There are really two choices when it comes to cutting board materials: wood or plastic. As with most debates, both sides have a few pros and cons.
In this debate, however, wood wins out heavily. It's natural antimicrobial properties, combined with its long durability and its more attractive appearance, make it the best choice for kitchen cutting boards.
However, within the world of wood cutting boards, there are different woods to choose from and a few other choices to make when it comes to glue.
Bamboo is a common choice for cutting boards for several reasons. It is incredibly hard.
Technically a grass, bamboo is used for scaffolding on construction sites in Asia instead of steel. It also grows much faster than hardwoods, making it a good option for manufacturers.
The only drawbacks of bamboo cutting boards are that they are not dishwasher safe and require occasional oiling (mineral oil) to prevent them from drying and cracking.
Richlite is an environmentally friendly option. Essentially paper fibers pressed and laminated into lightweight, hard sheets, Richlite is the same material used to construct skateboard ramps, bowls and entire parks.
Users have praised the Richlite cutting boards for their resilience and (potentially) modern designs. New users are sometimes put off, however, by the smell of a new Richlite cutting board.
The smell will disappear after a couple of washes, though.
Maple is one of the most standard hardwood choices for cutting boards, and a quality end-grain maple cutting board is a common choice in professional kitchens and restaurants around the world. The secret is in the end-grain.
With cheaper wooden cutting boards, you tend to cut across the grain, which weakens the surface over time and eventually leaves knife marks that will not disappear. Because you cut along the grain with end-grain cutting boards, the knife very subtly parts the wood grain, slipping down into the wood.
When the knife is removed, the wood surface closes back up around the cut. It's a beautiful thing.
Maple is a perfect option for this type of cutting board. Drawbacks are generally weight and size, which may also affect storage possibilities.
If making a cutting board at home, it's important to use a glue that is approved by the FDA (in the United States) or other food-safe bonding agent. There are several options on the market, but professionals, such as the Wood Whisperer, recommend an affordable and safe glue called Titebond 2.