Composite cutting boards are made of wood fibers bound with glue or resin and protected by a hard surface, sometimes a wood laminate. Unlike wood cutting boards, most composite boards can be cleaned in a dishwasher (as long as you follow the manufacturer's recommendations) and do not need to be oiled. The surface is usually harder than solid wood, bamboo or plastic cutting boards, and the best composite cutting boards will thus be more resistant to scratching or gouging. That means, however, that the surface will be a bit tougher on your knife blades. If you have premium-quality knives, you may want a softer surface, such as wood or plastic. Prices for composite cutting boards range between $20 and $80.
Manufacturers often offer composite cutting boards in several thicknesses, which can make a huge difference, some experts say. For example, Cook's Illustrated editors compare a maple-veneer composite board that is 7/16 of an inch thick with one that is 3/16 of an inch thick. The thinner board is uneven from the start and warps quickly, editors say, and "testing left raggedy fissures and deep scars on the maple surface."
Though composite cutting boards are usually dishwasher-safe, reviewers complain that some of them don't sound like wood when you cut on them, instead making a "clackety" noise that might be annoying. Furthermore, the glue used to bind the wood fibers can give off an odor when wet.
Odor is one complaint noted by Louisa Chu at Chow.com in her review of the Epicurean Kitchen Series cutting board (*Est. $20). The odor, as she describes it, smells like "rubber tires." She says the smell disappeared after the second washing.