Is Cedar Good For Cutting Boards?

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There has been an unusual trend of late in the food e-zines I subscribe to and read each day, one that does not make a lot of sense to me.

Perhaps you have read about or heard of butter boards.  Butter is smeared over a wooden board, and fresh herbs and bits of this and that is added to the butter, and then bread or crackers are offered to scoop it up.

Key Points:

  • A Cedar Cutting Board should not be your first choice.
  • Cedar is a softwood and can be cut into easily; this allows good to be trapped and bacteria to grow.
  • If you still insist on a cedar cutting board, you will need to seal it properly and well with a hard finish that your knife will not breach, and that is food safe.

I don’t have a butter board in my kitchen, but I do have a breadboard and a cutting board, and my breadboard doubles as a charcuterie board.  Each is a wooden cutting board, and each is made of bamboo, and I have had them for a while now as gifts from my children.

Today we’re going to examine the use of cedar boards to determine whether it is a good choice.

Cedar Wood

Does Cedar Need To Be Treated For Outdoor Use

We’ve written about cedar in a couple of past articles, including whether cedar needs to be treated for outdoor use and whether you can use teak oil on cedar wood.

Feel free to take a look at these articles to learn more about cedar.

We know it is a good choice for outdoor furniture and fencing.  Although it is a softwood, cedar wood is very strong and durable and will not warp or sag. It’s also less expensive than teak and lighter than other outdoor furniture wood choices. Some species of cedar are also naturally resistant to insects and rot.

What Is Cedar Wood’s Janka Rating?

The Janka hardness test is a measure of the resistance of wood to denting and scratching. The Janka rating for cedar wood varies depending on the species of cedar, but it is typically between 350 and 450. This means that cedar wood is a softwood, and it is not as durable as hardwoods.

However, cedar wood is resistant to rot and decay, and it has a pleasant scent. This makes it a popular choice for outdoor projects, such as decks and fences.

Here are the Janka ratings for some common types of cedar wood:

  • Western Red Cedar: 350
  • Eastern Red Cedar: 425
  • Port Orford Cedar: 580
  • Alaskan Cedar: 720

It is important to note that the Janka rating is only a general measure of wood hardness. The actual hardness of a piece of wood can vary depending on the grain direction, the moisture content, and the presence of knots.  As you can see, the Janka rating on cedar depends on the type of cedar wood and ranges from the very soft (350) to the harder softwood (720).

Is Cedar Wood Toxic?

Not all cedar wood is toxic. There are many different species of cedar trees, and some are more toxic than others. The most toxic cedar wood is Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). This wood contains a compound called thujone, which can be harmful to humans and animals if ingested.

Other species of cedar wood, such as Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata), are not toxic. In fact, Western Red Cedar is often used for food storage and cooking because it has antimicrobial properties.

If you are not sure whether a particular type of cedar wood is toxic, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid using it. If you have any questions about the toxicity of cedar wood, you should consult a healthcare professional or a botanist.

Is Cedar Wood A Good Choice For A Cutting Board?

A cedar cutting board is not a good choice for a few reasons. It is a softwood, which means that it is not very durable and can easily be damaged by knives. Cedar wood is also porous, which means that it can absorb bacteria and other contaminants. This can make it a breeding ground for foodborne illness.

There are many other types of wood that are better suited for cutting boards. Some of the best choices include maple, walnut, and bamboo (like mine). These woods are all hard and durable, and they do not absorb bacteria as easily as cedar wood.

If you are looking for a cutting board that is safe and durable, cedar wood is not the best choice. There are many other types of wood that are better suited for this purpose.

Should You Seal Cedar Wood For Indoor and Kitchen Use?

In our previous article on sealing cedar wood, we wrote of how proper sealing for outside use (furniture, decking, fences) will extend its useful lifespan for the purpose.  A cedar cutting board is not going to be exposed to the same elements, and we know that cedar is naturally safe from insect infestation (the toxin mentioned earlier) and rot.  

Rather, it is the need to make your cedar cutting board food safe and averse to being cut by your kitchen knives.  We don’t want that opening where food can be caught and bacteria to be harbored.  So, hard against your knives, and food safe, are the criteria for choosing a sealant of some kind for the cutting board.  

How Do You Seal Cedar Wood Properly For Kitchen Use?

The obvious answer is – the same way you seal other woods for kitchen use.  In our article about sealing cedar for outside use, we mentioned a number of ways to seal cedar.

There are three effective ways to seal cedar:

  • Linseed or tung oil will create a beautiful and protective finish;
  • A sealant like polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer will seal the cedar and,
  • A finish and water-proofing stain/sealant will seal the cedar.

We’ve written about linseed oil in previous articles and recommend you take a look at one of those articles here. Of these options, we want to talk about the first one.

Boiled linseed oil is an excellent choice to finish and protect cedar. It’s a clear finish that is both durable and dries quickly. Its application is easy, and the cedar is ready to use. It offers protection from both the sun and water. It’s inexpensive, too, and creates an aesthetically pleasing appearance of an already beautiful wood.

There are several treatments worth considering beyond linseed oil, including

  • 100% Pure Tung Oil Finish Stain and Sealer
  • #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent
  • Thompson’s Waterseal
  • Ready Seal Natural

When it comes to preparing your cedar wood cutting board, the basic steps are similar to all other sealing jobs in your woodworking shop:

  1. Prepare the wood. Sand the wood smooth with fine-grit sandpaper. This will help the sealant to adhere better.
  2. Clean the wood. Wipe the wood down with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.
  3. Apply the sealant. Apply the sealant according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Be sure to apply a generous coat of sealant and allow it to dry completely before applying a second coat.
  4. Allow the sealant to dry. The sealant will need to dry for several hours or overnight before it is fully cured.
  5. Enjoy your sealed cedar wood! Sealed cedar wood is resistant to water, rot, and insects. It will also last longer and look better than unsealed cedar wood.

No surprises there, as you see.  Here are some additional tips for sealing cedar wood:

  • Use a sealant that is specifically designed for cedar wood. This will ensure that the sealant is compatible with the wood and will provide the best protection.
  • Apply the sealant in a well-ventilated area. The sealant fumes can be harmful, so it is important to work in a place where the fumes can dissipate.
  • Wear gloves and a respirator when applying the sealant. This will protect your skin and lungs from the fumes.
  • Renew the sealant every few years, especially if the cedar wood is exposed to the elements. This will help to keep the wood looking its best and protected from damage.

What Are The Best Sealants For A Cedar Cutting Board in Your Kitchen?

The best sealants for a cedar cutting board in the kitchen are food-safe, non-toxic, and easy to apply. Some of the best sealants for cedar cutting boards include:

  • Food-grade mineral oil: Mineral oil is a natural product that is non-toxic and safe for use in food preparation. It is also easy to apply and does not yellow the wood.
  • Beeswax: Beeswax is another natural product that is food-safe and non-toxic. It is also easy to apply and provides a good water-resistant barrier.
  • Tung oil: Tung oil is a drying oil that is known for its durability and water resistance. It is more difficult to apply than mineral oil or beeswax, but it provides the best protection for cedar cutting boards.

No matter which sealant you choose, be sure to apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Sealing your cedar cutting board will help to protect it from moisture, bacteria, and staining.

What Are The Best Woods For Cutting Boards In Your Kitchen?

End Grain Cutting Board

The best woods for cutting boards are those that are hard, dense, and have a closed grain. These woods are less likely to be damaged by knives and are less likely to harbor bacteria. Some of the better choices than cedar for your cutting boards include:

  • Maple – a maple cutting board can be quite lovely, especially if you glue strips of wood together, each with its own stain color, and then apply a sealant finish suitable for kitchen use.
  • Walnut – see the same suggestion above.
  • Acacia – 23% harder than oak; this hardwood is durable, dense, and water-resistant.
  • Teak – hard, durable, water-resistant, and beautiful.
  • Bamboo – mine are natural color.  Bamboo fibers are dense and touch and do not absorb water.  Bamboo is also hard, and my knives do not cut into it.  Mine serve as a cutting board, breadboard, and charcuterie board, but I don’t think they will ever be used for a butter board.  Jeepers, butter?

We would avoid softwoods like pine and fir because they are more likely to splinter or crack, and perhaps even all softwoods for cutting board projects.  We’re sure they are used for boards, yes, but they are not the best choices.

The woods on this list are all durable, easy to clean, and resistant to bacteria. They are also available in a variety of colors and finishes, so you can find a cutting board that matches your kitchen décor.

Here are some additional tips for choosing a cutting board:

  • Consider the size and shape of your cutting board. Make sure it is big enough to accommodate the foods you typically cut, and make sure it has a comfortable grip.
  • Choose a cutting board that is made from a single piece of wood. This will help to prevent the board from warping or cracking.
  • Avoid cutting boards that are made from composite materials, such as plastic or laminate. These materials are not as durable as wood and can harbor bacteria more easily.
  • Take care of your cutting board. Wash it with soap and water after each use, and dry it thoroughly. You can also apply a food-safe mineral oil to the board to help protect it from moisture and bacteria.

With proper care, a wooden cutting board with one of these dense hardwoods can last for many years.

Video of a Cedar Cutting Board

All of that, having been said, and our resistance to using cedar for your cutting board, here is a video nonetheless of the making of one.  He uses a red epoxy with the cedar, and the result is beautiful, we have to admit. He even added some rubber legs and juice grooves.

For us, maybe a bread or sandwich board, maybe a charcuterie board (because everything is already cut before the board is loaded), but probably not a cedar cutting board.  And definitely not a butter board from any type of wood!

We do have to admit, though, the board in the video is beautiful.

Please leave a comment to join the discussion