While many materials are used to make cutting boards, wood has many qualities that make it a preferable option. Cutting boards should be easy to clean and not soft, but they shouldn’t be too hard either, as in that case, the surface will blunt the knife’s edge (which is why glass and steel cutting boards are not as excellent options as they may first seem).
The two most popular options for cutting boards are plastic and wood. Plastic has the advantage of being easier to clean as it allows for harsher cleaning materials to be used, such as bleach, but wood has antiseptic qualities and can self-heal from shallow cuts which close up on their own.
Choosing the right wood may even mean extra tasty flavor in your meal; choosing the wrong wood, however, can be toxic and result in an unhygienic cutting board.
So which boards should you not use for cutting boards?
- American Mahogany
- Western Red Cedar
- Black Walnut
- Juniper Tree
- Redwood Spruce
- Douglas Fir
In the following sections, we will be going over why certain types of wood can be hazardous for your health if chosen as the material for a cutting board and how to look out for these factors so that you can have a safe cooking experience.
Which Woods Should You Not Use for Cutting Boards?
The woods that you should avoid using as material for cutting boards are those that are toxic, porous, too soft or the types that combine these three factors in various ways. So here are the woods that shouldn’t be used for cutting boards and why.
Woods that you should avoid because they are toxic and can ruin the taste of your meal include teak, birch, pine, American mahogany, rosewood, and western red cedar. Any wood that comes from a tree that produces fruit or leaves that are edible will certainly not be toxic as a cutting board either.
Woods that are too porous and will become unhygienic as a result include oak, mahogany, ash, butternut, and black walnut. It is possible to recognize porous wood simply by looking at it and seeing whether there are visible pores; if not, it should do just fine.
Woods that are too soft for a cutting board and will therefore have crevices and knife marks or can even get warped from use include juniper tree, redwood spruce, cedar, Douglas fir, and balsa.
There is a standard called the Janka hardness rating that determines how durable woods are, which can help the buyer decide whether the wood they consider as a cutting board is too soft or just right; the higher the rating a wood gets, the harder it will be.
Which Factors Should You Consider When Choosing Wood for Cutting Boards?
There are three major factors to consider when choosing the right wood for your cutting board so that you can have a comfortable and hygienic cooking experience. These are the toxicity, the porosity, and the softness of the wood you are considering.
Toxicity is a factor to consider in the wood you are choosing for the very obvious reason, which is your health, and perhaps the less obvious reason, which is the aroma of the meal that is being prepared.
Some woods produce amounts of toxicity that may be dangerous for people directly, while some others contain materials that are unpleasant to taste. Cedar and pine release resins that give a harsh flavor, oak contains tannins that embitter, mahogany has sap that sours, and teak contains rancid oils.
Porosity in wood will not only weaken the surface of your cutting board but also become a health concern as it can lead to mold build-up. The pores will keep bacteria and cause some stains to be unwashable.
Porous cutting boards don’t endure washing well and preserve the smells of food that were cut on them, so they will be smelly as well as stained and unhygienic. On top of all this, porous wood will cause the cutting board to be warped more easily. Porosity can be checked with the naked eye by simply observing whether there are visible pores on the wood.
Softness is also a very important factor to consider, as knife cuts will leave marks that may cause issues similar to those produced by porosity, and the integrity of the cutting board will always be at risk.
The Janka hardness test can be employed to examine whether the wood you consider as a cutting board is too soft or too hard for its purpose. The ratings that are acceptable for a cutting board are those between 900 and 1500.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Safe?
Cutting boards are essential tools for every kitchen, and wood can be the most healthy option both for you and the sharpness of your knife, provided that the right type of wood is chosen for the task.
Even though wood cutting boards are usually safe, certain woods should certainly not be used as material for a cutting board, and some maintenance is to be done to keep the board hygienic after use, but if these are taken into account, wood cutting boards are safe kitchen items.
For maintenance, the cutting board should be washed with soap and water, then rinsed under running water. To let it soak under water is unhealthy, and the board should be standing when it is drying, not lying flat.
For prolonged use, the board should be coated when it appears to dry out, which will prevent it from cracking. Cutting board oils, beeswax, and food-grade mineral oils are safe to use as finishes.
Wood is a viable choice as a material for a cutting board, but it is important to look out for certain factors to have a healthy and comfortable experience; perhaps most crucial among them is choosing the type of wood that will be used.
While the right wood will result in a reliable cutting board that may even add extra flavor to the meal being prepared, using the wrong wood can mean dents and cuts in the board, bacteria build-up, and even outright toxicity.
The woods you should not use for cutting boards are teak, birch, pine, American mahogany, rosewood, western red cedar, oak, mahogany, ash, butternut, black walnut, juniper tree, redwood spruce, cedar, Douglas fir, and balsa.
These are either toxic, porous, too soft, or a combination of the three. Toxic woods are unhealthy, porous woods will hold bacteria, and softwood will have cuts resulting in an uncomfortable experience while having the same disadvantages porous woods have.