What Is The Best Wood For Cutting Boards? (With Pictures)
Whether you’re planning to make your own, or are shopping around and want to know the best option, one of the most important factors to consider when buying a chopping board is the wood that it’s constructed from.
The cutting board actually fulfils several tasks, including cutting food but also being used for other food preparation as well as for standing hot pots and pans on, and even for serving. As such, the right wood needs to be safe, easy to clean, strong, durable, and it should look good.
The 9 Best Cutting Board Woods
Fortunately, there are various woods that are considered suitable for cutting boards, including:
Do not use red maple, because it is toxic, but sugar maple and hard maple are considered among the very best of cutting board materials. It is a hardwood with a Janka hardness rating of 1,450 lbf. It wears well, looks attractive, and it has a tight pore, which means that it does well preventing bacteria from getting into the grain of the wood and the surface of the board.
However, maple is lightly colored and can stain and it needs treating monthly.
- Hardness rating of 1,450 lbf
- Tight pores prevent bacteria
- Long-lasting and durable
- Needs monthly treatment
- Can stain
Although not as hard as Maple, Ash still has a Janka rating of 1,300 lbf, which means that it will withstand regular cutting without prematurely blunting your knife. It is non-toxic but it has open pores, which means that it will take more cleaning and proper drying to ensure that it remains contaminant free. It also has a light color which is easily stained, so you should remove foods like beetroot as soon as possible.
- Light color is attractive
- Hardness rating of 1,300 lbf
- Won’t dull blades
- Light color is easily stained
- Requires extensive cleaning and drying
Beech also has a hardness rating of 1,300 lbf and while it starts out quite a light cream color, it will turn to a darker red over the years. It has tight pores, which help prevent bacteria, while the aged dark color also prevents stains and blemishes from showing up on a chopping board.
You will need to treat the board every month. This helps prevent the wood from looking aged and protects it, and with Beech wood, treatment also prevents the wood from contracting over time.
- Looks better as it ages
- Tight pores help prevent bacteria
- Drains well
- Needs regular treatment
- Can contract over time
Acacia is a very fast-growing hardwood. The hardness of the wood depends on its age and can vary from tree to tree but usually ranges between 1,200 and 1,700 lbf. The ideal hardness for a cutting board lay somewhere in the middle of this range. Too soft and the board will become damaged over time: too hard and it can actually cause the dulling of knife blades. Acacia also comes in a variety of shades and can be treated to achieve other looks.
- Tightly pored
- Comes in different shades
- Easier to care for than some hardwoods
- Unpredictable hardness means yours could be too soft
- Acacia bords tend to be heavy
Walnut is a close pored wood. It looks especially attractive and rich thanks to its dark color, which also helps prevent food stains from appearing even after regular use. Walnut does need regular treating, largely because it is one of the softest hardwoods. With just 1,100 lbf Janka hardness rating, it can suffer scratches and other damage, but it will go easy on your knives so kitchen blades will last longer.
- Very sympathetic to knife blades
- Dark color looks good
- Hides stains
- Needs regular treatment
- Janka hardness rating of 1,100 lbf means cuts and knocks may show
Teak is a somewhat unique hardwood because, even after it has been cut and processed, it retains its natural oils that prevent it from misshaping and help it withstand knife damage and damage from water. However, it is another soft wood, with a rating of approximately 1,150 lbf. Its popularity in outdoor furniture and other household items also means that the stock of wild teak trees has diminished significantly over recent years.
- Natural oils mean reduced maintenance for you
- Withstands wet environments well
- Protects your knife blades
- Hardness rating of 1,150 lbf
- Teak is not a sustainable wood
Cherry is a redwood and a hardwood, but it has a hardness rating of less than 1,000 lbf. This is great if you have delicate knives, but it also means that the board can easily become damaged through hard use. If buying for looks alone, or you are making your own board and combining woods, cherry is a good choice, but if you’re a serious food prepper with heavy knives, it is not the best option.
- Very appealing looks
- Doesn’t require much conditioning
- Knife blades should be safe from damage
- The board is very soft with a hardness rating less than 1,000 lbf
- It will need replacing sooner than harder woods
Bamboo isn’t, strictly speaking, a wood. However, it grows very quickly so is a highly sustainable and renewable material. It has a hardness rating of 1,400 lbf, which means that it is hard enough that it isn’t easily damaged but shouldn’t cause too much damage to knife blades either, although its high silica ratio means that delicate knives may suffer.
- Lightweight and easy to move around
- Bamboo is a highly sustainable wood
- Scratch and waster resistant with a 1,400 lbf hardness rating
- Can blunt some knives
- Lightweight so might be prone to moving around under vigorous use
Pecan is the hardest of all the woods on our list, with a Janka rating of 1,800 lbf. This does mean that it is resistant to scratches and other damage, but it also means that knives will dull quickly so you will need to sharpen regularly. Its pores are also not as tight as some other woods, which means that it needs more thorough cleaning to prevent bacteria growth.
- Very hardy and difficult to damage
- Heavy board that gives a feeling of strength
- 1,800 lbf means that it will dull knives
- Loose pores require stringent cleaning
What To Consider
Many professional chefs use a wooden chopping board because they have a certain amount of heft and strength behind them. They offer a stable cutting surface and, depending on the type of wood used in the construction, they can be resistant to cuts and other damage. However, you do need to regularly treat or condition some woods, and especially porous woods can be prone to bacteria growth. Consider the following factors when buying this type of kitchen product:
- Hardness – Generally, the hardness of wood is measured using the Janka hardness scale and tends to vary between 1,000 lbf and 2,000 lbf. The ideal figure is somewhere around 1,500, because anything higher can cause knife blades to dull quickly, while wood below this number will become too easily damaged by regular cutting.
- Porosity – Porosity relates to the holes that occur between the grain of the wood. The tighter the pores the better, because if the surface is too porous it allows moisture and bacteria to get in between. Bacteria can then thrive. It is possible to avid bacteria even in the most porous of wood, but it requires a lot of diligent cleaning and careful drying.
- Toxins – If you stray from the list above, be sure to avoid any wood that is considered toxic. Red maple, for example, is toxic and should not be used as a cutting board material.
- Treatment – Most wooden boards require some conditioning or treatment. This means applying an oil and letting it soak in. This helps prevent moisture from being absorbed and it can protect against splitting.
Some people avoid wood cutting boards because of the worry over bacteria growth, but if you choose an appropriate wood, condition it properly, and ensure that it is cleaned and dried properly, you can enjoy the benefits of an attractive, durable, and hardworking wooden board. Above are some of the best hardwood materials available, to help you find the best wood for your kitchen.
Featured Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay