in three thicknesses: 12", 14", and 16". Their working height is all the same (34"). The sizes available in each thickness are as follows:

12" Thick:
18″ x 18″, 18″ x 24″, 24″ x 24″, 24″ x 30″, 30″ x 30″

14" Thick:
18″ x 24″, 20″ x 20″, 24″ x 24″, 24″ x 30″, 30″ x 30″

16" Thick:
18″ x 24″, 24″ x 24″, 24″ x 30″, 24″ x 36″, 30″ x 30″, 30″ x 36″, 30″ x 40″, 30″ x 60″

I "think" I have enough space for any of the size listed above, but I don't think I need to get the largest one that's available (30" x 60"). I am leaning towards the 16" thick one, 24" x 30" or 24" x 36", but don't know if it will look huge in real life.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 4:18PM
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irmaly

Here's mine. A friend made the base and I ordered the maple top online. We use it all the time. It serves as a seating area as well as a much used prep surface. Oil it maybe once a month?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 4:35PM
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Roberta.Madison

Cookie, I love the 3rd photo and the 9th one, in your first post. I think you are right in saying that it adds warmth to the kitchen.

But I also want to stress what Lavender has said. Wooden blocks should only be used for chopping vegetables and fruits. Not meat.

Raw meat should be chopped on non-porous plastic boards, so that no blood seeps into the board. Even if you wash a wooden board right after using it for meat, blood gets into the wood, and stays there, to harbor bacteria and cause sickness.

That was the only "con" I wanted to point out. Actually just a precaution. :)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 4:59PM
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snookums2

The thing about plastic is that it gets slice marks in it that can harbor bacteria and probably ingest small amounts of shaven plastic for that matter. I don't really like plastic cutting boards but not sure what other options there would be.

I see butchers at the farmer's market still using the traditional wood to do their meat chores. Maybe I'll see what they say some time. I believe that's what I usually see the tv chefs using also, even with meats. You are supposed to keep meat and other prep separate boards.

I don't do a lot of heavy meat prep, so I just pull out a large ceramic plate and work there.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, Nov 22, 13 at 18:09

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 5:27PM
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cookncarpenter

I think the 12" is plenty thick, the others seem top heavy to me. I would go with the 24"x36" (or larger), if you have the room. Even my 25"x39" can get crowded with lots of veggies going.... and I would much rather chop meat on wood than plastic

    Bookmark   November 22, 2013 at 6:01PM
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ILoveCookie

Thank you for your response!

ctycdm, I also thought the bigger, the better. Some Houzz pictures even have a large one as a standalone island. I will double check the kitchen space and see exactly how large I could go... I rarely need to chop meat. When I do, I will chop it on a separate wood cutting board (that I already have).

    Bookmark   November 24, 2013 at 2:32PM
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