Wooden chopping boards are the real deal. Although plastic and glass are two other fairly common options, wood beats both hands down.

Of course, most people love that wood is environmentally friendly. Additionally, wood cutting boards come in a wide range of styles and finishes, giving consumers more options.

Above all, wooden chopping boards blend more seamlessly with kitchen furniture than plastic and glass boards. But there’s one problem – choosing the right wooden chopping board.

Which is the best wood for cutting boards, and what else should you consider when shopping for a wooden cutting board? Let’s find out.

What are Wooden Chopping Boards?

A chopping (or cutting) board is a kitchen utensil used as a protective surface to cut or slice foods and ingredients. Some people also call it the “butcher’s block.”

Wood cutting boards are made from lumber. However, several manufacturers also make chopping boards from plastic, glass, and vinyl.

Advantages of Wood Over Plastic and Glass Cutting Boards

What makes wood so special. What are the advantages of wood chopping boards over plastic and glass alternatives?

Wood vs Plastic Chopping Boards

Plastic cutting boards are popular for their low cost. The cheapest units cost under a dollar, and the most expensive ones rarely cost more than $5.

Meanwhile, wood cutting boards cost around $25, on average, with a few units priced at $150 or higher. Additionally, plastic chopping boards are a lot easier to maintain.

For one, plastic, unlike wood, isn’t porous. So, you don’t have to worry about the surface absorbing liquids from your ingredients and foods. This allows you to keep a sanitary surface.

Meanwhile, wooden boards require regular oiling to remain waterproof. Unfortunately, plastic boards come with a few strong drawbacks.

First, knives easily cut through the plastic. These cuts are hard to clean. Moreover, the crevices can harbor bacteria that may be transferred to your food, potentially causing illnesses.

In addition, hard plastics dull knives pretty fast. This means that not only do you need to replace plastic chopping boards sooner; you may also find yourself replacing your knives every few months.

What About Glass Chopping Boards?

Glass is an excellent alternative to plastic. In fact, some people consider glass boards the best for kneading dough, rolling out the pie, and cutting out cookies.

The main advantage of glass boards is smoothness. Of course, plastic boards are smooth too. However, glass is smoother. Additionally, glass boards are non-porous.

This eliminates the risk of dirt and bacteria potentially getting trapped inside the board. The non-porous nature also makes glass boards easier to clean.

Above all, glass chopping boards are beautiful (manufacturers can place patterns underneath the glass), durable, and just as affordable as plastic boards.

However, glass isn’t without fault. For one, glass chopping boards are too slippery. This increases the risk of cut accidents. Furthermore, glass dulls knives almost as quickly as plastic. So, you must be extra careful when chopping on a glass board.

Other Advantages of Wooden Cutting Boards 

The following are four other reasons wooden butcher blocks are more desirable than plastic and glass alternatives;

  • Variety of options: Wood cutting boards come in many designs and styles. For instance, you can choose from edge grain boards, end-grain boards, or wide plants. You also get to pick from different wood types, finishes, and sizes.
  • Durable and reliable: A notable advantage of solid wooden cutting boards over plastic, glass, and vinyl is durability. Wooden cutting boards can easily last a few decades with good maintenance. Additionally, wooden boards are sturdy, reliable, and safe.
  • Ease of maintenance: Although wooden boards require regular oiling to prevent bacteria penetration, that and regular washing are pretty much the only maintenance routines required. However, you can also purchase pre-treated boards (treated with mineral oil or natural plant-based oil) to reduce maintenance requirements further.
  • Add to kitchen style: Finally, although you can customize plastic and glass boards to complement the kitchen style, wooden boards are far superior in this aspect. Wood adds natural warmth to any space and can be designed to reinforce your kitchen décor. For instance, stained mahogany boards can easily accentuate a rustic style.

Factors to Prioritize when Shopping for a Wooden Chopping Board

As expected, though, not all wooden chopping boards are the same. So, you must assess your options carefully before making a decision. The following are five primary factors to consider.

Janka hardness rating

Regular use means that chopping boards can wear rather fast if the board isn’t hard enough. As a result, it’s best to find a solid wood that’s both durable and scratch-resistant – thus a higher Janka hardness rating. 

A higher hardness rating denotes greater resistance to scratches, dents, and dings. This also means that you should strongly consider hardwoods over softwoods.

However, keep in mind that extremely hard boards quickly dull knives with repeated use. So, for example, the Australian Buloke rated 5,060 Janka isn’t a very good choice. Instead, we recommend hardwoods rated between 900 and 1,500 Janka.

Toxicity (does it contain toxins?)

Unfortunately, wood may present a few health risks if proper care isn’t taken.

According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), “your body can absorb the chemicals in wood through the skin, lungs, or digestive system, potentially resulting in health issues such as asthma, dermatitis, decrease in lung function, rhinitis, and eczema.”  

Wooden chopping boards can contribute to chemical absorption through digestion if the wood isn’t prepper properly. For instance, poorly prepped beech chopping boards can cause dermatitis, asthma, and nasal cancer.

For this reason, you should stick to woods that produce edible fruits, nuts, leaves, or sap as these are considered food-safe. Exotic woods such as purpleheart, though stunningly beautiful, contain too many toxins that may leech out into food.

Wood grain type/porosity 

The volume of a block of wood is made up of two parts, i.e., plant dry matter (scientifically known as lignocellulose) and a large number of small pores enclosed within the dry matter.

The ratio of the sum of these two components to the volume of the entire block denotes the porosity of the wood. Porosity has a significant impact on the strength and stiffness of wood.

It also determines how much liquid or microorganisms the woodblock can contain. Therefore, you should consider low-porosity woods, also known as closed-block woods.

Closed block woods don’t absorb liquids and keep bacteria and other microorganisms. They also resist staining, warping, and mold growth.

Remember that this is one of the main advantages of plastic and glass cutting boards – the two materials are completely closed. So, avoid porous woods where you can easily see open pores (such as oak and ash).

Conditioning 

Conditioning is a must for food-grade cutting blocks. So, the first thing you need to ask is whether the board is conditioned. If not, then you’ll need to condition it yourself, though it’s much more convenient to purchase pre-conditioned boards.

Woodworkers use two broad categories of products to condition butcher’s blocks – butcher’s block oil or cutting board oil. Butcher’s block oil is a petroleum-based food-grade mineral oil that prevents wood from absorbing water.

It’s relatively inexpensive, with prices starting from $14. Meanwhile, cutting board oil is food-grade tung oil made by pressing the seeds/nuts of the tung tree.

It’s a little more expensive than petroleum-based conditioning oil, costing $20+. However, it’s extremely reliable.

Remember that cooking oils, including olive oil, vegetable oil, and nut oils, are not recommended for cutting block conditioning because they can go rancid. Moreover, nuts can trigger allergies.

Cost 

Finally, you should also consider the price of the wooden cutting block.

Prices usually depend on all the above factors plus several other considerations such as wood type (discussed shortly), aesthetic qualities, customization, and board size.

For instance, the type of wood grain pattern has a big impact on the price of the chopping block. Similarly, decorations and customizations may add to the cost. 

Size also directly affects prices. Most experts recommend large-size boards as they offer plenty of working space and better contain running juices. However, wood is priced per foot or even per inch, meaning larger chopping boards cost more.

Nevertheless, you will likely pay $25/BF, on average, for a natural board (one single board, finished for use) and $32/BF, on average, for flat-grain boards.

Top 4 Best Wood for Cutting Boards

Now that you know the main considerations when shopping board, let’s look at the best wood types. We’ve only covered the top seven wood types. So, feel free to explore further.

1. Maple 

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Maple Lumber Boards 3/4' x 6' (3/4' x 6' x 12') (2Pc)
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Maple Lumber Boards 3/4" x 6" (3/4" x 6" x 12") (2Pc)
  • Beautiful Grain
  • Two sides sanded to 3/4" thickness
  • Kiln dried

Maplewood is the golden standard for making chopping blocks, and it’s easy to see why. First, it meets nearly all the conditions (factors) discussed earlier.

For instance, maple produces edible fruits known as samaras. Samaras are highly nutritious as they’re packed with proteins and carbohydrates. So, you don’t have to worry about harmful toxins.

Secondly, maple is a sufficiently-hard wood. At 1450 Janka, it’s hard enough to resist scratches and dents while also soft enough to not dull knives too quickly.

Better still, it’s one of the densest woods. The closed end grain pattern makes it resistant to bacteria and dirt build-up. It also blocks moisture and liquids excellently.

Above all, maple wood is very beautiful and easily workable. The neutral color (off-white to amber-yellow) and subtle grains are a natural match for most kitchen settings.

Unfortunately, maple cutting boards show stains easily. So, for example, if you chop fresh beets or turmeric roots on a maple cutting board, the “damage” is easily noticeable.

For this reason, you need to be selective in your use of the board. Also, maple chopping boards are pricier than most other wooden boards, ranging from $20 to $150.

Don’t forget to condition your maple cutting board with quality mineral oils. This is critical as maple shrinks in low-humidity conditions.

Pros 

  • Hard (1450 Janks) and durable
  • Dense and heavy
  • Highly scratch-resistant
  • Beautiful straight grains

Cons 

  • Stains easily (thus high maintenance)
  • Requires regular conditioning



2. Beech

WellieSTR 1PC 12x12x1.8inch Large Beech Wood Carving Blocks Wood Block Unfinished Craft Wood Blocks for Carving, Crafting and Whittling (30x30x4.5cm)
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Beech is another excellent choice when making a wooden chopping board. For one, it’s a very hard wood, rated 1,300 LFB on the Janka hardness scale.

This means you don’t have to worry about your cutting board breaking into two if it accidentally falls to the floor. Additionally, the dense wood grain pattern makes beech extremely resistant to scratches.

It’s only outdone by cypress in this regard. Additionally, beech is highly impact-resistant. Another key advantage of the dense wood grain pattern is it leaves little room for dirt or bacteria accumulation.

It’s almost as good as maple and better than walnut wood in this regard. Therefore, beech cutting boards are moisture-free and very easy to clean. The only minor downside is that the cream to pink or brown color shows stains easily.

Remember that beech also shrinks more than any other hardwood. Therefore, you must condition your cutting board at least once monthly. Fortunately, beech cutting boards are also very affordable.

In fact, beech chopping boards are the most affordable after bamboo, typically costing as little as $15.

Pros 

  • Wear and scratch-resistant
  • High impact resistance
  • Easy to clean
  • It doesn’t dull knives easily
  • Very affordable (from $15)

Cons 

  • Light color shows stains more easily
  • Regular maintenance needed to prevent shrinking



3. Teak

Whitecap 60812 Teak Lumber 1/2' X 1-3/4' X 36'
2 Reviews
Whitecap 60812 Teak Lumber 1/2" X 1-3/4" X 36"
  • Thickness: 1/2"
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  • High quality teak wood

Everyone knows teakwood. It’s one of the most in-demand wood types because the high oil content gives it the highest decay resistance among all-natural wood products.

So, you don’t have to worry about your teak cutting board rotting because it was exposed to wet conditions for a prolonged period. This partly explains why it’s used in building boats, yachts, outdoor furniture, and exterior constructions.

It’s incredibly durable even in adverse weather conditions. But that’s not the end. Teak wood is also exceptionally resistant to scratches. It’s much better than walnut wood in this regard and is only bettered by maple and beech.

However, keep in mind that teakwood contains significant quantities of silica. Therefore, it tends to dull knife blades much faster than all the four wood types on this list.

Teak is also highly resistant to shrinking, more than maple, beech, and even walnut. So, you only need conditioning every 3-6 months.

However, remember that the large pores that make it resistant to shrinking also make it more vulnerable to bacteria, moisture, and stains than the other three chopping board options on this list.

Fortunately, the orange-brown to dark brown color masks stains fairly well.

Pros 

  • Teakwood is food-safe
  • It holds up to scratches exceptionally
  • Shrinks less than all options on this list
  • It only needs conditioning twice a year
  • The brownish color masks dirt excellently

Cons 

  • Dulls knife blades fast
  • The large pores easily harbor dirt/bacteria
  • Very expensive ($150-$500)



4. Walnut

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Woodchucks Wood Walnut 3/4 Inch x 2 Inch x 16 Inch Solid Hardwood Lumber as Cutting Board Wood (10 Pack)
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Woodchucks Wood Walnut 3/4 Inch x 2 Inch x 16 Inch Solid Hardwood Lumber as Cutting Board Wood (10 Pack)
  • Click the little arrow above, to see all your choices
  • You are buying a 10 pack of kiln dry Walnut wood boards
  • Each stick is 16" long, 2" wide, and 3/4" thick and you are getting 10
  • Sustainably harvested using horses rather than harsh, heavy machinery. Horses go around saplings. Tractors run them over
  • Ready to use. Great for making cutting boards and similar crafts. Turn them on edge, for edge-grain cutting boards

Is walnut a good cutting board wood? A lot of people wonder. The short answer is – yes. The dark color is one of the main appeals, and although it’s softer than maple, it falls in the “just right” category of hardness that’s perfect for board and knife maintenance.

The main concern about walnut is usually the softness. It’s the softest of the close-grained wood types at 1010 LBF on the Janka hardness scale.

Therefore, it’s more prone to scratching and denting than other top chopping board woods. However, you don’t have to worry much about denting and scratching if you can take good care of the board.

What’s even better is that walnut makes up for its softness with exceptional durability and resistance to dirt and bacteria. The close-grain pattern means moisture, germs, and dirt doesn’t get trapped in the wood easily.

Above all, the rich chocolate he of walnut chopping lends countertops a high-end look without burning a hole in your pocket. Walnut chopping board prices range from $20 to $200.

Pros 

  • High-end chocolate look
  • The close-grain pattern keeps out dirt/germs
  • It doesn’t dull knife blades easily
  • It is affordable given the exceptional qualities
  • Little maintenance; conditioning every six months

Cons 

  • It’s one of the softest close-grain hardwoods
  • Prone to denting and scratching



Education: Choosing Grain Patterns 

Wooden cutting boards come in two main grain patterns, i.e., end grain cutting boards and edge grain cutting boards, though you may also come across the terms face-grain and flat-grain. Here’s what you need to know;

End Grain Cutting Boards 

End grains are wood grains seen when you cut across the growth rings rather than cutting the trunk of wood along the length of the trunk.

In other words, you cut the trunk at 90-degrees to the grain, fully exposing the character of the wood rings and graining. The open wood-cell structure of end-grain boards makes the boards softer, thus gentler on your knife.

Additionally, end grain cutting boards offer better grip and typically self-heal to overcome minor dents and scratches. However, they are also very expensive, typically 4-15 times more expensive than edge grain cutting boards. 

Edge-Grain Cutting Boards

Edge grain cutting boards are obtained by cutting wood along the length of the trunk so that the edges of the growth rings are exposed on the widest surfaces.

An edge-grain board comprises multiple edge grain strips fused to form a level surface. The main advantage of edge grain cutting boards is that they are heavier, thus offering more stability when cutting.

They are also more affordable than end-grain boards. Unfortunately, the surfaces are harder, thus dull knife blades faster. Edge-grain boards also have less ability to self-heal.

Face-Grain Boards 

A face-grain cutting board is an edge-grain cutting board with one side wider than the other. The wider side is referred to as the face.

The face stays up when using the face-grain board. An umbrella term for edge-grain and face-grain boards is flat-grain boards.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Cutting Board Wood

Although we’ve looked at the main factors when shopping for a wooden cutting board, there are two more things you should consider;

  • Knife-dulling test: A knife-dulling test is a simple way to determine how easily a good cutting board dulls knife blades. It’s easy to perform. Use a factory-sharpened knife to repeatedly cut each board, say ten times. Then, with a strong light above or behind you, hold the knife-edge facing you, close to your eye. A dull knife reflects white light. The stronger the reflection, the duller the knife.
  • Visual inspection: Outward signs of a quality chopping board include fine finishing, a smooth surface, zero signs of obvious flaws, and zero cracks. Also, consider whether the board is well-oiled, fully dried, and properly beveled at the edges and corners.

Wooden Cutting Board Sizing (Dimensions and Thickness) 

Although different people have different needs, most professional cooks say the best size for a wood cutting board is a medium-to-large board, measuring 10-12 inches x 16-18 inches. This translates to 25-30 cm x 40-45 cm.

Cutting boards in this size range handle small amounts of ingredients easily but are also large enough to take a cabbage head or whole chicken.

Thickness is rarely a big issue. However, you want a thick enough unit that won’t break when pounding chicken but not so thick that the weight becomes an issue. So, around 0.5 inches (1.2cm) is recommended.

What Wood Should not be Used for Cutting Boards? 

We advise against open-grained wood types, such as ash and red oak. These wood types trap too much dirt thus are difficult to keep clean.

They may also harbor germs, making them unsafe for your health. Similarly, avoid light-colored soft timber, such as pine, which scratch easily and display all the scars for all to see.

What is the Healthiest Cutting Board Wood to Use?

Any tree that produces edible fruits is safe enough to make wood cutting boards. Therefore, maple (which produces samaras fruits), beech (beechnuts/masts), teak (teak fruits), and walnut (walnuts) are all very healthy options for a wooden chopping board.

What Type of Cutting Board is the Most Sanitary?

Plastic is the most sanitary chopping board material. However, among wood varieties, maple is the most bacteria-resistant.

Maple is fine-grained, and the capillary action in the grains pulls down fluid, trapping the bacteria, which are killed as the board dries after cleaning.

What Wood is Best for Vegetable Cutting Boards?

Sugar maple. It’s a hard, close-grained wood that doesn’t absorb juices, such as from vegetables. It also doesn’t trap dirt and is very easy to clean. Alternatively, consider a bamboo cutting board.

Do Cutting Boards Hold Bacteria?

Unfortunately, yes. Wooden cutting boards, in particular, can hold bacteria in the pores between the grains. This is why some wood types, typically large-grained varieties, are considered a no-no when making cutting boards.

However, close-grained varieties, such as maple and beech, don’t have any space for bacteria to hide, thus are very safe.

How to Clean and Care for Wooden Chopping Boards 

After purchasing the right cutting board, the next step is to maintain it properly for long life. The following are a few maintenance tips to consider;

Dos and Don’ts 

  • Do wash and thoroughly rinse your wood cutting board by hand after cutting moist, sticky, or pungent foods.
  • Do use liquid soap to wash your chopping boards and rinse with clean running water.  
  • Do wipe the chopping board dry after rinsing and air-dry on its side.
  • Never soak the cutting board in water as soaking for prolonged periods can cause warping. However, you can dunk/submerge it in water momentarily when washing.
  • Never put wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher as the excessive chemicals and heat can cause the wood to dry out and crack.
  • Never use harsh, concentrated cleaners to wash your cutting boards.

Benefits of Oiling Wooden Cutting Boards 

Conditioning cutting boards with oil keeps them shiny and lustrous. Oiling also makes the wood cutting board waterproof, resisting rotting and resulting in fewer odors.

Which are the Best Oils for Cutting Board Conditioning? 

  • Mineral oil
  • Beeswax

Never use cooking oil to condition your butcher blocks. Why? Because cooking oils easily go rancid. Even stable cooking oils like coconut oil easily go rancid after a few weeks and may begin to smell.

How to Oil Your Chopping Board

  1. Pour a small pool of oil on the cutting board
  2. Rub it into the board in small circular strokes using a clean, lint-free rag
  3. Let the oil soak in for about 15 minutes before storing the board

FAQs 

Is oak okay for cutting boards?

Unfortunately, oak has large grain pores, making it a poor choice for cutting boards. Large pores cause the same problem as cuts and scratches; they harbor bacteria and can cause waterlogging.

What’s the best wood to use for an end-grain cutting board?

The best hardwoods for making end-grain butcher blocks are walnut, hard maple, and birch. Make sure you chop the wood to 2 ½ and 3 ½ inches to prevent warping and splitting.

Can you use purple heartwood for a cutting board?

Yes, purpleheart wood is used worldwide to make cutting boards and many other food-grade wood items. The wood is safe for humans and doesn’t cause allergies or health reactions.

What cutting board do chefs use?

Most polls show that most professional chefs prefer wood and bamboo cutting boards. The main reason is that wooden cutting boards are softer and suppler, offering a gentler surface that does not dull knife blades too fast.

What’s the best cutting board for raw meat?

Plastic cutting boards are considered the best choice for raw meat. Why? Because plastic boards have a non-porous surface and are dishwasher-safe. These qualities make sanitation easier. By contrast, wooden boards are porous and difficult to sanitize.

Summary 

Butcher blocks are an invaluable asset in the kitchen. They make chopping different foods and ingredients a lot easier.

Wooden blocks are particularly valuable because they are durable, easy to maintain, and come in endless varieties, many of which add style to the kitchen. And now you know the best wood for cutting boards!

Next, read on the best wood for making table tops.

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