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A quality butcher block is not just a cutting board. There is a certain decorative cache about a well-used block placed prominently on a counter or wheeled into place for serious food prep. Cutting boards are often utilitarian, but a butcher block, with its distinctive parquet pattern, can also be an nice accent piece in the kitchen. When buying one, consider the amount of space available in your particular kitchen.
Some countertops can be installed with a butcher block section already in place, an option that may be ideal for new kitchens or during renovations. Another option is a separate unit, much like a very sturdy wooden cutting board. It can be placed on any solid kitchen surface for food preparation, then either left in place or stored out of sight. You may also want to consider a butcher block island, a wheeled cart consisting of a the cutting top and storage drawers.
A countertop butcher block may be the sturdiest selection, but it can also prove inconvenient at times. Non-cooks may choose to set dirty or greasy objects directly on the space, creating a need for additional cleaning. It may be most practical for households where everyone understands the form and function of a butcher block and will instinctively keep that area clear of possible contamination. A built-in cutting area should be located close to a water source for easier cleaning and disinfecting, but not so close that detergents and other chemicals can spill on it.
Perhaps a better option for limited kitchen space is a portable butcher block with rubber or plastic grips for security. Whenever the need for meat cutting or other cutting arises, the portable block can be moved into place and then returned to a storage area after use. This may be easier said than done, however. A quality chopping block can be quite heavy, so buy one according to size and weight if portability is a factor. Many people find a large one to be very convenient when it comes to prepping large cuts of meat and poultry. Vegetable preparation, however, rarely requires such a large work area, so consider your particular food preference before investing.
For maximum portability and decorative value, a butcher block island on wheels may be the best bet. It can be rolled into place near a counter or kitchen island for prep work, then rolled back out for cutlery storage. If a very large, and consequently very heavy, cutting block is desired, then the cart design should make it easier to maneuver. The island should have some means of locking down the wheels for safety, so that it cannot move when you're using it. Check out a floor model for stability before buying or assembling one.
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