Best Wood for Cutting Boards: Great Types + How to Choose One

cutting vegetables on vhopping board

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Since there are many different types of wood, choosing the best wood for your cutting board is important. You don’t want to end up with food poisoning, dull knives, and damaged countertops, so it is essential to learn what wood species are best for handling all the slicing and chopping.

What is a Wooden Chopping Board?

Chopping boards, also known as cutting boards, are useful for providing a safe and secure platform to slice and chop.

The “butcher’s block” is another name for it. Crafted from lumber, wooden chopping boards are sturdy and long-lasting. Aside from this traditional cutting board, several companies manufacture vinyl, plastic, and glass boards.

Wood vs. Plastic vs. Glass Chopping Boards

Plastic chopping surfaces have become very widely available due to their affordability. Prices range from less than a dollar for the cheapest, to over $5 for the most pricey.

chopping board

Conversely, the price of the best wooden cutting boards can range from $25 to $150. Plastic cutting boards are also much less of a hassle to clean.

Glass makes a great substitute. Some individuals even prefer to use glass boards to prepare pie crust, cookies, and dough. The sleek impervious surface is the primary benefit of glass boards, and it is more refined than a plastic cutting board.

Why You Should Choose A Wood Cutting Board

  • Easy maintenance: While regularly oiling wood boards is essential to keep bacteria from penetrating the surface, periodic washing is the only treatment needed. Chopping surfaces pre-treated with natural or mineral oils can be purchased to decrease the frequency of needed maintenance.
  • Choices: Wide plants, end grain cutting boards, and edge grain cutting boards are among the variety of wooden boards available. There are also many sizes and styles available, and you can select your preferred wood and finish.
wooden Chopping Board
  • Durability: Due to their longevity, solid wood chopping surfaces have a distinct edge over their vinyl, glass, or plastic counterparts. Several generations of use are not out of the question for well-cared-for wood cutting surfaces. Also, you may count on wood boards’ durability, dependability, and security.
  • Aesthetics: Wood chopping boards are better than plastic and glass ones in terms of blending in with the design of a kitchen. Wood is a great material to use in the kitchen because of its inherent beauty and versatility. Wooden planks made from mahogany that has been stained would work well to emphasize a country look.

What is Butcher Block and How is It Different From Other Cutting Boards?

Butcher blocks and cutting boards are distinguished not only by their purpose. The grain is a key distinction between the two. End grain boards are used for butcher blocks and are large enough to hold the meat. They’re also distinguished by their checkered design.

Commonly used cutting boards in the house are edge grain boards. Hardwood strips are used instead of blocks, and the resulting wood cutting board is slimmer than the end grain cutting boards. Trying to cut into the fibers of this kind of wood chopping block can be hard on a knife over time, but it is still a viable, inexpensive option.

Best Wood Choices for Cutting Boards

Option #1: Maple

maple wood

It is one of the best wood for cutting boards because it is food-safe wood and outperforms all options due to its ability to resist stains, moisture, and bacteria due to its small pores and closed-grain pattern. 

However, a hard maple cutting board with an off-white and amber-yellow cutting surface makes it difficult to cover up stains. Also, don’t forget that red maple is harmful and isn’t used in cutting board production. 

Choose the sugar type rather than other hard maple variations if you want to construct safe maple cutting boards.

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Option #2: Walnut

walnut wood

Walnut is another food-safe type of wood with 1010 LBF Janka harness with mid to large pores. These make it more resistant to moisture and bacteria than teak but less so than beech or maple wood. 

Plus, a walnut cutting board needs less frequent treatment (every two to four months) than beech and maple cutting boards since it shrinks slower.

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Option #3: Teak

teak wood

People have admired teak for its beauty and low maintenance requirements for centuries. Teak is exceptional among woods in that it keeps its natural oils, making it resistant to water, even after being processed. 

In addition, its tight grain makes it a top contender as the best material for cleanliness and little upkeep.

You should know that teak has high silica content [1], which means that it can quickly dull knives.

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Option #4: Beech

beech wood

Beech has tight pores and is superior to walnut and teak and particularly as impressive as maple at resisting the growth of stains, dampness, and bacteria. At 1,300 LFB Janka hardness, beech is a very hard wood that makes it on our list of the best wood for cutting board.

Furthermore, beech’s heavy grain design makes it exceptionally scratch-resistant. However, it is more stain-prone than walnut or teak due to its lighter tint.

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Option #5: Cherry

cherry wood

Cherry’s beautiful red color will make it stand out. It’s a great cutting board that will stay on the surface as you chop vegetables and huge chunks of raw meat.

Cherry is simple to clean, will not dull blades, and can last for decades. But never settle for a cherry cutting surface with less than 2 inches of thickness because of the risk of cracking. These planks need to be oiled and washed frequently.

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Option #6: Bamboo

bamboo wood

A chopping surface made of bamboo is the best option. These boards will not warp or crack when exposed to water; they are reasonably priced and incredibly well made.

Being fairly dense and retaining significantly less moisture than most varieties of wood requires minimal care and upkeep.

However, note that some bamboo cutting surfaces are assembled with adhesives containing formaldehyde, which might potentially seep into and taint food. Avoid this by selecting a non-toxic labeled bamboo cutting board when shopping.

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Option #7: Acacia

acacia wood

For several reasons, acacia makes an excellent choice for board wood. It looks great, lasts a long time, and is quite sturdy. In addition to being eco-friendly and safe, acacia is a durable and versatile wood.

Acacia is a relatively durable wood species. It is one of the hardest woods in the United States, with a Janka value of 1750 LBF or pounds force. It is also resistant to breaking with a strength of 10,142 psi.

Furthermore, it is a highly long-lasting wood thanks to its great density, remarkable strength, and resistance to decay and rot.

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Option #8: Pecan

pecan wood

A primary cutting surface made of pecan wood is highly recommended due to its hardness and durability. It will not dull knives like weaker woods. 

But one must use caution when working with pecan because of its propensity to split. Otherwise, it is ideally suited for use as a cutting surface, and with the right amount of care, it can last years.

On the other hand, pecan is neither open-grain nor closed-grain, making it more porous and requiring deep cleaning to prevent bacteria from growing.

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Wood Types To Avoid For Chopping Boards

Oak

Oak’s huge pores make it an unattractive choice in the kitchen, where a lack of bacterial contamination is a must. If you already own an oak cutting surface, remember to disinfect it often to avoid the spread of bacteria and other pathogens that could taint your food.

Oak may be the best wood for cutting in terms of its high rating for hardness, but it has a particularly porous grain. You should avoid highly porous timbers because they can absorb nutrients and fluids through their pores.

Ash

Everyday cooking utensils won’t damage an ash cutting board. Many home cooks also appreciate its pleasant, mellow tone. However, it may need a little more attention than standard dark wood boards to prevent stains.

ash cutting board

Ashwood is notoriously dirty because they hold onto so much dust and grime. They might also be contaminated with harmful bacteria, making them unhealthy to use.

Softwoods such as pine and cedar

Boards constructed from these softwoods are substantially more fragile than those made from hardwoods. You run a larger chance of blunting your knives if you do this. A knife will lose its edge more quickly on a destroyed or scraped board than an unblemished one.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Wood for Cutting Boards

Porosity and Wood Grain

Closed Grain

Closed-grained wood, also known as fine-grained lumber, have relatively close growth rings. They absorb dye without blotting badly. 

The grain of alder is mostly uniform in direction but might vary somewhat in width. The grain in rosewood, maple, and birch are typically quite delicate and straight. 

Open Grain

Oak, butternut, and pine are all examples of open grained woods. An end grain board or open wood cell structure absorbs stain very quickly than other wood, which is why these surfaces tend to appear uneven after being stained.

oak wood

Straight Grain

One-directional wood grain is said to have a straight grain. It seldom ever ripples or curves. Straight-grained woods are more stable and simpler to shape than other wood.

Flat Grain

Wood with a flat grain has yearly growth bands that tend to get narrower throughout the width of the cup, eventually leading to cracking, letting filth and water into the wood, and ending in rotting.

In addition, paint peels off the exterior if the wood doesn’t stay firm, which leads to more frequent repairs and higher expenditures.

Hardwood or Softwood? + Janka Hardness Score

Cutting surfaces get used frequently, and if they aren’t firm enough, they might wear out quickly. For this reason, it’s preferable to use a block of solid wood with a high Janka hardness grade since this will make it more resistant to wear and tear and scratches.

appearnace of hardwood

Higher hardness ratings indicate increased protection against abrasions. In the same vein, this is why you should prioritize hardwoods above softwoods.

Be aware, however, that knives quickly lose their sharpness when used repeatedly on hard-cutting surfaces. 

Appearance

A good cutting board wood has no evident defects, a smooth surface, no fractures, and fine finishing. Check that the wood cutting boards are properly dried, oiled, and beveled at the edges and corners.

Grain Pattern

Edge Grain

Multiple edge grain strips are fused to generate a flat finish in an edge grain cutting board. Since they are denser, an edge grain board provides greater stability, which is the biggest benefit. Furthermore, edge grain surfaces look the same as the sides of a 2×4.

End Grain

End grain boards are cut to length and then fused so that the upturned edges of the boards create a flat surface. The ends of the 2×4 provide a checkerboard-like chopping surface.

hardwood

Face Grain

Boards and butcher blocks featuring face grain have varying widths all the way around. The term “face” is used to describe the broader side.

Thickness and Dimensions

In most cases, thickness is not a major concern. A thick enough component is needed so it won’t shatter when pounding or cutting large ingredients while not being so thick that it’s too heavy to use. Therefore, we suggest about 0.25 inches (0.6cm).

Weight

A heavy cutting board is preferable because of its combined thickness and durability. Sturdy and long-lasting cutting surfaces are those that are also somewhat heavy. The added bulk may be a turnoff if you need a good wooden cutting board that can be taken with you and stowed away easily.

Conditioning

Some boards shrink faster than others and would require oiling more often. Therefore, you may need to condition your food preparation surface more often if you use them with these materials.

Butcher blocks or chopping boards made of wood should have a coating of food-grade oil coated to reduce the wood’s natural inclination to contract, distort, and fracture as humid levels drop.

Food Safety

You should make a cutting board with only woods that yield food, such as nuts, sap, leaves, or trees that produce edible fruits. Although exotic trees like Purpleheart are eye-catching, you shouldn’t use them for kitchenware because exotic woods can cause food poisoning.

cutting vegetables on vhopping board

Maintenance and Upkeep

Eventually, any cutting board will require some upkeep to ensure it stays in pristine condition. Bamboo and teak are two low-maintenance timbers. 

However, mineral oil conditioning of the board several times a year is recommended. Keeping water from seeping into the wood in this way will help prevent deformation.

Knife-Dulling Test

This simple test will determine how quickly a decent cutting board wears out knives. In other words, it’s a breeze to put into action. Cut every board multiple times with a manufacturer-sharpened knife.

Then, while looking up or behind you into a bright light, bring the knife’s edges close to your sight, so it is towards you. Even a dull knife will mirror white light. A sharp knife becomes duller when there is more reflection.

Price

Wooden cutting boards are typically on the more affordable spectrum, whereas butcher blocks are on the more expensive end. The aesthetic features, personalization, and board size are typically additional elements that affect final costs.

wooden Chopping Board

Tips for Cleaning Your Wooden Chopping Board

The longevity of your new cutting board depends on your diligence in its care once you bring it home. Some preventative care considerations include the following:

Why You Should Oil Your Chopping Board

You can keep the best wood cutting boards looking glossy and new by oiling them. It can also suppress wood’s natural tendency to warp if the surrounding humidity decreases.

Waterproofing the wood chopping surface with oil prevents it from decomposing and reduces any lingering odors. 

oiling a chopping board

Which Oils are the Best for Conditioning Cutting Boards?

To maintain a cutting board, you can use either mineral oil or beeswax, but never cooking oil for butcher blocks because they quickly go bad. After several weeks, even seemingly good cooking oils, including coconut oil, can go bad and develop a foul odor.

How to Condition Your Chopping Board

  1. Spread a thin layer of oil on your chopping block.
  2. Work onto the surface with light, circular motions using a clean, smooth rag.
  3. Before putting the cutting board away, give the oil 15 minutes to sink in.

FAQ

What kind of chopping board do chefs use?

According to our survey, wooden and bamboo chopping boards are the most popular choices among chefs. The fundamental reason is that knife blades last longer on hardwood because of the smoother surface.

What’s the most hygienic type of wood for cutting boards?

The most hygienic chopping boards may be easily cleaned and sanitized after each use. Rubber, wood, and bamboo are the most hygienic materials for cutting boards. A cutting surface can be kept clean and germ-free if care and attention are given to them.

Do wooden cutting boards absorb bacteria?

In terms of bacterial growth, hardwood boards are no better or worse than plastic. Wood shouldn’t store harmful amounts of bacteria if continuously practicing proper hygiene methods like cleaning with soap and hot water and allowing it to air dry. 

Conclusion

The best wood for cutting boards is not only attractive and long-lasting, but they are also remarkably germ-free. Wooden boards can support bacterial life, but you can keep germs away with regular care. 

Cross-contamination won’t be a problem if you set aside a specific cutting board just for raw meat and thoroughly clean and dry it afterward.

Robert Johnson is a woodworker who takes joy in sharing his passion for creating to the rest of the world. His brainchild, Sawinery, allowed him to do so as well as connect with other craftsmen. He has since built an enviable workshop for himself and an equally impressive online accomplishment: an extensive resource site serving old timers and novices alike.
Robert Johnson
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