What Wood is Not Good to Use in a Cutting Board?


Cutting boards are one of those things that every household has. They are made with intricate designs or more simple natural wood that has been crafted to perfection.  However, with wooden cutting boards, not all wood is the same, so it is important to pay attention.

What wood is not good to use in a cutting board? Avoid woods that are soft, porous, or toxic for cutting boards. Softwoods include balsa, cedar, juniper pine, redwood spruce, and Douglas fir. Porous wood includes mahogany, black walnut, butternut, oak, and ash. Toxic wood includes pine, birch, western red cedar, American mahogany, and rosewoods.

On the flip side, when looking for wood that makes a great cutting board, look for types of wood that are conditioned or can be conditioned to avoid any warping or shrinking. For your cutting board, you want to have the right wood for the job.

Otherwise, you may as well be using your countertops. Continue reading to see what you need to consider when choosing a wood for your cutting board, as well as the types of wood you should avoid and their different characteristics.

What to Consider When Choosing a Wood for Your Cutting Board

If you choose the wrong wood for either the cutting board you are making or the cutting board you are buying, you can end up with a board that serves a better purpose as a doorstop rather than a sous-chefs assistant. Ok, although we may not all be sous-chefs, we are still entitled to a flawless cooking experience.

There are a few things to consider with your cutting board wood before bringing it home to meet the parents. This includes the wood’s softness, porosity, and toxicity.

Any wood that lends itself to either of these three main categories should likely not be selected for a cutting board. After all, you want your cutting board to withhold sharp cuts and be safe for food to be placed directly on.

Softness in Wood is Not Great for a Cutting Board

It is not hard to conclude that dealing with a softwood when it comes to your cutting board will end in a complete and total mess. This means knife marks all over your board, divots from pulverizing meat, and stains within those crevices due to the surface’s integrity being degraded. It’s unappealing visually, and even more, it makes for a messy workstation.

To know how if you select the right level of durability in wood you plan to use for your cutting board, there is a certain standard for wood called the Janka hardness rating.  

This rating helps to tell how resistant a wood is to any scratches, dents, or (most of all for your cutting board) knife marks. The higher the rating is, the better the wood can withstand a bit of beating.

Think of all those times you have had to practically saw through a ribeye bone or diced onions until your eyes fill the sink with your tears – you need a wood that is going to be able to stand up to the beating that comes with cooking and can also stand the test of time.

Softwoods to avoid for cutting boards include the following:

  • Balsa
  • Cedar
  • Juniper Pine
  • Redwood
  • Spruce
  • Douglas Fir

These types of wood have a low density when compared to their hardwood counterparts. This means for a cutting board because they give way to lots of scratching, knicking, warping, and chipping. They may look pretty sitting out on the countertop, but before you know it, they will hardly resemble the beautiful piece that you pulled from the shelf.

High Porosity in Wood Leads to Weakness, Bacterial Build-Up, Warping, and Stains

Women have spent decades trying to make sure their pores are invisible to the naked eye. To some extent, they have achieved this through modern makeup and lots and lots of photo filter options.

Sadly for your wood, it does not have as many disguise methods. Porosity in wood is a bad thing for your cutting board as it weakens the surface but can also lead to nasty mold build-up, warping, and stains that stay for good.

When choosing a type of wood for your cutting board, you want to look for a type of wood with teeny tiny pores. “How on earth do I do that?” you ask? Use your eyes! To figure out if a type of wood has too many large pores, look and see if you can observe the pores with your naked eye.

If you cannot see the pores in the type of wood, you plan to use for your cutting board. Then you should be good to go. Look for those tiny pores to avoid having a cutting board that creates more bacteria than it does fantastic charcuterie. No one likes a smelly, gunky board, so avoid those big pores.

Porous wood to avoid for cutting boards include the following:

  • Mahogany
  • Butternut
  • Oak
  • Ash

These wood types will keep bacteria, mold, and stains trapped within them rather than wicking them away. They are poor choices for your cutting boards because they, outside of nasty bacteria, do not stand up well to excess washing and tend to retain past food smells that have been cut on their surfaces.

Toxic Wood in Cutting Boards can be Harmful for Food Preparation

Did you know that there are types of wood out there that are actually toxic to us when used for food preparation? I know, it is world-shattering if you have never thought of it! There are plenty of wood types out there that are stunningly beautiful, but when they come in contact with our food and, thus, our mouths, they can introduce toxins in a way that would be less than appealing for human comfort.

Naturally, it makes sense to stick with woods that produce edible things for us humans. If the tree produces food that we can eat, then the wood is typically a “go” for making or buying cutting boards. These types of woods include ones that produce things like sap, nuts, and some leaves. Now, I will not tell you to go out back and chop down your lemon tree for your next woodworking project. Know that it likely would not hurt you in terms of toxicity if you do.

Toxic wood to avoid for cutting boards include the following:

  • Pine
  • Birch
  • Western Red Cedar
  • American Mahogany
  • Rosewoods

There are many kinds of toxic woods, but these are some of those most common and most recognized among the general public. These woods produce toxicity levels that are dangerous for people to come in contact with and therefore cannot be used to create culinary masterpieces. I know, a mahogany cutting board would look unbelievably beautiful if polished and sitting on your countertop, but no need for poisoning, right?

The 3 Best Types of Wood for a Cutting Board

Now that I have successfully ruined your dreams of using several different types of wood for your next cutting board project, I am here to give you a little glimmer of hope to assure you that you can create the perfect piece using more durable, less porous, and non-toxic types of wood.

Three of the best types of wood for a cutting board include Maple, Beech, and Walnut. These types of wood are common, easy-to-find, durable hardwood, non-porous, and non-toxic. They are also relatively affordable, so your cutting board project should be in the clear with these types of wood.

Let’s take a closer look.

Maple

Maple is one of the most common types of wood used in the cutting board industry. Both hard and soft maple do great when putting up the fight with your knives and your garlic. It is very scratch resistant but is not so hard that it will cause your knives to become dull. It takes a lot for it to stain and is wonderfully resistant against bacteria.

Beech

Beech is a great close second to maple as it has tiny pores and does well at keeping bacteria at bay. As does maple, it keeps your knives sharp but will not scratch and dent under pressure. The only drawback with beech is that it stains easily due to its light color, and once it has been stained, it is challenging to remove the blemish.

Walnut

Of course, good ole walnut had to make the list because it is like the “Old Faithful” of all wood types. What is so great about walnut is its color. The dark hue that walnut can produce can turn a cutting board into a piece of art that sits upon your countertop. It does shrink, but with a bit of conditioning, it should be just fine. Moreover, it is a durable hardwood, has low porosity, and is non-toxic for food prep.

Recent Posts