End grain, face grain, and side grain refer to the orientation of the wood fibers in relation to the surface of a cutting board.
End grain refers to the cross-section of the tree trunk, where the fibers run vertically from the roots to the branches. When end grain is exposed on a cutting board, the fibers are perpendicular to the surface and look like tiny squares. This type of grain is particularly suitable for cutting boards because it is less likely to dull knives. When you cut into end grain, the fibers are compressed, allowing the knife to glide between them rather than slicing through them, which can help preserve the sharpness of the blade.
Face grain refers to the surface of the tree trunk where the fibers run parallel to the length of the tree. When face grain is exposed on a cutting board, the fibers run in one direction and have a more uniform appearance. While face grain cutting boards can be attractive, they are not as durable as end grain boards, as they can be prone to scarring and cracking.
Side grain refers to the sides of the tree trunk where the fibers run vertically, similar to end grain. When side grain is exposed on a cutting board, the fibers are perpendicular to the surface, but they run in a single direction, resulting in a stripe-like appearance. Side grain cutting boards are more durable than face grain boards, but not as much as end grain boards.
When choosing a cutting board, it’s important to consider the type of grain, as well as the species of wood and the quality of the board’s construction. End grain is considered the best option for a cutting board due to its durability and ability to reduce the wear and tear on knives. However, face grain and side grain cutting boards can also be used, especially if they are made from hardwoods such as maple or walnut.