Most cooks opt for wooden cutting boards over any other material. And it is with a valid reason. Wooden cutting boards protect the edges of your knife from dulling quickly. Also, they are biodegradable. Besides, wood fibers have self-healing properties that increase the cutting board’s lifespan.
But not all wooden boards are the same. The main difference between them comes from the choice of wood. Thus, knowing wood properties eases your shopping experience.
This article will look at the best wood for a cutting board. We will also discuss the properties of various wood species and what makes them stand out.
What is the best wood for cutting boards?
Maple is the best wood for cutting a board. The hardwood is durable and easy on the knives. Moreover, it’s easy to clean and prevents the growth of bacteria and other microbes. The smooth wood is also quite attractive to the eye.
What types of wood are food safe?
Other materials that stand out are teak, walnut, and beech. These woods are all durable, food safe, and practical. It is good to note that no matter the material you use, all wood is relatively porous. As such, they will likely absorb some juices from the meat and other ingredients.
Which features determine the Best Wood for a cutting Board?
Consider the wood properties below when shopping for the best wood for a cutting board.
Level of Hardness
The hardness level in wood comes in three categories. These are hardwoods, extra hardwoods, and softwoods. Hardwoods are solid and compact. Thus, they can handle strain from the knife. Moreover, they resist intrusion from seasoning, water, and food juices.
But softwoods are not able to resist the strain from the knife. As such, they are susceptible to scratches and dents. You also risk some fragments of the wood mixing with the food during food preparation.
The extra hardwood comes with its cons. Your knife is bound to dull faster as the edges hit the wood. The edges may also occasionally chip affecting the durability of the blade. Thus, understanding the implications of your choice of wood is very important.
There are different methods of measuring the hardness level of the wood. Janka hardness test is a favorite as it measures all kinds of wood, domestic or exotic. Also, the Janka tests are globally standardized.
Avoid wooden boards below 1000 lbf as they fall under the softwoods category. A Janka scale of 1000 to 2000 lbf provides you with the perfect ruggedness. It also helps keep your knife’s edges. At 1440 lbf, maple is one of the strongest woods you can get for a cutting board.
The porosity of the wood
Naturally, wood is porous as the trunk is a vessel that transports water from the roots to the rest of the trees. The nature of the wood pores determines the level of the porosity in a tree. In this case, the best wood for a cutting board is the one that has the smallest pores.
Large pores make the wooden board susceptible to warping and cracking. Also, the absorbed liquids may become contaminants as they rot. The initial contamination may lead to cross-contamination of the other food.
In addition, porous wooden boards may be hard to clean as you cannot reach inside the cutting board. You may think of using strong detergents, but they may also end up trapped inside the cutting board. The trapped detergents might cause an even graver risk as the food gets exposed to chemicals.
The red oak and elm woods have a high level of hardness. But we do not recommend them for use as cutting boards because they are highly porous. Also, their open grains are dense, which could harbor dirt and contaminants. Cherry, maple, and beech are close-grained. Thus, they do not absorb a lot of liquid. They are easier to clean as the wood does not trap germs.
Using an attractive cutting board increases your pleasure when preparing meals. Different woods have varying textures. Thus, some can keep the finishing while others change their appearance fast.
The small and dense of some woods, such as maple and cherry, make their grains less visible. Also, their texture grains provide a beautiful finish. Thus, these woods have a better surface and are more appealing than open-grain woods.
You will be using the board to prepare meals. Thus, it is essential to consider how safe the wood is. Some woods are toxic or may contain harmful oils. If they are absorbed into the food, you may ingest them into your body.
These toxins can cause allergies, swellings, and inflammations. They may also trigger food poisoning or even cancer.
To avoid these, focus on wood whose products are edible. For instance, you can eat maple, cherry, and walnut fruits. Avoid it if the wood has all the other qualities but has not been tested for consumption.
Some woods have substances that stop the growth of microbes, such as fungi and bacteria. These natural substances are not harmful if ingested. Instead, they save you from using strong detergents when cleaning the cutting board.
Some wood species with natural sterilizers include bamboo, cypress, board, and teak. They make good cutting boards as they are easier to clean.
Some woods have oils and resins that block water and other liquids from seeping into their pores. This resistance mitigates them from fungal attacks, wood rot, and sogginess. The oils condition the wood, keeping it from cracking, splitting, and warping.
These wood species need less maintenance than others as they are self-healing. The cutting board heals itself in case of abrasions and shallow cuts. Also, you do not have to worry about contamination as the resin stops germs from getting into the pores.
Edge Grain vs. End Grain Cutting board
When shopping for a wooden board, you need to check if the board has an edge grain or an end grain. These terms refer to the wood part cut to make the board. End grain refers to the end of the wood where you see the rings. Edge grain is the side part of the wood.
The boards are easy to tell apart as they have a distinct teller pattern. You will likely see several parts of wood used for end grain. Thus, they have a more traditional look. An edge grain cutting board shows you the wood grains on the top.
End grain boards are friendlier to the edges of the knife. But they are more expensive and less common. Edge grains are more durable. Also, they are less costly and easier to maintain. But they are harsher to the knife edges, causing them to dull faster.
Combination Attributes for the Best Wood for Cutting Boards
When it comes to cutting boards, no single species have the best of everything. The best wood for cutting boards involves compromising some quality for others. Let’s look at some real scenarios to help in conceptualizing the process.
Softwoods use trachea cells in the transportation of water. Thus, they are non-porous as they do not have vessel cells. But the kitchen environment may destroy them as they are fragile.
The oak wood and cypress have antibacterial properties. But red oak has large pores that can store water and food liquids. Also, the cypress tree is soft, with a Janka rating of 500 lbf. You can apply the cypress cutting board to perform very light duties
How to Maintain a Wooden Cutting Board.
You have chosen the best wooden cutting board. The other thing you will need to consider is the maintenance of the wooden cutting board. All wooden boards have similar maintenance rules, regardless of the quality. Below are some tips you can adopt into your maintenance routine.
- If you feel that the cutting board is porous, apply edible oil to its surface. The oil will prevent the board from seeping up liquids and water. Also, it prevents the wood from sapping and cracking. Repeat this routine every two months
- Rub salt on the cutting board’s surface to remove odors and contaminants. Let it sit for some time before wiping it. The extra time will give the salt enough time to penetrate the pores. The routine also smooths out the board’s surface and removes any imperfections.
- Please do not soak the wooden cutting board or leave it in the dishwasher. Excess water affects the wood and the glue, causing them to detach.
- If the surface of your cutting board is rough, you may need to repair it. Use sandpaper or scrapers to resurface them. Ensure that the wooden board is dry before beginning the process.
- Use diluted bleach every once in a while to clean the board. The detergent ensures that the board is thoroughly disinfected. Rinse the board well to ensure that all the bleach comes off.
You now know the advantages of a wooden cutting board over other materials. Strike a balance between the properties of the wood and your specific needs. In addition, factor in the knives you have in your kitchen.
You may also need to consider your budget, as hardwood is more expensive than softwood. Always ensure that your choice of wood has been tested for food friendliness. Remember that your wooden cutting board determines how long your knives will last.