What Is The Best Wood For cutting Boards?

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In restaurant kitchens, you are likely to see plastic cutting boards used.  They are color-coded and used for a specific cutting purpose:  vegetables on one, raw chicken on another, cooked chicken on a third, then fish, raw meat, cooked meat, and so on. 

Interestingly, though, wooden cutting boards are better overall than plastic cutting boards – more impact-resistant and more sanitary. While plastic boards may seem easy to clean, they are prone to scratches and cuts from sharp knives, and bacteria can grow in those openings.

But for the home, a cutting board is quite common.  when I was younger and framing houses, I would always bring home the kitchen sink cutout to use as a cutting board.  The price was right, and one would hold up for quite a while.

Key Points:

  • Plastic Boards will work for you, but you’ll replace them more often than a wooden board.  Plastic boards will also tend to scratch more easily over time and become a breeding ground for bacteria unless cleaned well after each use.  
  • Unlike plastic boards, wooden cutting boards are much less likely to scratch if you choose the right wood for them.
  • Hardwoods like maple, walnut, cherry, teak, bamboo, and butcher block end grain, are very good choices for your kitchen cutting board, although you should be aware of some drawbacks to each, like knife damage.

Now, though, it’s the making of my own wooden cutting board, sandwich board, or charcuterie board that interests me.  An integral part of those projects is choosing the right wood.

This is important for a number of reasons, and there are several important considerations that go into the choice.

We’ve written about a few species of woods being used for cutting boards in the past, including cedar, pine, hickory, and white oak.  We reached conclusions about each one and offered our thoughts on how to make them work well.  But is any of them the best choice for your wood-cutting board?

Let’s see what we can figure out today.

How To Choose The Right Wood For A Kitchen Cutting Board

Cutting Board

We mentioned important considerations that go into the choice for wood cutting boards, and there is a list of important ones.  The cutting boards will be used in the kitchen, and food will come in contact with them.

Food safety is one concern.  Perhaps we’ve spent a pretty penny on our kitchen knives and want to preserve the blades and keep the sharps on them.

Here are some additional factors that will weigh in on your choice:

  • Hardness: The wood should be hard enough to resist damage from knives but not so hard that it dulls the knives. Some good choices for hard woods include maple, walnut, and cherry.  The Janka hardness rating will be one of your considerations, and the harder the wood, the more resistant to scratches and dents from your knives.  Soft woods like pine should be avoided.
  • Grain: The grain should be closed, meaning that the pores are not visible. This will help to prevent food from becoming lodged in the wood, which can lead to bacteria growing. Some good choices for closed-grained woods include maple, walnut, and beech.  Open-grained woods should be avoided, woods like oak and ash.
  • Porosity: The wood should be low in porosity, meaning that it does not absorb moisture easily. This will help to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Some good choices for low-porosity woods include maple, walnut, and cherry.  The likelihood of food particles from meats, poultry, and fish, as well as the juices that leach out from both raw meat and cooked meats, is greatly reduced when you choose a wood that is low in porosity.
  • Toxicity:  Some woods contain toxins, and this should be disqualifying when choosing one for your wooden board.  Woods that contain toxins can leach the toxin onto the cutting surface and become absorbed by whatever you are cutting, especially the open pores of meats, fish, and poultry.  
  • Resistivity to warping: The wood should be resistant to warping, which can be caused by changes in moisture content. Some good choices for woods that are resistant to warping include maple, walnut, and cherry.
  • Appearance: The wood should be an attractive color and grain pattern that you like. Some popular choices for kitchen cutting boards include maple, walnut, and cherry.

What Is The Janka Rating For Wood?

The Janka hardness test is a measure of the hardness of wood. It is named after its creator, Gabriel Janka, an Austrian-born American researcher.

The test measures the force required to embed a steel ball with a diameter of 11.28 millimeters (0.444 inches) into the wood to a depth of half the ball’s diameter. The Janka hardness ratings are expressed in pounds-force.

The Janka hardness test is a standard test used to compare the hardness of different types of wood. It is a good indicator of how resistant a wood is to dents and wear. The higher the Janka hardness rating, the harder the wood.

Choosing The Right Wood For Your Kitchen Cutting Board

We’ve identified the most important criteria for choosing the right wood for your cutting board project and mentioned, generally, some good choices.  Let’s use that same list of criteria as we look more closely at some of those woods.

Maple Cutting Boards

Maple is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards. It is a hard, dense wood with a closed grain. This makes it resistant to damage from knives and the growth of bacteria. Maple is also easy to clean and maintain.

Here are some of the reasons why maple is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards:

  • Hardness: Maple has a Janka hardness rating of 700 lbf, which is considered to be a hard wood. This means that it is resistant to damage from knives and will not dull them as quickly as softer woods.
  • Closed grain: The grain of maple is closed, meaning that the pores are not visible. This helps to prevent bacteria from growing in the wood.
  • Porosity: Maple is a low-porosity wood, meaning that it does not absorb moisture easily. This helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Resistance to warping: Maple is resistant to warping, which can be caused by changes in moisture content. This makes it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently.
  • Appearance: Maple is a beautiful wood with a light, straight grain. It is a good choice for a kitchen cutting board that you want to look nice.

Overall, maple is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards because it is hard, durable, and resistant to bacteria. It is also easy to clean and maintain.

Here are some tips for caring for a maple cutting board:

  • Wash the cutting board as you do with your dishes, silverware, and other kitchen items – with hot, soapy water after each use.
  • Dry the cutting board thoroughly after washing.
  • Oil the cutting board with food-grade mineral oil once a month to help protect it.
  • Avoid cutting acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, on a maple cutting board. These foods can damage the wood.

Walnut Cutting Boards

Walnut Cutting Board

Walnut is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards. It is a hard, dense wood with a closed grain. This makes it resistant to damage from knives and the growth of bacteria. Walnut is also easy to clean and maintain.

Here are some of the reasons why walnut is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards:

  • Hardness: Walnut has a Janka hardness rating of 1010 lbf, which is considered to be a hard wood. This means that it is resistant to damage from knives and will not dull them as quickly as softer woods.
  • Closed grain: The grain of walnut is closed, meaning that the pores are not visible. This helps to prevent bacteria from growing in the wood.
  • Porosity: Walnut is a low-porosity wood, meaning that it does not absorb moisture easily. This helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Resistance to warping: Walnut is resistant to warping, which can be caused by changes in moisture content. This makes it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently.
  • Appearance: Walnut is a beautiful wood with a rich, dark color and a distinctive grain pattern. It is a good choice for a kitchen cutting board that you want to look nice.

Overall, walnut is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards because it is hard, durable, and resistant to bacteria. It is also easy to clean and maintain.

Here are some tips for caring for a walnut cutting board:

  • Wash the cutting board as you do with your dishes, silverware, and other kitchen items – with hot, soapy water after each use.
  • Dry the cutting board thoroughly after washing.
  • Oil the cutting board with food-grade mineral oil once a month to help protect it.
  • Avoid cutting acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, on a walnut cutting board. These foods can damage the wood.

By following these tips, you can help your walnut cutting board last for many years.

Cherry Cutting Boards

Cherry Cutting Board

Cherry is a good wood for kitchen cutting boards. It is a medium-hard wood with a closed grain. This makes it resistant to damage from knives and the growth of bacteria. Cherry is also easy to care for.

Here are some of the reasons why cherry is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards:

  • Hardness: Cherry has a Janka hardness rating of 450 lbf, which is considered to be a medium-hard wood. This means that it is resistant to damage from knives, but it is not as hard as some other woods, such as maple or walnut.
  • Closed grain: The grain of cherry is closed, meaning that the pores are not visible. This helps to prevent bacteria from growing in the wood.
  • Porosity: Cherry is a low-porosity wood, meaning that it does not absorb moisture easily. This helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Resistance to warping: Cherry is resistant to warping, which can be caused by changes in moisture content. This makes it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently.
  • Appearance: Cherry is a beautiful wood with a reddish-brown color and a distinctive grain pattern. It is a good choice for a kitchen cutting board that you want to look nice.

Overall, cherry is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards because it is hard, durable, and resistant to bacteria. It is also easy to care for.

Teak Cutting Boards

Teak is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards. It is a hard, dense wood with a closed grain. This makes it resistant to damage from knives and the growth of bacteria. Teak is also naturally water-resistant and durable, making it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently.

Here are some of the reasons why teak is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards:

  • Hardness: Teak has a Janka hardness rating of 1260 lbf, which is considered to be a very hard wood. This means that it is resistant to damage from knives and will not dull them as quickly as softer woods.
  • Closed grain: The grain of teak is closed, meaning that the pores are not visible. This helps to prevent bacteria from growing in the wood.
  • Porosity: Teak is a low-porosity wood, meaning that it does not absorb moisture easily. This helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Water resistance: Teak is naturally water-resistant, making it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently.
  • Durability: Teak is a durable wood that can withstand years of use.
  • Appearance: Teak has a beautiful, rich brown color and a distinctive grain pattern. It is a good choice for a kitchen cutting board that you want to look nice.

Overall, teak is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards because it is hard, durable, and resistant to bacteria. It is also naturally water-resistant and has a beautiful appearance.

Bamboo Cutting Boards

Bamboo Cutting Board

Bamboo is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards. It is a hard, dense wood that is naturally antimicrobial and resistant to bacteria. Bamboo is also naturally water-resistant and durable, making it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently.

Here are some of the reasons why bamboo is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards:

  • Hardness: Bamboo has a Janka hardness rating of 1,200 lbf, which is considered to be a very hard wood. This means that it is resistant to damage from knives and will not dull them as quickly as softer woods.
  • Antimicrobial properties: Bamboo is naturally antimicrobial, meaning that it helps to prevent the growth of bacteria. This is important for kitchen cutting boards, as it helps to keep them clean and sanitary.
  • Water resistance: Bamboo is naturally water-resistant, making it a good choice for cutting boards that will be used frequently. This is because bamboo does not absorb moisture as easily as other woods, which can help to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Durability: Bamboo is a durable wood that can withstand years of use. This is because bamboo is a grass, and grasses are naturally strong and resilient.
  • Appearance: Bamboo has a beautiful, natural appearance. It is available in a variety of colors, including light brown, dark brown, and black.

Overall, bamboo is a good choice for kitchen cutting boards because it is hard, durable, and resistant to bacteria. It is also naturally water-resistant and has a beautiful appearance.

However, it is important to note that bamboo cutting boards can be more expensive than other types of cutting boards. Additionally, bamboo cutting boards can dull knives more quickly than those made from other types of wood. Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

I have a bamboo board in my kitchen.  It is a beautiful board with a juice groove all around the cutting surface, and I use it virtually every day.

The juice groove collects, well, the juices of whatever I am cutting, keeping the cutting surface clear of them and preventing a mess on the countertop. It cleans easily and well and doesn’t require a lot of attention. 

However, it is also extremely hard, as you might expect, with a Janka rating of 1200 on the hardness scale.  That means I have to sharpen my knives often, several times each week, to keep the sharp on them.  I tend to use the less expensive chopping knife on it and sharpen it every day before use, and expect to have to replace it sooner than otherwise would be the case.  

Nonetheless, bamboo boards have compelling reasons to choose them – hardness, antimicrobial properties, water resistance, durability, and appearance.  

Are End Grain Cutting Boards A Good Idea?

Yes, end grain boards are a good idea. They are considered to be the best type of cutting board for knives because the wood fibers are oriented perpendicular to the cutting surface, which helps to protect the knives from dulling.

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Here are some of the advantages of end grain cutting boards:

  • Knife protection: The wood fibers in an end grain cutting board are oriented perpendicular to the cutting surface, which helps to protect the knives from dulling. When a knife cuts into an end grain cutting board, the wood fibers are forced apart rather than being cut through. This means that the knife blade does not have to force its way through the wood fibers, which can dull the blade.
  • Bacteria resistance: End grain cutting boards are more resistant to bacteria than other types of cutting boards. This is because the wood fibers in an end grain cutting board are more tightly packed together, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow. End grain wood is also more absorbent than other types of wood, though, and will absorb more of your food-safe oil.
  • Durability: End grain cutting boards are very durable and can withstand years of use. This is because the wood fibers in an end grain cutting board are more tightly packed together, which makes them more resistant to damage.
  • Appearance: End grain cutting boards have a beautiful, natural appearance. The wood grain is more pronounced in end grain cutting boards, which can make them a more attractive option for some people.

However, it is important to note that end grain cutting boards can be more expensive than other types of cutting boards.

Additionally, they can be more difficult to care for, as they require more frequent oiling. Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

Butcher Block Cutting Boards

Butcher Block Cutting Board

A butcher block is a type of cutting board made from solid wood. It is typically made from hardwoods such as maple, walnut, or cherry. Butcher blocks are known for their durability and resistance to knife marks.

They are also a good choice for cutting boards because they are naturally resistant to bacteria.

Butcher blocks are typically made from end grain wood, which means that the wood grain is perpendicular to the cutting surface. This makes butcher blocks more resistant to knife marks and bacteria than other types of cutting boards.

End grain wood is also more absorbent than other types of wood, though, and will absorb more of your food-safe oil.

Butcher blocks are a popular choice for kitchen cutting boards because they are durable, attractive, and easy to care for.

However, they can be more expensive than other types of cutting boards.

Here are some of the advantages of butcher block cutting boards:

  • Durability: Butcher block cutting boards are very durable and can withstand years of use.
  • Resistance to knife marks: Butcher block cutting boards are resistant to knife marks because the wood fibers are oriented perpendicular to the cutting surface.
  • Bacteria resistance: Butcher block cutting boards are naturally resistant to bacteria because the wood fibers are tightly packed together.
  • Aesthetics: Butcher block cutting boards have a beautiful, natural appearance.
  • Ease of care: Butcher block cutting boards are easy to care for. They can be washed with hot, soapy water and then dried thoroughly.

However, it is important to note that butcher block cutting boards can be more expensive than other types of cutting boards.

Additionally, they can be more difficult to care for, as they require more frequent oiling. Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your personal preferences and budget.

Caring For Your Cutting Board

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We’ve mentioned a few times care instructions for wooden boards, but here is more detail on general care instructions to follow:

  • Wash the cutting board as you do with your dishes, silverware, and other kitchen items – with hot, soapy water after each use. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as these can damage the wood.
  • Rinse the cutting board thoroughly after washing. Be sure to remove all soap residue.
  • Dry the cutting board immediately after washing. Do not leave the cutting board wet, as this can promote the growth of bacteria.
  • Oil the cutting board with food-grade mineral oil once a month. This will help to protect the wood and prevent it from drying out.
  • Avoid cutting acidic foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, on a wood cutting board. These foods can damage the wood.
  • Do not put a wood cutting board in the dishwasher. The heat and chemicals in the dishwasher can damage the wood.

By following these simple care instructions, you can help your wood cutting board last for many years.

Here are some additional tips:

  • If the cutting board becomes stained, you can try to remove the stain with a mild bleach solution. Mix one part bleach with ten parts water. Apply the solution to the stain with a sponge or cloth. Let the solution sit for a few minutes, then rinse it off with clean water.
  • If the cutting board becomes warped, you can try to straighten it by placing it in a cool, dry place. You can also try weighing the cutting board down with heavy objects.
  • If the cutting board becomes cracked, you can try to repair it with wood glue. Apply the glue to the crack and clamp the cutting board together. Let the glue dry completely before using the cutting board again.

With proper care, your wood cutting board can last for many years.

Video Thoughts on Wood Cutting Boards

We turned to America’s Test Kitchen for today’s video demo.  A variety of woods were presented, and considerations like size and price are offered.

I like my bamboo cutting board.  To be accurate, we should mention that bamboo is grass, not wood.  However, that does not disqualify it from cutting board wood.  Whichever wood you choose, though, be sure to follow the primary considerations we’ve presented in this piece.

Last update on 2024-04-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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