Best Wood for Cutting Boards [2020]

The wood of many species can work beautifully as cutting board material if it is properly finished as well as maintained.

You need a type that can be shaped into many profiles and configurations. But it should not be susceptible to scarring, scratching, and water damage.

Choosing the proper type of wood for cutting boards will ensure effective cutting, chopping, pounding, aesthetic appeal, and longevity.

The only problem is that there are so many types of wood out there. We have solved this problem by researching the best wood species for cutting boards, and this is what we found:

Top 5 Wood for Cutting Boards

1. Maple

Key Features

  • Strong and durable (1450 lbs on Janka Scale)
  • Easy to clean with soap and warm water
  • Naturally antibacterial
  • Maintain with mineral oil
  • Eco-friendly and non-toxic

Maple is one of the strongest wood on the market, which stains nicely and has great looks. It is our overall best choice for cutting boards because of its smooth grain pattern and durability.

Though there are many species of this special wood material worldwide, the most common species for woodworking is hard maple also referred to as rock maple or sugar maple.

This type of timber is found in Southeast Canada and the Eastern United States. It is usually straight-grained although often curly and wavy.

It has a fine even texture and it is creamy with a red-brown tinge. The wood has high bending and crushing strength, impact resistance, and medium stiffness.

It glues and stains outstandingly and polishes to an excellent finish. It produces very hard-wearing cutting boards, and its sustainability is good.

Cutting boards made of this material are usually reversible, which means both sides of the boards are flat and can be effectively used as cutting surfaces.

Maple cutting boards; however, require frequent maintenance. You will need to condition the board with oil, especially when brand new or when used in dry climates.

Pros

  • High strength and durability
  • Not easily contaminated, thanks to its antibacterial properties
  • Cutting boards are non-toxic and eco-friendly
  • Has a considerably high rating on Janka hardness scale
  • Boards are remarkably scratch resistant

Cons

  • Needs regular conditioning
  • May stain rather easily

2. Beech

Key Features

  • Has a 1300 lbf rating on the Janka hardness scale
  • Food safe material that is completely satisfied
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly material
  • High crush strength

This wood is slightly coarse and mainly reddish-brown with tiny pores and conspicuous rays. The wood’s grain is straight with an even, fine texture.

This lumber is mostly found in Western and Central Europe. It can be located in beech woods as well as mixed woodlands. Also, it can be located in low mountainous areas.

The most useful version of this timber is the one found in Europe. Apart from the name beech, the wood is also referred to as red because of its light red coloring.

Beech is one of the toughest and hardest timbers, which makes it a great choice for cutting boards. It has high abrasion and good strength properties.

One of the most unique features of this wood is odorless. Unlike conventional lumber, beech will not generate any unpleasant smell.

The wood has a medium stiffness, high crush strength, excellent bending properties, and highly resistant to shock when exposed to intense use.

Pros

  • An exceptional hardness that makes it a good choice for cutting boards
  • It is rated as a food-safe material
  • Does not produce an unpleasant smell when used indoors
  • Can be crafted into many different designs of cutting boards
  • Does not get soaked with water

Cons

  • May shrink easily after extensive use and cleaning

3. Teak

Key Features

  • Has a 1070 lbf rating on the Janka hardness scale
  • Can be coated with beeswax for increased surface protection
  • Creates food-grade safe cutting boards
  • Known for its longevity and durability
  • Non-toxic and eco-friendly material
  • Suitable for all culinary applications

Teak is a renowned timber in woodworking and among other people using the wood for different purposes because of its exceptional hardness and sturdiness.

It is a hard timber that is natural to Southeast Asia and extremely durable. Despite being particularly hard and dense, it can be worked into very resourceful cutting boards.

As for cutting board material, it resists damage or crushing from continuous cutting and pounding. It can withstand continuous use without warping.

This wood has natural oils in its structure, which are great because they give the timber its natural termite and pest resistance.

Hand rubbing gives this wood a look of antiquity and old-world charm. This type of surface finishing and its unique grain pattern give cutting boards a great texture.

This wood creates reddish-brown cutting board surface, which if not treated tends to gradually change color to silvery grey, especially when exposed to sunlight.

Pros

  • Does not dent or chip easily under excessive use
  • Creates reversible boards that have two usable sides
  • Beeswax coated teak protects boards against discoloration, bacteria, and mold
  • Tight grain structure makes it water-resistant and scratch-resistant
  • Sustainable, non-toxic, and eco-friendly

Cons

  • The super-hard surface makes knives dull quickly

4. Walnut

Key Features

  • Has a 1010 lbf rating on the Janka hardness scale
  • Soft closed grained cutting board wood
  • It gets dents and scratches easily compared to other wood types
  • When seasoned, the wood gets an attractive dark brown shade
  • Can be sourced in all-natural unfinished as well as customizable states

Walnut cutting boards are available in a wide range of finishes and styles. It is a versatile timber that suits almost any culinary application.

There are two main types of walnut wood: black walnut and English walnut. Each type has its benefits when used to make cutting boards.

Black walnut has been a prime woodworking timber in America for ages. For a strong, hardwood, it is easy to work when creating boards.

It has a beautiful grain and the natural color does not need artificial stain. This type of wood ranks high in shock resistance when subjected to cutting and pounding.

English walnut grows wildly in England. This version is a little bit lighter in color compared to black walnut. But it is also a great choice for cutting boards.

When black walnut is kiln dried and then smoothed carefully before finishing, it produces reversible, sturdy, and thick cutting boards.

Pros

  • Soft, porous straight grains create knife friendly surfaces
  • Seasoned walnut produces attractive dark brown shade
  • Produces boards with customizable and all-natural unfinished surfaces
  • Walnut boards are sustainable, non-toxic, and food safe
  • Produces cutting boards with the reversible side for increased versatility
  • Naturally resistant to mold, bacteria, and decay

Cons

  • Has to be condition rather often

5. Cherry

Key Features

  • Has a 950 lbf rating on the Janka hardness scale
  • Softer than hard maple and oak but comparable to walnut
  • Can be conditioned with oil to make it food safe
  • The soft surface is not entirely resistant to dents and scratches

Cherry wood, elegant, timeless, and strong. But is it the right choice for your cutting boards? Here are the unique properties of this wood compared to conventional wood types.

This quality option offers a beautiful wood tone and grain pattern, which makes it a great fit for cutting boards and other culinary applications.

The first thing to know about this wood type is that it darkens over time with exposure to light. After finishing, this timber will darken considerably with time.

This amazing wood has a shallow, fine grain that stains remarkably well, making it a good choice for stylish cutting boards and other culinary applications.

Cherry is a unique kind of hardwood since it is softer compared to other hardwoods. You can compare its softness to that of walnut.

But it is certainly softer than hard maple or oak. The softness of this wood produces lighter cutting boards that are easy to move around.

Pros

  • Softer wood type that creates knife friendly cutting boards
  • It is sustainable, non-toxic, and eco-friendly
  • Has superior antimicrobial properties when conditioned with oils
  • Creates reversible boards that are highly versatile
  • Produces food-safe surfaces
  • Easy care and maintenance with warm soapy water and clean towel

Cons

  • Not entirely resistant to dents and scratches

Buying Guide

There are quite a few things you have to consider when looking for good quality and food safe wood for cutting boards.

Janka Hardness Rating

This refers to a standard test designed to measure the stiffness of wood. To directly measure the Janka hardness is not easy, but it is related to the density of the lumber.

The Janka scale measures the hardness of the wood in pounds-force. The higher the rating is, the more resistant the wood would be to dings, dents, scratches, and scarring.

Naturally, hardwoods tend to have a higher rating on the Janka hardness scale compared to softwoods.

Hardwood or Softwood

Woods are described as hardwood and softwood, depending on the type of tree from which they are cut. But what exactly makes a given piece of wood qualify as either hard or softwood.

The physical dissimilarities between soft and hardwood are easy to see with the naked eye. You will not find visible pores on softwood and they don’t show visible grain.

Hardwood has a rough texture with visible vessels and fibers. At times hardwood is referred to as porous wood because of the presence of vessels.

Some of the most popular hardwoods that you can consider for cutting boards are beech, maple, walnut, ash, and oak.

Softwood is light and soft with a fine texture, but it does not have visible vessels and fibers. This type of lumber is also referred to as non-porous wood.

Popular examples of softwood are cedar, fir, larch, redwood, and pine.

We recommend hardwood over softwood for cutting boards because hardwood will not dent, scar, or scratch easily compared to softwoods.

However, if you want a material that will go easy on your knives, then you should go with softwood because it doesn’t dull knives easily.

Food Safe

Not all wood is food safe. So, you have to be very selective. The first decision here is to choose between closed grain and open grain wood.

Closed grain type has invisible pores, which is great because this structure does not allow bacteria or water to soak the cutting surface. The closed grain structure does not stain or warp.

Open grain wood has visible pores, such as ash and oak, which are not the best choice for cutting boards because it can easily soak water.

Another point to consider when looking for food-safe wood for cutting boards is toxicity. Wood toxicity can be in the form of intestinal disorders, swelling, runny nose, rash, and irritation.

We advise you to stick with wood trees that produce edible leaves, nuts, fruits or sap. Good examples are normally walnut, maple, and cherry.

Exotic woods are usually pretty and have a good aesthetic appeal. But they are not food safe and have not been certified for culinary applications.

Another important consideration for food safety is antimicrobial properties. Most wood cutting boards are conditioned with beeswax, oil or antimicrobial chemicals.

But the best thing to do is to buy woods that are considered to be naturally antimicrobial. According to studies, some wood types can trap microbes.

This ensures that the trapped microbes don’t contaminate the surface the next time you are using the board, which makes them more food safe.

The best wood that is naturally antimicrobial is maple. The hard rock maple is certified for use in culinary applications by NSF International.

Conclusion

Our overall best quality wood for cutting boards is maple. It is an exceptional choice with straight grain and even texture.

Maple is impressively hard and rates high on the Janka hardness scale, which means it has great resistance to denting, scratching, and scarring.

What we particularly like about maple cutting boards is that they are naturally antimicrobial and anti-bacterial. They will trap microbes without releasing them back to the surface.

Well, it does require cleaning and conditioning from time to time, but it is the one wood species that is considered to be completely food safe.

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