Kitchen Tips Stories

What Exactly Is Butcher Block?

Butcher Block is a specialized wood cutting surface, thick and rugged in design, built to sustain heavy blows from meat cleavers.  The name  “butcher’s block” was originally derived from its use by commercial meat cutters in butcher shops and meat processing plants over 125 years ago.  The first butcher blocks were made from Sycamore rounds, which were large sections of Sycamore tree trunks mounted on legs.  However, inherent in this round cut of wood was the problem of the wood splitting, creating unsanitary conditions.  This lead to the invention of the traditional end-grain butcher block, an assembled wood product made from strips of wood which are glued together to create a solid wedge.


Today, traditional butcher blocks can be found in millions of supermarkets, delis, restaurants and home kitchens around the world.


These end-grain boards are made by bonding together short pieces of wood standing side-by-side, creating the traditional “checkerboard” appearance. Their cut ends make an excellent surface for cutting and chopping.  The wood fibers that make up the cutting surface are less susceptible to nicks and gouges, and will absorb the impact of knives.


Edge-Grain-Butcher-BlockThese days, the term butcher block is commonly used to refer to edge-grain constructed blocks as well.  Edge-grain blocks are made from laminating wood rails side-by-side, with the edges of wood strips making up the surface of the butcher block.  Many butcher blocks for home use are edge-grain construction because they are perfectly suitable for home use and are more affordable.


Edge-grain butcher blocks typically are thinner, lighter and more portable, making them ideal for versatile tableshard-working carts, gorgeous countertops, and  functional cutting boards.

What is your favorite butcher block product?


2 thoughts on “What Exactly Is Butcher Block?

  1. I read and have seen many articles saying “Don’t cut raw meat on a cutting block, yet you see chefs cutting cooked and raw meat on them all the time. Help…..

    1. Hi Rob,
      Wood blocks are perfectly safe to use as long as they are cared for properly, just like plastic cutting boards. The issue with bacteria growth is present in both wood and plastic, and occurs when food particles get trapped in grooves and gouges. Wood is not a good environment for bacteria to live in, and does not show wear-and-tear as quickly as plastic, so as long as you are properly cleaning your board with each use, wood makes a great cutting board. It is safest to use separate boards (whether wood or plastic) for preparation of raw meat/poultry and produce. If you notice a gouge or deep knife mark in a plastic board, it is best to replace it, as it can be very difficult to properly clean. Butcher block is a bit more forgiving in that knife marks are less likely, and that the boards can be sanded periodically to remove any nicks, gouges, or knife marks. Keeping your board properly maintained with regular oiling will also help prevent bacteria from being able to penetrate the surface. You can sanitize wood with a bleach or vinegar solution after preparing raw meat to keep everything safe. You can find more information here. I hope this has been helpful!

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