I’ve often been asked about the best wood for making cutting boards. Through my experience and practice, I’ve found that white oak is a strong candidate.
I’ve discovered that white oak’s natural antibacterial properties and water resistance make it stand out. Additionally, its hardness is ideal for maintaining the sharpness of knives while ensuring the board’s durability.
As someone passionate about woodworking, I understand the importance of material choice in creating quality and safe kitchen tools.
Yes, white oak is an excellent choice for cutting boards due to its natural antibacterial properties, water resistance, and durability, making it both hygienic and long-lasting.
White Oak As A Cutting Board Choice
White oak can be a good choice for your cutting board, whether it will be with face grain, edge grain, or end grain.
We know that the wood we get from the lumber yard will have a face grain, usually the top of the wood as cut; an edge grain, or the side of the wood as cut; and the end grain, which is the end of the wood as cut. When using white oak, it won’t matter which wood surface you use for your cutting board.
However, it would matter if you chose to use red oak. The open grain, especially as exposed on the end, can be problematic from a food safety standpoint. Stay with white oak if you are going to choose oak for the cutting board.
Antibacterial Qualities of White Oak
Many woods have inherent antibacterial qualities or produce something that can inhibit the growth of bacteria. White oak is one such wood, producing tyloses, cell growths that close pores. White oak also has a closed grain. Oak cutting boards are not uncommon for this reason.
This distinguishes it from red oak, which is an open-grain wood. The open grain of the wood surfaces exposes the pores where food bits can become stuck. Imagine tiny pieces of raw chicken or raw beef stuck in the pores of a cutting board, harboring the growth of bacteria. Red oak would be a poor choice for a cutting board where food safety is a concern.
White oak is more water-resistant than red oak for this reason. Tyloses will close the pores, and tyloses are a white oak wood characteristic, whereas red oak is not.
White Oak Cutting Board Maintenance Tips
Here are some key tips to help you preserve your white oak cutting board for years to come:
- Regular Oiling: To maintain the integrity of the wood, oil your white oak cutting board every month or more frequently if it starts to look dry. Use a food-safe oil like mineral oil or beeswax. Apply a generous amount, let it soak in for a few hours, and then wipe off any excess.
- Proper Storage: Store your cutting board in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Avoid storing it flat on a wet surface, as this can promote warping. Instead, store it on its edge or hang it if possible.
- Avoiding Excessive Moisture: While white oak is water-resistant, prolonged exposure to water can still harm it.
- Monitoring for Wear and Tear: Any cutting board will show signs of wear over time. Keep an eye out for deep cuts, warping, or cracking.
- Sanding Down When Necessary: If the surface of your cutting board becomes too rough or has minor imperfections, you can lightly sand it down with fine-grit sandpaper. After sanding, be sure to oil the board to restore its finish.
Cleaning a White Oak Cutting Board
There is no special way to clean a white oak cutting board that differs from any other cutting board.
- Wash the board with warm, soapy water and a sponge after each use. Don’t use an abrasive cleaner or brush.
- Rinse and dry it well.
- Do not soak it in water.
- Do not wash it in the dishwasher, either. Don’t be lazy – wash it by hand.
- Apply a coat of mineral oil on the cutting board every couple of weeks. It will keep the wood from drying out. Mineral oil is food-safe, so there is no concern about contamination.
Comparing White Oak to Other Hardwoods for Cutting Boards
White oak stands out for several reasons, especially when compared to other popular hardwoods like maple, cherry, and walnut.
- Durability and Hardness: White oak’s durability is on par with these woods, making it a reliable choice for frequent use. Its Janka hardness rating is slightly higher than red oak and close to that of maple, indicating its ability to withstand years of kitchen use without dulling knives.
- Antibacterial Properties: One of the unique advantages of white oak is its natural antibacterial qualities, thanks to the presence of tyloses. This characteristic makes it more hygienic for food preparation compared to other hardwoods, which may lack these properties.
- Water Resistance: White oak’s closed grain structure provides better water resistance than many other woods. This is crucial for cutting boards, as it minimizes warping and cracking, ensuring longevity and maintaining a smooth cutting surface.
- Aesthetic Appeal: While maple and cherry are known for their beauty, white oak also offers a visually appealing grain pattern. Its color and texture add a warm, natural element to any kitchen.
- Allergy Considerations: Unlike walnut, which can be problematic for those with nut allergies, white oak does not pose such concerns, making it a safer choice for households with allergy sensitivities.
White Oak Cutting Board in Action
Want to see a white oak end grain cutting board being made? We found a cool video that shows just that. Be sure to watch carefully how he does it.
White oak will make a very handsome and beautiful cutting board, as you now have seen. It’s less common than other types of wood for cutting boards, but it can work quite well.