Why is this question considered ok:

How do you care for your knives?

Yet this isn't, and was closed:

Cutting boards: What are some general tips on purchasing and using a cutting board?

I would have probably edited out if I could "The Cost to Purchase", but cutting board advice is important. For example, from a hygiene point of view - not preparing meat on porous surfaces. There are proper tangible factual answers to this question that can be given without it turning into a discussion.

I've worked in a professional kitchen (Gleneagles), my brother is a professional chef, chopping board advice and guidance is basic 101.

5 Answers 5


I don't think that either of these questions should be closed. I think that instead of trying to take an attitude of "does this question have a factual answer" I'd like to see questions closed on the basis that they "don't provide any benefit to the community".

If you take a look at the Jamie Oliver forums, you'll see posts like:

which are off topic and provide no real value to the community and I would like to see them closed immediately.

Both of these questions, whilst they may not have a "concrete answer" provide the community with the opportunity to give useful information which others can use to enhance their knowledge of cooking.

I would argue that despite there being no definitive answer, there is value in having both those questions on the site and that at worst, they should be marked as community wiki, off-topic and subjective.


Personally, I don't like the fact that it is about ~5 questions in 1.

It would be better if it was more focused, like "should I prefer wooden cutting boards to other materials?"

This everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach generally does not produce good focused answers.

  • I agree that the question isn't great and could be improved to something like 'what material chopping board should I use for meat' but I feel the intent was to extract information from the community and not to encourage discussion. On stackoverflow there are questions like 'what is your favorite text editor' which doesn't have a concrete answer but is accepted by the community as providing value. I would prefer to govern by avoiding discussion than enforcing that questions must be answered because asking a question like 'what color is broccoli' has an answer but doesn't really provide value
    – lomaxx
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 4:31
  • I disagree. I think a question like this is the perfect place to land when googling chopping boards; and I may be naive, but I don't really want to have to think of 5 different questions that I should consider before making my chopping board decision. Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 11:49
  • ...or if I should, in fact, consider 5 different questions, then this question is the place that I would find that out. Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 11:50
  • All the points raised in the question pertain to chopping boards. Having them in one place is better than having to hunt down 5 or 6 different questions. This could have been the 'definitive' all you need to know about chopping boards question.
    – Kev
    Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 21:18

The question about cutting boards was mine.

Sometimes you run into gray areas, whether in the kitchen or programming on the computer. There's not necessarily a clear and concise answer for some things, but having the community answer, vote, and weigh-in is a great way to see what is popular and what isn't.

I agree with Jeff Atwood that perhaps the question could have had a tighter focus. I tend to ask questions with a bullet list where I try to outline the points I am looking for, which may cause the question to appear more general and more difficult to answer.

Though, personally I would rather visit one thread for my cutting board Q&A rather than search through a half dozen threads to get the same information.

The pros/cons idea is a standard part of a correct answer to a question, because there are many situations in which you have two items, and neither are necessarily better than the other: it boils down to your budget, preference, and ability.

Having some professionals lay out the pros/cons of any kitchen purchase is worthwhile because beginners can see that perhaps they should start with one item or technique, and advance it later as finances and/or ability improve.

If the cutting board question were a matter entirely of opinion, the question would be better as a community wiki or closed entirely. But there are concrete scientific facts about all of the bullet points, and I think that makes the question valid and very on-topic.


I hadn't seen the question, but from looking at the edit, it was reworded it to make it less "discussion-y", but how is "what are the pros and cons" not a discussion question? How does that question have a single factual answer? You're asking for people's opinions.

You state "chopping board advice and guidance is basic 101". I would counter with:

  • this isn't an advice site
  • this isn't a guidance site

There are several other questions discussing what is off-topic:

  • 1
    It wasn't actually my question....but....um...all the questions on this site are about cooking advice and guidance! And unlike programming there are more often than not there is no "one true way".
    – Kev
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 19:17
  • Oops, I missed that it wasn't your question - edited. Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 19:21
  • I agree there are subjective 'discussion-y' questions with no real answer. But the question I pointed can be answered with very little discussion or 'opinion'. Any basic cooking class will teach these on the first day.
    – Kev
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 19:25
  • I don't think it was worded for that though. I am but one opinion though. Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 19:44
  • it is not a bad question, it's just too many questions in one. IMHO. Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 3:50

Beta users aren't closing with enough prejudice.

Voted to close the second example, will do on the first when the 12 votes for the day roll back in after UTC crossover.

If there are proper factual answers that can be given, the question itself should set the tone and lay it out without bringing up wants for opinion or a kumbaya.

If the site is largely about opinion and subjectivity, don't see it lasting a good long life after public beta since that's not what the SE engine is best for.

And we should be looking for the best here.

  • 1
    There are definitive answers about choosing a chopping board.
    – Kev
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 19:51
  • the point is that there are definitive answers to both those questions! I answered the "how to care for a knife" question factually and substantively. Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 20:41
  • You might want to re-think your participation in a cooking Q&A site, where a great deal of material is going to be a lot less black-and-white than whatever you are used to. I'd argue the methods to "care for a knife" are equally in the realms of science-fact and subjective opinion/experience as any questions about cutting board pros/cons.
    – JYelton
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 at 20:00
  • No rethinking needed here, not interested at all in sticking around on Cooking.SE when it goes public beta. Too much airy-fairy discussions of opinion and too much of a hands-across-America mentality to bother with. @jye Commented Jul 12, 2010 at 2:24
  • 1
    Don't worry we'll ask the question about whether we can use the sad tears associated with your egress to flavor a dish.
    – JYelton
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 16:36

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