Best Woods for Cutting Boards: Ideal Slicing Surfaces

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Wondering about the best woods for cutting boards? You’ve come to the right place.

A cutting board is arguably as important as the knife you use. A good cutting board should be optimized for food safety and withstand the strokes of a knife while not damaging the knife’s cutting ability. It should ideally look nice and be easy to maintain. While there are several types out there, a wood cutting board is tough to beat.

The question is, what is the best wood for cutting boards? Wood cutting boards come in all types, so how do you know which one to get?

In this article, I’ll walk you through the best wood for cutting boards, along with tips on what to look for and how to care for and maintain your wood cutting board. You’ll be ready to slice, dice, and chop in no time.

Which wood cutting boards make the cut, and which ones are on the chopping block? Keep reading to find out.

Best Woods for Cutting Boards

Round wooden cutting board on the table


When it comes to wood cutting boards, maple is an industry standard for high-end cutting boards. Maple is widely available in the U.S., and it has a Janka hardness rating of 1,450 lbf, making it impressively dense and nonporous.

There are several species of maple wood, but the type used for maple cutting boards is considered “hard maple” or “sugar maple.”

A maple cutting board is a good choice because a maple cutting surface is more scratch-resistant than other woods but not so hard that it will dull knives.

Maple wood also has smaller pores that prevent the growth of bacteria and stains. But if it does pick up stains, they’re tough to hide on the amber-yellow surface.

Additionally, a maple cutting board can be pricey. It’s worth it if you want the best wood for cutting.


Cherry wood is another popular choice for cutting boards. Cherry has that rich reddish-brown color that’s so appealing. With proper care and regular oiling, it has a beautiful, unique appearance.

Cherry wood registers at 995 lbf hardness, which is lower than ideal. The good news is that it’s not as porous, so it’s resistant to moisture and bacteria.

The color and limited availability make it a more expensive choice for cutting boards, but if you like the aesthetic, the performance is solid enough to justify it.


Beech is food-safe and closed-grain that doesn’t dull knives. Beech cutting boards make for excellent cutting surfaces because they resist scratching, moisture, bacteria, and stains. Beech measures 1,300 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, which is higher than several other types.

Beech is stain-resistant, but once stains develop, they show more easily on beech’s light-colored surface than on teak or walnut, for instance.

Beech is inexpensive and highly effective. I would recommend it as one of the best woods for cutting boards. However, be prepared to treat a beech board at least once a month. Beech shrinks more than the other woods, so you’ll have to oil it more frequently.


Mahogany registers at a whopping 2,697 lbf on the hardness scale and is known for its resistance to warping and stability. It’s beautiful and can last a long time.

That being said, there are many types of mahogany wood. Not all of these types are created equal. Some types, such as Cuban mahogany, are great to work with. Others? Not so much. So you really have to do your research to make sure you’re getting the best wood.


Walnut is a great wood for cutting board construction. It’s readily available in several countries, and it has a beautiful dark finish to it. Walnut registers 1,080 on the hardness scale and resists stains, so it’s a good wood for cutting boards.

Some avoid using walnut because of allergic reactions. If you or anyone in your family has a nut allergy, I would avoid using walnut. When a walnut cutting board is sanded and finished, it poses little to no risk of allergic reaction. However, if you have a severe allergy, you might prefer to play it safe and avoid the possibility altogether.


Teak scores an impressive 1,070 lbf on the hardness scale. It holds up better to scratches and impact from a sharp knife. It’s not as tough as beech or maple, but it’s a solid choice for a cutting board.

Teak is considered a tropical hardwood, so it’s more expensive. It will also dull your knife over time. On the flip side, teak is a lower-maintenance wood type. You can condition it once every few months and be fine.

It is more susceptible to bacteria, moisture, and stains than walnut or maple. However, the darker hue hides stains more effectively.

If you want solid quality and a beautiful aesthetic, teak cutting boards are the way to go.

Best woods for cutting boards

What About Bamboo?

Bamboo is tricky because it’s in its own category. Although commonly thought of as wood, bamboo is actually grass. It’s environmentally friendly and offers food safety, and bamboo is less porous than hardwoods, so it won’t absorb moisture and resists scarring and bacteria. These are all reasons bamboo is popular as a cutting board material.

The downside? A bamboo board surface can dull or chip a knife blade. Even worse, some substandard boards have been known to have formaldehyde-based adhesives present in them.

These manufacturers use a melamine formaldehyde resin to bind together the bamboo. The problem is that hot food and acidic foods on a scratched board can leach melamine.

To get a non-toxic food-safe bamboo cutting board, look for bamboo cutting boards that are labeled as “formaldehyde-free.”

You should be fine if you get a high-quality bamboo board, but if you’re in doubt, opt for a hardwood cutting board. There are plenty of safe options, so you can feel confident you’re not exposing yourself and your family to toxic chemicals or harmful bacteria.

What About Other Materials?


Plastic cutting boards are quite common. Unlike wood, plastic boards are nonporous. That might sound like a good thing, but it’s a little complicated.

A wooden cutting board might absorb more bacteria, but studies found that the bacteria can’t multiply in wood and eventually dies. On the other hand, bacteria tend to stick around longer on plastic. So even though plastic is non-porous, it doesn’t neutralize bacteria as effectively as wood.

That being said, you can disinfect plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher, whereas you can’t with wood cutting boards. With proper care and cleaning, you can use a plastic cutting board without compromising your health. If I had to choose between plastic and wood, however, I would opt for a wood cutting board.


Glass cutting boards are also readily available, but I would avoid them. Glass is notorious for wearing down knives. And who wants a dull knife? Not me. Plus, even when tempered, you run the risk of cracking the glass. Again, no one wants that.

What to Consider When Picking a Wooden Cutting Board

Janka Hardness Scale

The higher the hardness rating of wood, the harder and more resistant it is to scratches, dents, or marks from knife blades. To measure the hardness of a particular wood species, we use the Janka Hardness Scale.

The Janka hardness scale is named after its creator, Gabriel Janka. This test measures the force necessary to insert a small steel ball halfway into the wood sample. This force is then converted to the Janka hardness scale which is measured in pounds-force, or lbf.

A harder cutting board will be less likely to develop grooves that might harbor bacteria. Additionally, a harder cutting board will slightly hone the knife’s edge while you cut, thereby extending the sharpness of your kitchen knives.

Harder wood types are also less porous, meaning you won’t have to oil your cutting board as frequently.

So what rating should you be shooting for? The higher, the better. Opt for hardwoods like maple over soft woods like pine. In general, you want a cutting board that has a hardness rating of at least 1100 lbf.

Use the chart below to find the wood types listed in this article, along with their respective Janka hardness scale ratings. 

Wood speciesJanka Hardness Rating (lbf, pounds-force)
Mahogany2,697 lbf
Maple1,450 lbf
Beech1300 lbf
Teak1,070 lbf
Walnut1,010 lbf
Cherry995 lbf


The porosity of the wood refers to how many pores (i.e. small openings) a substance has. Porosity is one of many factors that determine how well-suited a wood type is for cutting boards.

Closed-grain boards have pores that are invisible to the naked eye. A tight grain will make the board less prone to absorbing liquids that could spread bacteria, mold, stains, or cause warping. Cherry and walnut are examples of woods with low porosity.

Open-grained wood boards are more vulnerable to stains, odors, and the growth of microbes. Oak and mahogany are woods with higher porosity.


While it may not be the most important factor, aesthetics do matter. Each wood type has its own grain pattern. This gives wood its unique color, shine, and grain texture.

You might choose to display your cutting board by setting it against the backsplash or leaving it on the kitchen counter. A beautiful cutting board can perform double duty as a utility piece and a decorative piece.

Generally, closed-grain woods are not as distinctive as open-grained woods. However, some species are unique due to their color. Cherry and maple, for instance.


Woos that produce edible fruits, nuts, leaves, or sap are all considered to be food-safe. Some wood species even have antimicrobial properties, making them an excellent choice for cutting boards.

Certain types of wood, however, have high levels of toxicity. This could take the form of irritation or even poisoning. Oils and resin can leach into the foods you’re preparing, so it’s important to be careful with rare or exotic woods that are not commonly used in cutting boards.

For example, Rosewood is a beautiful timber with a Janka hardness rating of 1700 and higher (depending on the species). However, some people are sensitive to the oils it leaches.

It’s also a good idea to avoid wood cutting boards constructed with reclaimed wood. This timber is often quite beautiful, but it may have been treated with dangerous chemicals in the past. When it comes to food safety, you don’t want to take any unnecessary risks.

Like with other products, it’s important to choose a reputable manufacturer that is subject to laws and regulations regarding manufacturing processes and materials.

Find non-toxic cutting boards in my complete guide.


It’s necessary to apply food-grade mineral oil to wood cutting boards and butcher blocks from time to time. This prevents the wood from warping or splitting, as well as protecting the cutting board from absorbing moisture.

Some woods shrink more than others, and some types are more susceptible to moisture. Typically, the harder the species of wood, the longer you can go before having to condition the butcher block.


Cutting boards can vary widely, depending on the cutting board material and construction. A thin cutting board will be significantly less expensive than a thick butcher block, and certain types of wood are pricier than others. Also, end-grain boards will cost you more than an edge-grain board. (I cover what those terms mean in the next section.)


In addition to the other factors, you might want your wood cutting board to have special features. Things like rubber feet to prevent the cutting board from sliding around, or perhaps a juice groove to collect liquids. You might even want a reversible board, so you can use one side for veggies and the other for raw meat. Whatever your preference, you’ll be able to find a carving board that has it.

Types of Wood Grain for Cutting Boards

Believe it or not, the wood’s grain affects a cutting board’s performance. Read below to learn about the two types of wood grain used for cutting boards.

End Grain

A person mixing sliced vegetable on a wooden bowl

End grain means the wood is cut across the growth rings of a tree at a 90° angle. This type of cut exposes the characters of the wood rings and graining. The end grain is essentially a cross-cut of the interior of the trunk. One way to recognize end-grain cutting boards is the checkerboard look formed by the different grain patterns.

End grain cutting boards have a few advantages:

  1. They beautifully display the character of the wood.
  2. The direction of the wood fibers naturally aligns with your cuts, keeping your knives sharp for longer.
  3. They have a “self-healing” property, as the fibers close up after being cut by the knife.

The drawback? End grain wood is also expensive. But if you plan to use your cutting board on a regular basis, end grain is the best wood grain.

Edge Grain

A man cutting yellow bell pepper on a wooden cutting board

Edge grain is when the wood is cut along the edge with the grain. It’s produced from quarter-sawn wood.

Edge grain cutting boards are usually made from strips of wood that can be lined up or assembled in a pattern that resembles a series of long, lean strips like the sides of a 2×4.

The major advantage of edge grain boards is that they’re more affordable. They’re not as labor intensive to make because cutting with the grain of the tree is easier than cutting across the grain. Edge grain boards are generally lower-maintenance and soak up less moisture.

However, because the direction of the wood fibers are horizontal, an edge grain cutting board will dull your knife faster than an end-grain board. They don’t have the give of an end-grain board. Not only that, but edge-grain cutting boards will show more knife marks.

How to Care for Your Wooden Cutting Board

As nice as it would be to only buy one cutting board for the rest of your life, the reality is that eventually you’ll have to replace your board. However, you can extend the life of your cutting board by taking proper care of it. Read more about the best practices for cleaning and caring for wooden cutting boards.

Washing Your Wood Cutting Board

The first step to caring for your cutting board is to wash it after each use. When it comes to washing wooden cutting boards, there is one non-negotiable:

They are hand wash only.

As tempting as it might be, you should never put your wood cutting board in the dishwasher. It’s a recipe for disaster. The high temperatures and harsh detergents are the fast lane to a ruined cutting board.

The easiest way to keep your wood cutting board clean is to wash it immediately after use. Rinse with warm water and soap. It’s important to dry your cutting board immediately so the wood won’t warp from prolonged exposure to water.

Oiling Your Board

Regularly applying oil to your board protects it from bacteria, smells, splitting, and warping. If you’re going to invest in a high-quality cutting board, it only makes sense you would want to keep it in tip-top shape.

First, you must choose which oil to use. Any oil you use should be food grade and not subject to rancidity. Food-grade mineral oil is the most popular choice. Mineral oil is inexpensive and readily available in stores and online. You can also use a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, which is my personal preference.

Never use cooking oil to oil your cutting board. It goes rancid very quickly, giving off a foul odor. Industrial oils are also off-limits. They aren’t food-grade and can be detrimental to your health.

Oiling your wood cutting board is a surprisingly simple process. Before you start, make sure your cutting board is completely clean. You can scrub them with lemon and salt. Also make sure your cutting board is completely dry. Once your board is clean and dry, follow these simple steps:

  1. Using a soft cloth or paper towel, apply the oil in an even layer over the wood.
  2. Let it soak for at least two hours. One idea is to apply the oil in the evening before bed and let them sit overnight.
  3. After the oil has soaked, wipe off any excess oil using a paper towel or cloth. The cutting board will have a slight shine to it and be somewhat water-resistant.

That’s it. Easy, right?

Disinfecting Your Board

Although washing your cutting board after each use is a must, you’ll also have to disinfect it from time to time. Cutting boards will harbor bacteria if left untreated, so disinfecting is crucial.

If possible, use separate cutting boards for raw meat, fruits, vegetables, and bread. If you can’t use separate boards, then cut any produce first. Rinse the board before cutting meat. This will help prevent cross-contamination.

There are several ways to disinfect your cutting board. Before you start, ensure that your board is clean. Once you have washed it, you can choose any one of the methods below to kill any remaining germs. Never mix cleaning agents, as that could result in dangerous chemical reactions or toxic fumes.

  • Hydrogen peroxide– Pour the hydrogen peroxide over the board and distribute it all over the board with a clean sponge. Let it stand for a few minutes as it fizzes and kills germs, and then wipe it off with the clean sponge.
  • Vinegar– Keep a spray bottle filled with white vinegar and spritz your cutting board whenever it needs to be refreshed. The vinegar neutralizes odors and works as an all-natural disinfectant.
  • Bleach water– For those times when you need extra disinfection after working with raw meat, fish or poultry. Add 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 quart water and spread the solution over the board. Let stand for a few minutes and then rinse with hot water.
  • Food-grade sanitizer– Spray your cutting board with a food-grade sanitizer. These are common in restaurants and other businesses that come into contact with food.

How to Remove Stains & Odors

If your wooden cutting board has stains or odor, there are a couple of ways you can treat it. One way is to sprinkle the dry cutting board with a good bit of salt or baking soda. Scrub out the stain with a sponge or nylon brush dipped into hot water.

For extra stain-fighting power, scour the salt with half a lemon. The combination of the lemon’s acid with the salt gives it an extra boost. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes after scrubbing. Then wipe clean with a cloth or paper towel. Let the wooden cutting board air-dry for several hours before using it again. 

Wooden Cutting Boards: Wrap-Up

Well, there you have it. There are several woods that make for a good cutting board, but the best wood for cutting boards is maple. If the price scares you away, no worries. There are several solid alternatives. Need a good place to start? Visit my guide to non-toxic cutting boards