June 23, 2022
One kind of wood that is perfect for cutting boards is maple. Maple has around 132 species. You need to choose the best species of maple, such as the hard maple and the sugar maple. These two are the popular choices for cutting boards because of their closed grain, making these two maple types hard. Thus, maple is a durable option perfect for chef’s knives and won’t dull your knives quickly. Besides, maple can naturally resist bacteria while offering the exact amount of hardness that suits a cutting board.
Maple offers a neutral color that complements well the color schemes of most kitchens. Nevertheless, it will be best to refrain from using red maple because it is toxic. Instead, settle for sugar or hard maple, which is non-toxic.
The questions that this article aims to answer are:
1) What makes a great wood for cutting boards?
2) What are the standards that make it a great material as a chopping block?
Top 5 Best Wood That Most Suitable To Make Cutting Boards
And with these standards, here is the top 5 most recommended wood for creating cutting boards
This has a combination of soft and hard textures, which is acknowledged as the perfect combination for a cutting board. Hard maple is rated 1.450 lbf and is the commercial standard for most cutting board makers more so than teak, walnut, or beech since maple is more resistant to scratch and impact. This type of wood is also ‘knife-friendly’.
Maple is solid, closed-grained wood with the smallest pores out of other wood types listed here. This type of wood makes it an optimal choice since it is antibacterial, stain-resistant, and does not absorb much moisture. But stains are unavoidable in cooking, and when the maple wood gets stained, it doesn’t hide these because of its color. The color of maple wood can be off-white to amber-yellow.
Maple-based cutting boards cost from $20 to $150. Upon drying, maple contracts more often than the walnut and teak, so monthly to bi-monthly conditioning is advised.
Antibacterial and solid close-grained wood whose hardness scales that of 1,300 lbf. Other than hard maple wood, beech is known to be second to the most scratch-resistant and knife-friendly for making cutting boards. Its tight pores are almost as effective as maple in keeping off bacteria and more so than walnut and teak.
Its color comes in an attractive array from cream to pink and brown, although stains become more conspicuous than in other types of wood. In addition to this, it contracts faster than the three types mentioned and is advised to apply maintenance monthly. At its quality, it’s surprisingly cheap, price ranging from $15 to $100.
If you’re vying to be more environment-friendly, bamboo is an excellent choice for you. In actuality, it is grass which is much more renewable, sustainable, contains silica and does not need pesticides and artificial or chemical fertilizers to grow, since its quite a common material and grows in just about everywhere.
Bamboo matures in only 3-6 years, and it is 1,380 lbf hard, even stronger than most wood. It is water- and scratch-resistant, though more likely to dull knives.
Bamboo has fine grains and light-colored, making them elegant food servers. Were it not for its flaw, when using a bamboo cutting board, it would be suggestible not to use your best knife.
The Youtube channel, American Test Kitchen, actually prefers cutting board made of teak, and this reason lies in maintenance. The teak’s hardness is on the scale of 1,070 lbf and certainly strong against pressure from slicing and pounding. It is a solid, closed-grained wood that thrives in the tropics. It is astoundingly more expensive than others, price ranging from $25-$100 and contains silica, which has a high possibility of dulling knives.
In comparison to other types of wood, teak contracts less, so conditioning is less frequent–quarterly or twice a year is sufficient. Teak wood has larger pores, therefore, more susceptible to moisture, bacteria, and stains, though with its saturated color orange-brown to dark brown, stains are not quite so visible.
In this list, walnut is considered the softest though still one of the best wood to work with when making cutting boards. Walnut is less likely to dull knives but is quicker to get scratches and depressions in comparison to others since its hardness is at 1,010 lbf. It gives more resistance to moisture and bacteria than teak because of the size of its pores.
When drying, walnut wood contracts less, so maintenance is monitored quarterly. It has a dark brown color that hides stains and has a quality look that stands out in the kitchen, ranging from $20 to $200.
Here are the factors and standards that woodworkers look into for creating a quality cutting board.
Acacia, of course, is not commonly used for cutting boards compared to maple. As a kind of wood, it has thousands of species. But you should only select the species that are best for cutting boards. Such species or strains make excellent cutting boards with remarkable durability and versatility. Besides, acacia cutting boards are more affordable.
Cutting boards made of acacia come in a wide variety of colors. You will also find carbonized acacia chopping boards that offer a classic dark tone. Acacia wood grain is heavy and dense. It is also hardwood, and its grain pattern is straight or wavy, making it perfect for chopping boards.
Cherry is another hard and closed-grain type of wood that is also an excellent choice for cutting boards. It has an elegant dark to medium color. Besides, cherry wood has a straight and satiny grain. It is strong and stiff and can resist abuse and knocks.
As you cut it, it showcases a pale to pinkish-brown color. Then, it slowly darkens and turns red like that of mahogany. Cherry is not difficult to care for. Besides, it will not dull your knives. It is also long-lasting and can provide you with long years of usability.
Ash features a straight grain though it may exhibit unique grain patterns. It has a light brown to beige hue, which darkens over time. You can go for White Ash wood, an excellent choice for cutting boards. It can withstand daily usage and can take enough beating. You might need to take care of it to prevent it from staining.
Wood Not Recommended for Making Cutting Boards
The world is replete with different types of wood species, making choosing the suitable wood for cutting boards a bit challenging. However, it will be best to know that not all wood types are ideal for cutting boards. Below are some wood types you should avoid using as cutting boards:
Cedar, Pine, and Other Softwoods
The cutting boards usually take so much beating. As such, it is reasonable not to use a softwood like cedar or pine to make cutting boards. These wood types are prone to damage and might not last long in use. Besides, these wood types can dull your knives faster because scored or damaged boards can make your knives lose their sharpness compared to using undamaged board.
Oak may be hardwood, but it exhibits large pores. With large pores, it has a higher risk of harboring more bacteria over time. So, you must often disinfect your oak cutting board if you are already using one. But as much as possible, you should refrain from using an oak cutting board to avoid such risk of bacterial outgrowth in your cutting board.
Wood Standards That Will Make A Perfect Cutting Board
Along with different kinds of wood that are already identified as a suitable material to work with making a chopping board, here are specific features that your material must meet to make a durable and reliable kitchen tool.
Wood hardness is measured with the Janka Hardness Test. This specific test measures wood by its resistance to denting, marking, and wear. The measurement is in pounds-force or lbf. The requirement for this characteristic is fickle since the wood should be able to hold on its own through how much work it would endure, like scratches and dents, from cutting and chopping, but not so hard as to dull and damage knives in just a short amount of time. This makes cutting boards from softwood trees out of the game since they are most likely to disappoint in this feature alone. Choosing wood that fits this category would shorten the list considerably.
Cutting boards are faced with a lot of residues from cutting different kinds of ingredients in the kitchen. Besides, it must also be resistant to moisture since it faces frequent contact with water.
Wood must be as solid as possible to resist absorbing too much water since wood expands upon contact with moisture and contracts once it dries–this action easily wears the wood.
For most households, you would think that cutting boards should be light and ‘lighter is better’. But, on the contrary, when choosing cutting boards, its thickness and weight hold a significant factor in making the workload in the kitchen easier. Thick and heavier cutting boards are quite dependable since the thickness makes the cutting board more resilient to damages, and the heavier the cutting board makes it less likely to slide or slip from the counter.
Kitchen experts suggest finding cutting boards that have at least two inches and that attains enough resistance from marks when pressure is applied.
Janka hardness Rating
One factor that can help you determine the correct wood for cutting board is the Janka Scale, also called Janka Hardness Scale. This scale measures the wood’s hardness based on how much force you will need to embed half of the diameter of a .444″ steel ball onto a wood. The more force needed to embed the ball, the harder the wood would be.
When choosing wood for cutting boards, it will help to know its hardness because cutting boards will take a lot of beating from knives and other tools. For this reason, you need to select hard and durable wood. The Janka Scale can help you zero in on hardwood with appropriate durability and versatility.
Nevertheless, it will be good to note that super tough wood will not be good likewise as chopping boards because it would quickly dull the knives after repeated use over the chopping board. So, it is not good to choose an Australian Buloke with a Janka rating of 5,060. It will be best to settle for wood with a Janka rating anywhere between 900 to 1,500 Janka.
One factor you need to consider likewise is the wood’s toxicity level. Sadly, some wood types carry toxins that could be harmful to humans. Since the cutting boards will be used for cutting vegetables, meat, and fruits, some toxins from the wood might get absorbed by the food.
Remember that your body readily absorbs the toxins absorbed by the food you cook and eat. Such toxins might go through your skin, digestive system, and lungs, and they could potentially cause health issues like dermatitis, rhinitis, asthma, decreased lung function, and even eczema. So, it will be best to be wary of the toxins in the wood that you intend to use.
It is good to stick to the prescribed wood for cutting boards. Such wood usually comes from trees that produce nuts, edible fruits, sap, or leaves. Besides, it will help if you are a bit scientific and know the level of toxicity of the wood you intend to use for your cutting boards.
End Grain versus Edge Grain
When selecting a cutting board, it will help to be mindful of the difference between end and edge grain. These two terms, of course, refer to the wood part used for making the cutting board. End grain refers to the wood’s end where the rings are. On the other hand, edge grain is the wood’s side where you will see the typical wood grain pattern.
You can easily distinguish the end grain from the edge grain cutting boards. The end grain cutting boards feature a unique checkerboard pattern created from several ends of wood fused together. Edge grain cutting boards, however, carry that familiar traditional look.
You might ask which between the two is better to choose. The answer, of course, depends on your preference. End grain is a little more expensive than the edge grain cutting boards. However, the edge grain boards offer more durability and are easy to maintain. Nevertheless, the edge grain boards will dull your knives faster.
As mentioned before, along with thickness, the weight, for practical reasons, lessens the possibility of the cutting board from slipping or going out of place while slicing or chopping. Still, it should not be too heavy for lifting and storing. The weight of the board should be ideal for the customers, given that it makes it more stable and portable.
Ease of Cleaning and Sanitation
The cutting board is probably the most used tool where food preparations are done. It faces all kinds of ingredients, leaving stains and residues that are tough to clean. A significant factor for sanitary purposes is the type and quality of wood; the cutting board is made from; even though, a protective coating is applied upon finishing. Choosing natural wood with oily resins also protects the cutting board from moisture.
Because wooden cutting boards are not treated with chemicals that keep off bacteria, it is also leverage that most wood materials already have a natural combatant in preventing contamination. Wood naturally traps the bacteria from coming out within itself and prevents bacteria from accumulating in stains and residues.
One type of wood that is vied for this characteristic is maple–Hard rock maple is approved by NSF or National Sanitation Foundation International and is preferred by commercial kitchens.
Purchasing quality wood with this feature is an investment, especially when sanitation is a priority in the kitchens and better than easily scratched plastic cutting boards.
The best choices for wood are sourced from North America and Europe. Of course, when it comes to food, the wood materials where the cutting board is made from are also fruit-bearing trees. This alone puts the stakeholders’ minds at ease since wood that came from trees with edible parts like fruit, nuts, and syrup is less likely to contain natural toxins harmful to health.
For mass production purposes, renewability is a huge deal. Since the maturity of trees spans from 5 years to 30 years at the minimum.
Although trees are a renewable source, it takes a considerable amount of time to grow. Some are harvested even before its maturity. The faster a tree matures, the more renewable it is. Maple trees take 30 years to reach full maturity, and this is already considered quite speedy for quality wood.
Color gives an attractive quality to wood, and it can go from light to dark shades, which varies with the client’s preference and design or layout of the kitchen it’s going to fit into.
In addition to this, wood contains patterns that would make a stunning addition to the kitchen. The patterns are seen on wood grains or symmetrical designs customized by the woodcrafter by combining different sorts of wood.
This serves as a guide for what to look for in either choosing the best cutting board or getting the best wood as the material to make one. Choosing the wood to work with in making cutting boards depends on the woodworker’s ability to bring out the best in the material. For customers and clients, another factor for choosing a cutting board is their preference in style. But for a lot of these options, by following these guidelines, it is less likely that you’ll be disappointed. A cutting board is an investment; therefore, you must get your money’s worth by looking into its durability and strength, sanitation, and attractiveness.
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.