Good question! They are very beautiful, and I myself wondered about them. bamboo is very strong, and it's pitched as an environmnentally friendly solution because it uses a wood source that replenishes itself very quickly. The flip side is that it's held together by glue, lots of it, and that's not as ecofriendly.
I have done some research on bamboo cutting boards. I will let you know however that I am biased. I own the Vermont Butcher Block & Board Company. (www.vermontbutcherblock.com) Bamboo boards are rarely made in the U.S. Yes, they use a renewable source, bamboo, but the glue that is used doesn't have to be FDA approved. They use so much glue in the bamboo boards that the pros of the material are outweighed by the dulling of your knives. In addition the labor source for assembling these boards could be children, you never know. I really like the color of the bamboo, the lighter color, and the darker color which is steamed bamboo.
I recommend that you use an end grain butcher block that you are comfortable with. You want to look for one that uses wide pieces of lumber instead of the smaller pieces which is the cheapest lumber around. Try to find one with offset joints and no straight glue lines, they could be a point of weakness in the future.
I agree with the gentleman from Vermont. Nice cutting boards by the way!
I would add a few additional coments as follows:
1. I would NEVER put any wood product in a dishwasher. I see people do this and I cannot believe my eyes. One incident is enough to ruin a nice hardwood board. If the bamboo cutting board is indeed dishwasher safe it would indicate to me that it is primarily plastic resin bonded layers of bamboo veneer. This material is hard and abrasive to cutting edges. Why go there? A quick handwashing is more than adequate to clean and wil not harm sealed wood products.
2. All wood products are renewable resources. Bamboo, which is actually a grass just happens to grow faster than most trees. The CITES treaty which governs trade of endangered species (plant and animal) does a pretty good job of restricting trade of over-harvested species. No one needs to feel guilty about buying a wood cutting board. If you want to protest an irresponsible use of wood, how about pretesting cutting of 300 year old old cedar trees to make a shingle roof that will last only 20 years?
3. If you want maximum convenience and hygiene, plastic is a good way to go. It is a good choice for heavy cutting that might mar the appearance of your "nice" cutting boards. I also make a small cutting serving boards made from exotic woods and I recommend they be used for light duty jobs such as slicing cold cuts or cheeses. With this siort of light duty use and hand washing the board retains its nice appearance and oil finish for a long period of time.
I have no bias against bamboo but it is good to know what the facts are when evaluating choices
I agree with most except that Plastic is not always better. The New York Times recently ran an article that basically stated that plastic harbored bacteria in the deep cuts while a mineral-oil penetrated board resisted the bacteria. They obviously found less bacteria on the wood boards rather than the plastic ones after the tests they ran. I can't post a direct link here because the NYT requires you to sign in, but feel free to look up that article. I think it was in Feb.
Also, please note in all of these discussions, professional grade butcher block is End Grain wood, versus a cutting board, which is edge grain. The difference is that with an end grain butcher block, the knife blade lands between the wood fibers when you cut on it. This doesn't harm the board nearly as much as an edge grain cutting board where the knife actually cuts the wood. The cut actually tears the wood fibers and won't go away unless sanded off.
Your comments are entirely correct. However, when was the last time you saw a real chopping block with the end grain facing up? I hardly ever see them and most of the ones I do see are really old and are about 6+" thick. That is what it takes to make the thing strong enough sice the board is being stressed in the wood's weakest plane.
BTW, mineral oil is great for real heavy use where the oild can be applied dsialy but I use a walnut oil/beeswax mixture. It looks and feels great and can be touched easily if you want to go to the trouble.
She likes her bamboo board because she says it is harder than a normal cutting board. Which I assume means has not developed nicks and scratches, but I believe that means the wear and tear is then being taken out on the knives instead
I'm of the opinion that much of the fear of knife edges with bamboo boards stems from people using cheap knives. Those knives are fairly soft. A good quality knife should be fine on bamboo.
Bamboo's strength is quite similar to softwoods like pine and spruce and is not itself hard like hardwoods. What would dull a blade is silica, which Bamboo seems to have at about 1.5-2% I've not found a figure for say maple which is a popular board material. Extrapolating from some ash reports, it seems to run a little less, about 1.5% as well.
The only problem I've ever had with bamboo is that it feels slow. When chopping, slicing, and dicing the wood seems to feel like its "hanging on" to the blade...could've been a cheap bamboo board but I've never felt that sludge with poly boards or maple...
Bamboo is hard on all knives. It's a grass, and a hard one at that. The boards use an abundance of glue which makes matters worse. High quality knives, hardened to Rockwell C 60+ don't roll like the cheapos you mentioned. Instead, they chip. Not good. I'm not saying they reach out and destroy knives, but just like poly boards you want to be careful how much pressure is exerted on the edge. I use poly all the time for chicken, fish, beets, and cheese, but I pay lots of attention.
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