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Hard surfaces have pluses and minuses

Most experts say hard-surface cutting boards, such as those made from stone, stainless steel or glass -- while sanitary -- are just too hard and will wreck your knives. Some experts say these cutting boards are fine for rolling dough but should not be used for slicing, chopping, carving or hacking.

Cook's Illustrated includes only one such cutting board in its January 2008 roundup of 12 cutting boards, and the Pyrex Glass board ranks dead last as a "horrible cutting board." It dulled knives quickly and made an annoying clacking sound while cutting. It's durable, though. Not even knocking it off the counter or smacking it with a cleaver could destroy the Pyrex cutting board.

At the request of NineMSN, an Australian news organization, the University of California's Dean Cliver tests wood, marble and plastic cutting boards for bacteria retention, and the marble places second behind wood. But the marble cutting board "loses points because it's tough on knives." Also, the report says, "On the smooth marble, bacteria had spread everywhere, contaminating the entire surface. Whereas, for the wood the bacteria grew only where they were applied -- they didn't spread, leaving a much cleaner surface overall."

The Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management tests maple, plastic and stainless-steel cutting boards and determines that stainless steel is the most sanitary. The report does not address the well-being of the knives. But a thin stainless-steel blade is bound to lose when striking a larger, flatter stainless-steel surface.

Some experts say ceramic, stone and glass cutting boards should be avoided because they can chip, sending fragments flying and leaving nicks in which bacteria can fester. But most experts spend little time discussing such hard cutting surfaces except to say don't buy one. SharpeningSupplies.com, a vendor site for knife sharpening, says: "The last choice in cutting boards would be glass, marble or ceramic boards. These cutting surfaces are just too hard for knives. Constant chopping and slicing on these boards will dull even the highest-quality kitchen knives."

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