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A self-healing cutting board or mat is made of a material that resists showing cuts. The cutting surface may still be sliced when the material laid over it is cut, but the malleable nature of the cutting surface allows it to come back together without any readily visible damage. A key benefit of this is that the self-healing cutting board does not develop ruts or ridges as a harder cutting surface may. This should allow for smooth, unhindered cutting even after many uses. The more forgiving surface also dulls knives less over time than harder surfaces may.
A further advantage of the natural materials used in most self-healing cutting boards is that many have antibacterial properties. Some types of wood may also be odor-trapping or odor-resistant. Regardless the board, it may be best to avoid cutting or chopping aromatic items, such as onions and garlic, on cutting boards used for other foods that are not intended to be mixed with the other items.
Unlike most self-healing cutting mats used in arts and crafts, a self-healing cutting board used in food preparation is typically made of wood or cork. The natural properties of the material serve to create the apparent healing effect. The board does not, of course, actually heal or repair itself. The “healing” is an illusion created by the natural properties of the material used.
In the case of a cork self-healing cutting board, the property that allows the board to rebound from cuts is the same as that by which a wine cork expands after being removed from a bottle. Because of the heavy-duty use required of cork cutting boards, they are typically created using a high-pressure process so that the cork will not come apart. This process creates a surface much tougher and more durable than that found in other examples of cork, but retains enough of the springy nature to hide cuts.
In the case of a wood self-healing cutting board, the grain is typically aligned vertically to create the self-healing effect. These are referred to as “end-grain” cutting boards. When the knife makes contact with the board, it passes between the ends of the grains. This prevents the board from being noticeably damaged as the resilient fibers come back together. Typical examples of this type of cutting board are those made from cedar. Some other types of wood may be naturally self-healing regardless the orientation of the grains.