Wooden cutting boards are among kitchen essentials and the best ones are made of hardwoods. Well oak is a hardwood; but is red oak good for cutting boards? We’ll find out in a minute.

Note that not all hardwood trees make a good material for chopping blocks. Sure Janka hardness is a great consideration, but also check the wood’s porosity, toxicity, and conditioning.

If you’re wondering where the truth lies with using red oak for cutting boards, this article will help you pick a side.

Let’s dive deep.

Is Red Oak Good for Cutting Boards

It’s always recommended to avoid open-pored woods like red oak when making cutting boards. Red oak is also unsuitable because it has toxic tannins that will transfer onto the food. Even though red oak has a high rating in terms of hardness, it’s only usable once it’s completely sealed.

Red Oak Wood Characteristics

Red Oak has large pores and a coarse texture with a straight grain pattern. It’s also one of the hardest woods and is predominantly red-toned.

While wet, it has an awful smell and toxic tannic acid. However, it sands and planes well glue easily, and take in about any wood finish when completely dried.

Pros and Cons of Red Oak Cutting Boards

Red oak cutting boards can be a great catch, but only if it’s completely sealed. However, it has its shortcomings that can be argued to disqualify red oak as an option for cutting boards.

Take a look at the pros and cons to help you decide your next move.

Pros

It’s durable.

Red oak is a harder wood compared to other woods, with a high rating of 1290 according to the Janka hardness scale. This property makes the cutting boards resistant to cuts or dents caused by knives. 

It’s water-resistant.

This water resistance feature only applies when the cutting board has been completely sealed with water-resistant cutting board oil. 

It won’t dull the knife.

Although it is hardwood, the end grain oak boards are soft and gentle on the knife blade.

It’s easy to seal.

The large pores of red oak can absorb the oil product easily and seal up faster than close-grained wood species. 

Cons

It has a highly porous grain.

On the flip side, the unsealed red oak cutting boards have a porous grain. This grain type will suck and trap anything placed on it and is considered unhygienic.

It has toxic tannic acid.

A red oak tree is known to have a high content of toxic tannic acid. The acid will transfer onto food and result in a bitter resinous taste. 

It has an unpleasant smell.

Apart from the resinous taste you get from red oak, it also has an unpleasant smell that will alter the food’s taste.

How Do You Seal an Oak Cutting Board?

Red oak is difficult to use and clean on its own because it’s an open-pored wood and will easily trap suck moisture, food stains, and flavors.

No amount of cleaning will sufficiently remove every dirt and bacteria trapped beneath. However, you can avoid that by sealing the board airtight.

Consider the following when selecting the best product for sealing oak wood cutting boards; color, odor, and quality, and ensure it is approved as food grade.

A chosen sealant for the oak cutting board should be colorless, odorless, food-safe, and water-resistant to guarantee a durable seal.

Some of the products you can use to seal chopping boards include; Tung oil, linseed oil, walnut oil, salad bowl finish, and food-grade mineral oil.

The procedure

Step1: Get your preferred chopping board oil sealant.

Purchase your preferred oil sealant from hardware stores or home depot. You will also need a lint-free cloth and paper towels.

Under no circumstances should you use vegetable oils like olive or any other. They may be food-safe, but they hardly harden and will still leave your board vulnerable to damage. 

While in this stage, ensure the chopping board is clean. If not, ensure you clean it with mild soap and warm water and then dry it thoroughly before sealing.

Step 2: Apply the oil sealant onto the cutting board.

Place the board flat on the surface and pour a bit of the oil using a zigzag pattern. Since it is an open-pored wood, the more oil, the better.

Spread the oil all over the wood using a lint-free cloth. Use circular motions or long passes along the wood grain to rub the oil into the wood pores.

Once the entire board is evenly coated, let it sit and absorb the oil. This can take anywhere between 30 minutes or hours.

Step 3: Reapply subsequent oil coats.

Once the first oil coat is fully absorbed into the wood, apply the second coat. Apply the following oil coats using the same style as the first one.

Again, saturate the surface evenly, and then let it sit and watch the oil get absorbed by the thirsty open pores.

Repeat the process until the oil no longer gets absorbed; that’s when you know the pores are fully saturated. Since we need to be able to use both sides of the cutting board, ensure you seal every side –the face, back, and all the sides.

Step 4: Wipe the excess oil.

When the cutting board can’t take in more oil, wipe off the excess on the surface using paper towels. After that, you can let the wood cutting board sit on a rack and cure fully.

The curing period of the cutting board depends on the oil product used. With cutting boards, a one-time sealer isn’t practical.

Therefore, you need to schedule regular re-sealing every 2-3 months. This regular maintenance will ensure your oak chopping board remains in tip-top shape for ages.

What is the Best Finish for Red Oak Cutting Boards?

The best finish for red oak cutting boards is food-grade mineral oil. This mineral oil is colorless and won’t alter the color of the cutting board. In addition, it guarantees excellent resistance to water and moisture penetration.

Unlike most oil finishes for cutting boards, this food-grade mineral oil is also odorless. This is perfect as it won’t impact the smell and taste of food placed on the cutting board.

Plus, it’s also easy to apply. You only need to pour cutting board oil on the board and rub it in using a lint-free cloth. Then, when the red oak pores are filled, wipe the excess oil using a paper towel and leave the cutting board to cure fully.

What is the Best Grain for an Oak Cutting Board?

The best grain for an oak cutting board is the end grain. This is achieved by cutting wood across the growth rings (90-degrees to the grain) and not along the length of the wood.

The end grain cutting boards are hard enough to withstand the cuts and won’ warp or crack easily like face-grained boards.

Another perk of end grain cutting boards is that it’s very gentle on the knife. This implies that the blades will remain sharp for a prolonged time before going blunt.

Aesthetically speaking, end grain boards have an eye-catching vertical grain of wood fibers. End grain red oak cutting boards are a premium quality above edge or face-grained chopping boards. However, it’s more costly than the other grained boards.

If you wish to make a DIY oak cutting board using the end grain pieces, then you should read our article on product reviews and guide to help you decide on the best wood glue for cutting boards

How to Wash Red Oak Cutting Boards

As we’ve seen so far, red oak cutting boards are quite sensitive and require special cleaning to ensure it remains food safe.

How you should wash it is no different from how you wash chopping boards of different materials, except for one or two things to avoid.

Step 1:  First, wet the oak cutting board with warm water. Do this immediately after you’re done cutting, particularly if you used it to cut sticky, juicy, or foods with a strong smell.

Step 2: Squirt a little liquid dishwashing soap onto a dish sponge and then rub it on the cutting board. Next, wash the cutting board using circular motions until it’s covered in lather.

Step 3: Rinse the lathered cutting board with clean, running water. Or you can quickly dunk it in water to rinse off the soap.

Step 4: Next, wipe off excess water using a clean and dry towel. Finally, hang the chopping board to air dry fully on a dish rack.

Warning: Do not put red oak or any wooden cutting board in the dishwasher. This is because the concentrated cleaners and excess heat in the dishwasher might soften chopping board glue and cause the board to crack.

Can You Make A Butcher Block Out Of Red Oak?

Yes, you can make a butcher block out of red oak. First, however, you need to seal the very porous grain using food-grade oil.

Red oak chopping blocks may be durable because it’s a hardwood; however, their open grain requires frequent re-sealing to keep the butcher block in excellent condition.

Is White Oak OK for a Cutting Board?

Yes, white oak wood is okay for a cutting board. However, avoid using the sapwood; instead, use the end grain. White oak cutting boards are durable because it’s made from hardwood.

White oak is also water-resistant and doesn’t bend, warp or crack easily. It’s also gentle on the knife. Remember that even white oak needs to be sealed before use.

What’s the Best Wood for Cutting Boards?

The best wood for cutting boards is Maple. Maple wood is the premium standard for making wooden cutting boards and butcher blocks, among several other wooden applications in the kitchen. Wondering why? Look at the benefits below.

Maple has more closed pores making it ideal for kitchen applications. This is because it’s impenetrable and remains hygienic.

This wood is from a tree that produces edible fruits (samaras), which means the boards are free of harmful toxins and resinous tastes.

Also, maple is a hardwood, the hardest according to the Janka hardness scale. This hardness guarantees a maple board can withstand frequent cutting scars without chipping. Although hard, it is soft enough not to dull the knife blades.

In addition, maple has a beautiful neutral color (off-white to amber-yellow) with a subtle grain pattern. This characteristic helps it blend easily with most kitchen color pallets.

Final Thoughts

So, is red oak good for cutting boards? Yes, a properly sealed red oak cutting board can make a durable cutting board. On the other hand, unsealed red oak is a terrible choice, and you shouldn’t think twice about discarding it out of the kitchen.

We honestly wouldn’t recommend red oak for chopping blocks. After all, there are other better-suited woods like hard maple, bamboo, birch, mahogany, cherry, etc. Still, you can opt for glass and plastic boards.

What’s your opinion about the suitability of red oak for a cutting board? Let us know in the comments section below.

Happy woodworking!

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