Food & Ingredients

In Lehmann’s Terms: How to Choose a Cutting Surface

Q: Do you have any suggestions about the best type of cutting top we should use at our pizza restaurant’s cutting/boxing station?

A: While wood is a kind and gentle surface to your slicers and knives, it is also a real pain to work with as a cutting surface, because it’s so hard to keep clean. Additionally, your local food safety inspector will probably have something negative to say about it, due to the perception that wooden boards are unsanitary. So we won’t even go there for now. 

Fortunately, there are other options to consider. I see a lot of stainless steel being used for cutting surfaces, and it works well, too. It just needs to be firm enough to resist deflection during cutting. However, while a stainless-steel surface has a lot going for it, it doesn’t offer any “pizzazz” from a visual standpoint. That isn’t necessarily a big issue, but if your store is mostly dine-in or a fast-casual concept, you might want to consider adopting a cutting surface that is both highly functional as well as ornate.

In this situation, the most visually pleasing materials that come to my mind are marble or granite. Marble and granite cutting boards are hard to beat, but they also have one flaw: Staining can be a problem, which means it can be difficult to maintain the surface’s attractive appearance.

Enter modern technology: Man-made quartz—also called cultured quartz or, perhaps more correctly, engineered stone—comes to the rescue. Engineered stone is a popular material for kitchen countertops, but I’ve also seen it used as a cutting surface in any number of pizza restaurants, and it works like a champ. It can have many of the appealing visual attributes of a natural marble or granite surface, but it requires far less upkeep, simply because it wipes clean easily and doesn’t stain. As an added bonus, engineered stone is available in just about any color or pattern you can think of. Even better, engineered stone is competitively priced when compared to natural stone. If you’re thinking about sprucing up your cutting station, this is a good option to explore!

Tom Lehmann was the longtime director of bakery assistance for the American Institute of Baking and is now a pizza industry consultant.