Consider rock maple, white oak, black walnut, larch wood, cherry, teak, padauk, purpleheart, mahogany, and beech if you want the best wood for cutting boards. Some factors can also help you make the best choice, some of which include the type of cutting board, toxicity, density, grain, durability, and cost.
Given that you will be dealing with food on the cutting boards, it is essential for the wood to impart and maintain certain safety levels while also being in good enough condition to last you long enough.
If you are figuring out the best kind of wood to use for making your cutting board or simply want to know buying one, you should go through the sections in this comprehensive guide.
Best Wood for Cutting Boards and Butcher Blocks
The best chopping boards and butcher blocks rely on premium, sturdy and dependable wood that can offer safety, sanitation, and stability while chopping.
Here is a list of some of the best types of wood for cutting boards and butcher blocks, along with their pros and cons.
1 | Rock Maple
Rock maple, also known as hard maple, is perhaps the best wood that you can use for cutting boards and butcher blocks. The wood of this kind measures 1,450 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, making it ideal for cutting boards due to the stability and strength that it can provide.
Rock maple is also food safe since it comes from the maple tree, which is widely used for its sap. This can limit the toxicity levels of the wood on your cutting board. Further, the grains of this kind of maple tend to be closed and straight with small pores.
The color of this wood is white to cream, with some varieties being a darker red too. However, since the lighter parts are more commonly used, your cutting board is likely to be cream or tan in color too.
2 | White Oak
White oak is a kind of hardwood that measures 1,350 lbf on the Janka scale. Its color is usually light, often ranging from light to medium brown. The grain of this kind of wood is straight, but the texture is coarse.
This wood tends to have open pores. However, as compared to other common types of oak like red oak, white oak has relatively smaller pores that can make it much more promising for cutting boards, although it is also more expensive.
White oak is usually quite easy to work with, making it a suitable option if you want to carry out the building process of your cutting board on your own. Using white oak for your cutting board can also result in durable and attractive results.
You might need to find boards with smoother surfaces to ensure a uniform appearance.
3 | Black Walnut
Black walnut can result in an attractive cutting board due to its dark colors. The colors usually range from light to chocolate brown while also exhibiting patterns in the form of even darker streaks and shapes.
Black walnut comes with a straight grain. This can make this wood quite easy to work with, which is a great advantage if you want to make your cutting board yourself.
These grains are also quite closed, small and densely packed, resulting in lower levels of absorption of water from the environment or from regular washing and spills.
This kind of wood measures around 1,010 lbf, which means it is comparatively soft if you consider the density and hardness levels of the other types of wood usually used for cutting boards and butcher blocks.
4 | Larch Wood
Larch wood tends to be quite durable and tough despite being a softwood. This kind of wood is usually free from knots and has a straight or spiraling grain. The grain is also of a medium level without being too open or too closed.
This softwood tends to have a pale white wood stain appearance, resulting in an attractive appearance on the surface, especially when combined with its grain patterns. Given its softness (measuring 740 lbf on the Janka scale), it is also highly workable, allowing you to craft the wood into the shape and size of your choice.
If you want to use this kind of wood for your cutting board or butcher block, it might serve you better if you only use these items on an infrequent basis or if you have a light hand while chopping.
5 | Cherry
Cherry wood is durable and has a long lifespan. A notable and distinct feature of cherry is that its wood is a deep and rich red to brown in color, which can work extremely well for enhancing the appearance of your cutting board while also hiding stains and blemishes.
The wood obtained from cherry trees tends to be straight and closed-grained, making it relatively non-porous. When it comes to hardness levels, however, cherry wood is a bit soft and measures around 950 lbf on the Janka scale.
This kind of softness can increase the workability of this type of wood, making it more suitable for woodworkers and craftspersons.
Due to the kind of surface that cherry can provide, it usually requires minimal conditioning with mineral oil. You should note that cherry wood tends to be a bit expensive and difficult to source.
6 | Teak
Teak is a hardwood that measures 1,070 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. This makes it durable and suitable for cutting boards since it can handle frequent and regular usage quite well while also managing heavy chopping tendencies.
Teak has a high degree of natural oil levels that makes it durable and strong. It also has a closed-grained structure, although its pores are typically a bit large as compared to other types of wood that are used for cutting boards.
When it comes to the color of this kind of wood, you can expect a rich and extremely attractive appearance. The color ranges from golden to a darker shade of brown with tendencies to become even darker over time.
7 | Padauk
Padauk is an extremely hard kind of wood given that it measures as much as 1,970 lbf on the Janka hardness scale. This kind of hardness can make it a good choice for cutting boards and butcher blocks due to its ability to withstand and undergo even rough handling.
Padauk comes in multiple varieties and can display a wide range of colors and grain patterns. For instance, the grain can either be straight or interlocked, while the colors usually range from pink-orange to dark red.
Moreover, padauk wood has the tendency to darken over time, resulting in a richer color even with longer usage of your cutting board. This can make it ideal for covering or hiding big and small stains on your board from chopping.
8 | Purpleheart
Purpleheart wood is extremely dense, solid, strong, durable and sturdy. It measures 2,520 lbf on the Janka scale. Thus, if you are looking for a heavy-duty cutting board or butcher block, purpleheart can be a great option for you to consider.
This wood is also referred to as violet wood or amaranth and has a beautiful and distinctive appearance. Its color ranges from light brown to deep purple, with tendencies of darkening over time.
The straight or irregular grain patterns can also result in a unique appearance on the surface of the wood.
However, given its toughness and hardness, purpleheart is usually extremely challenging to work with, which is why it might not be a good option if you intend to craft and fashion your cutting board on your own.
9 | Mahogany
Mahogany is a hard kind of wood that can have varying levels of hardness on the Janka scale since the tree from which it is obtained tends to have several different species and varieties.
This also means that there are multiple colors and grain patterns that you can witness on mahogany wood, with colors ranging from pale pink to a darker and richer shade of red or brown. Usually, this color ends up becoming much darker over time.
It is quite easy to obtain and work with mahogany, so if you wish to make your own cutting board, you can certainly do this with your woodworking tools.
The grain can further be straight, irregular or interlocked, resulting in a distinct and unique appearance with several patterns. The grain is also a bit open, resulting in larger pores that can absorb plenty of moisture over time.
10 | Beech
Last but certainly not least, beech is a hardwood that can offer multiple benefits for its usage as a cutting board or even a butcher block. It is a hardwood that measures around 1,300 lbf on the Janka scale, making it ideal for both light and heavy chopping.
Beech is hard but not too hard that it becomes difficult to work with. This can work well for cutting boards since there is minimal risk of causing much damage to your knives.
Beechwood is usually quite light in color, exhibiting a light brown, pale or tan color that can suit cutting boards well. In addition, the grain pattern of this kind of wood tends to be closed, with the pores being quite small.
Types of Cutting Boards and Butcher Blocks
There are various types of cutting boards and butcher blocks that you might need to choose from. For instance, these boards and blocks often differ in terms of how the wood is cut and joined together and where the grains are most prominent.
To learn more about them and what you can expect from each of them, go through the following sections.
Edge Grain Boards
Edge grain boards are those that involve the construction of the vertical edges or sides of a given plank or piece of wood. These edges are then cut up and joined together to form the surface of the cutting board or butcher block.
These planks are usually obtained after cutting lengthwise lumber from the tree and are very much ideal for large-scale projects like wooden bed frames and cabinets. After forming the board, these edges tend to provide a pattern of lines and streaks.
Edge grain boards tend to be convenient to maintain and are also quite affordable. Their density and weight are high, making them sturdy and stable options while chopping. However, their hardness can end up affecting the sharpness of your knives while also making cuts and scratches prominent on the surface.
End Grain Cutting Board
End grain cutting boards are made from the upper and lower ends of wooden planks. After cutting these ends and joining them together to form a single surface, the cutting board or block tends to resemble a cross-section of patterns with checkered shapes, making it highly attractive.
Usually, the cuts are made along the growing direction of the tree in a way that the rings and grains become prominent. These cutting boards and blocks are of premium quality and are usually quite expensive.
They are soft and can be a better option for your knives, not to mention that the surface can repair or heal itself from small scratches, cuts and dents.
Face Grain Cutting Board
Face grain cutting boards are made from the wide or broad side of the plank, which is also called the face of the wood. This face is where the colors, shapes and lines of the tree trunk are most visible, resulting in a beautiful surface that you can view on your board or block.
The marks on the cutting board tend to be horizontal, with the overall density being soft. While this can work for infrequent usage, it might not serve you well for frequent and intense usage since the knives can make highly visible dents and scratches on the surface.
Additionally, these boards also take in plenty of moisture which can degrade the quality much quicker than the other two options.
Wooden Cutting Board Material Considerations
While browsing for wood or wooden cutting boards, you should account for some considerations that can make a given option better or worse. Here are some factors that can act as guiding points.
Many types of wood contain plenty of toxins, such as chemicals, that can end up being significantly harmful to your health if you accidentally consume them.
For instance, if you make or buy a chopping board without clear sources or enough preparation, it is likely to contain toxins that can seep into your food and damage its nutrition level.
For this reason, you should opt for wood that comes from trees that commonly also produce fruits and nuts, along with edible syrups and seeds.
Another aspect to consider here is that toxicity levels can increase over time due to the accumulation of harmful bacteria, although some types of wood, like hardwood, can reduce the extent of this.
The density of wood can determine whether it is hardwood or softwood. This density is usually measured in the unit pounds-force (lbf) in the form of the Janka hardness scale, with woods rated higher denoting more hardness.
The harder or denser the wood, the less they are likely to get damaged due to scratches, cuts, marks, and dents. In this sense, these types of wood can offer plenty of stability and sturdiness as compared to softwood.
On the other hand, softwood can be more suitable in terms of its minimal impact on the sharpness of knives. Hardwood can reduce this sharpness, which is why the density level should be in the middle range of the scale.
The wood grain refers to how the fibers of the wood are arranged on a given surface. They can either be open and porous or dense, closed and non-porous. This can then also have an impact on the strength and hardness of the wood.
When it comes to cutting boards, it is ideal to opt for closed-grained or non-porous wood since these can prevent bacteria, mold, and excess water from getting absorbed by the wood. However, it is possible that some of these might be softer in density, whereas the harder ones might have open pores.
Some good options can include maple and walnut since these not only have small pores but are also of good hardness levels.
The wood that you use for your cutting board should be sustainable and environmentally friendly. In this case, options like oak and teak might not serve you too well since they are in extremely high demand with trees being felled constantly.
On the other hand, trees like maple, walnut, and cherry can offer sustainable alternatives since they are abundant while also having multiple uses. They are also easily renewable due to their quick rates of growth.
You can also consider opting for foreign or imported types of wood as long as they have a valid certification.
Naturally, you want your cutting boards to be of great quality in a way that can allow them to be durable. Even with frequent usage, your cutting boards and butcher blocks should be strong enough to resist easy cracks, splits, and scratches so that you can keep using them for longer.
Since these are wooden cutting boards, they will also expand or contract in response to changes in the levels of heat and humidity in the atmosphere. To minimize the extent of this, you will need to condition the wood with mineral oil on a regular basis while also cleaning it with soap and water after every use.
You can either buy the cutting board or butcher block directly from the store or you can source the wood itself if you wish to build the cutting board on your own. In the case of the latter, you will need to opt for a reliable source while also ensuring the quality, with flatter and larger cutting boards likely to cost you more than others.
Some types of wood, like teak and maple are also typically more expensive than others. Moreover, if you want to add some elements or personalizations, you might have to pay more.
Wood for Cutting Boards FAQ.
Is a Wooden Chopping Board Better than Plastic?
A wooden chopping board is definitely better than plastic since it tends to be more durable while also accumulating fewer bacteria.
Plastic can also become a bit toxic after a given point, especially so if the board contains BPA and too much heat is applied to it.
What Wood Has Antibacterial Properties?
Maple is one type of wood that has natural and effective antibacterial properties.
There are several other types that exhibit some antimicrobial properties too, including pine, acacia, walnut, beech, and more.
What Cutting Boards Do Professional Chefs Use?
Professional chefs usually rely on materials like maple and walnut for their cutting boards.
These materials, along with several other types of wood, are softer to work with and also preserve the quality of knives. Bamboo is another common material used.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know about some of the best kinds of wood for cutting boards, it is time to make your pick.
Remember to account for factors like grain, type, toxicity, density, sustainability, cost, and durability while doing your research about products out there or even while picking lumber.
Although maple can be one of the best options for cutting boards, the other types of wood covered here can also provide excellent results if chosen with care. Extra consideration has to be made here as you’re selecting wood for food preparation, not lumber for a firewood rack or bookshelf.