A wood cutting board is a simple but essential kitchen tool. And even though it's a simple block of wood, there are a lot of factors to consider before buying. Not all wooden cutting boards are created equally, so if you want to get the most durable quality and one that's best for your knives and your cooking style, you have to know what to look for.
We put a dozen popular wood cutting boards through their paces to find our favorites. We cut meat, veggies, fruit, and herbs for several weeks to test performance. Find out which ones came out on top (and why) in this detailed look at wood cutting boards.
The Best Wood Cutting Boards at a Glance
Wood Cutting Board
Best End Grain Cutting Board:
Boardsmith Maple End Grain Board
-Sustainably produced end grain maple
-18" x 12" x 2"
-Soaked in food-grade mineral oil
-Buffed with food-grade beeswax
-Optional rubber feet
-Made in USA
Best Edge Grain Cutting Board:
Teakhaus Large Cutting Board
-FSC certified edge grain teak wood, sustainably produced
-20" x 15" x 1.5" (several sizes available)
-No juice groove (avail. on some sizes)
Best Budget Cutting Board:
Sonder Edge Grain Maple Board
-Edge grain maple
-17" x 13" x 1.5"
-Made in USA
-Deep juice groove
-Cracker well on one side
-Black walnut and cherry wood
-Made in USA
-No handles or feet (all cutting surface)
-Beautiful brick pattern
What Are Wood Cutting Boards Used For?
Wood cutting boards are great for most cutting tasks. They are better for the edge retention on your knives than plastic or bamboo (and of course better than glass or marble), they are naturally anti-bacterial, and they are a pleasure to cut on (though the type of wood matters, which we talk about more below).
Most chefs and serious home cooks prefer wood cutting boards for their main prepping board because wood is an excellent surface for cutting vegetables, herbs, and fruits. They are also excellent for meat carving boards, especially if they have a groove to catch the meat juices, and some also have a well, extra grooves, or even spikes to catch juices and keep meat stable while cutting:
One task wood cutting aren't the best for is cutting raw meat. This is only because you have to wash wood boards by hand (they are not dishwasher safe), so there can be a higher risk of cross-contamination than with a plastic board, which you can toss in the dishwasher.
You can use a wooden cutting board for raw meat, you just have to be sure to wash thoroughly.
The Janka Hardness Rating
The Janka Hardness Scale determines the resistance of wood to denting and wear. It is measured in pounds-force or lbf. It was created by Austrian wood scientist Gabriel Janka in 1906.
The number of pounds-force indicates how much force is needed to drive a steel ball halfway through a sample of the wood. The more force (lbf), the harder the wood is, meaning the resistant to denting and wear.
The Janka scale is used primarily for woods that are used for flooring, countertops, and cutting boards. For cutting boards, the hardest wood isn't necessarily the best. Harder wood is harder on your knives.
For cutting boards, most experts agree that the ideal Janka rating is between 900-1500 lbf. Here's a table showing the Janka ratings of popular cutting board woods:
Janka Hardness Rating (lbf)
Ideal Janka rating for cutting boards is between 900-1500 lbf.
1,700-2,300 (depending on species)
You can see from this board that the best woods for cutting boards are hard maple, black walnut, black cherry, teak, oak, and beech. Acacia, used in inexpensive wood cutting boards, is harder than desirable, which means it will be hard on your knives.
If you have expensive knives, and in particular Japanese knives with a high hardness rating (on the Rockwell scale), go for a softer wood such as black cherry, walnut, or teak.
These are the most common woods seen in cutting boards. If you come across a rarer type of wood, you can google the Janka rating to determine if it's a good choice for a cutting board.
The Best Woods for Cutting Boards
From the Janka scale section above, you can see that some of the best woods for cutting boards are hard maple, black walnut, black cherry, and beech. Here are a few more details about each of these.
Hard maple: Maple is one of the hardest woods used in cutting boards that is still soft enough to be gentle on your knife blades. It resists knife marks better than other woods, especially if you choose an end grain board.
Black cherry: At 950 lbf, black cherry is one of the softest woods used in cutting boards and it great for edge retention on your knives. If you have very expensive knives, black cherry is a good choice.
Black walnut: Black walnut is in-between hard maple and black cherry, so it's a good compromise if you can't decide which wood you want. Black walnut is also dark, which makes for strikingly beautiful cutting boards.
Teak: Teak has a fairly low Janka rating, just above black cherry. However, teak contains a fairly high amount of silica, which can be hard on the edge retention of your knives. Teak is a tropical hardwood that can be sustainably grown but can also be illegally harvested from rainforests, so if you go with teak, be sure to buy FSC-certified and sustainably grown teak cutting boards.
Acacia: Acacia is seen mostly in inexpensive cutting boards. It has a Janka rating from 1,700-2,300 lbf, depending on the species. This makes it harder than recommended for cutting boards. However, acacia is a fast-growing tree and one of the most sustainably produced woods on the market, so it's a good choice for environmentally conscious buyers.
Woods Not Good for Cutting Boards
You don't want woods that are too soft or too hard for cutting boards, so you want to avoid woods that have a Janka rating lower than 900 lbf or higher than about 1500 lbf.
Another factor is whether the wood is safe, non-toxic, and doesn't have a strong odor that can transfer to food. One rule of thumb that can help you buy a good cutting board is whether the wood grows something edible. This is another factor that makes maple, walnut, and cherry good choices.
Here are some woods that aren't great for cutting boards:
Brazilian Cherry: Brazilian cherry is one of the hardest woods in the world, with a Janka rating of 2,350 lbf, making it too hard for a cutting board.
Purple Heart: Purple heart is seen in some cutting boards, but it's Janka rating is 1860 lbf, making it too hard to make a good cutting board. It is also prone to splintering. It is also listed as toxic on some websites.
Mesquite: Some people like mesquite for a cutting board. It is very dense and non-porous, but with a Janka rating of 2,345, it is way too hard for a cutting board: it will be terrible for your knives.
Mohogany: Mohogany is non-porous, but with a Janka rating around 2200 lbf, it's too hard to make a good cutting board. It is also listed by some sites as toxic.
Oak: Oak falls within a good Janka rating, but it is a very porous wood, so it absorbs odors easily, making it a not-great choice for cutting boards.
Pecan: Pecan has a Janka rating of 1820 lbf, which makes it too hard to make a good cutting board. Pecan wood is also very porous, so it will absorb odors and bacteria too easily to make a good cutting board.
Hickory: Hickory has a Janka rating of 1820 lbf, so it's too hard for an ideal cutting board.
Douglas Fir: Douglas fir is too soft to make a good cutting board (Janka rating 640 lbf).
Yellow Pine: Yellow pine is too soft to make a good cutting board (Janka rating 870 lbf). It can also have a piny smell, which is bad for food prep.
End Grain Vs. Edge Grain
Have you ever wondered why most wooden cutting boards don't show knife marks the way plastic cutting boards do? It's because wood boards are made of fibers, and these fibers have the ability to "heal" themselves. That is, when you cut into them, these fibers will actually close over the cuts, so that they hardly show.
The two types of wood cutting boards are edge grain and end grain. These are the differences:
Edge grain cutting boards, which are also called long grain or side grain, are cut with the grain. An edge grain board shows the natural grain of the wood.
Edge grain boards allow less moisture in and need less oiling than end grain boards. They are also less expensive because they require less labor to make.
However, edge grain boards are harder on knives and will show more knife marks than end grain boards.
End grain cutting boards, also called end cut or block cut, are cut against the grain, exposing the wood fibers. End grain cutting boards can be identified by the checkerboard (or brick) pattern, made by small blocks of wood glued together.
End grain boards are more durable than edge grain boards. The end grains work with a knife rather than against it, meaning that the knife cuts between the fibers. Cutting between the fibers allows the wood to "heal"more easily, which is why end grain cutting boards show fewer cut marks than edge grain boards.
End grain boards dry out more easily (because more of the fibers are exposed), so they need more frequent oiling than edge grain boards. They are also more labor intensive to make, which means they're more expensive. In fact, end grain wood boards are some of the most expensive cutting boards you can buy (but also some of the nicest).
Which is better? End grain boards are easier on knives and more food safe because the fibers close up better. But they're more expensive (because they're more labor intensive to make), and they require more oiling.
Both types of cutting board are good choices, depending on what you're looking for.
Is Bamboo a Wood?
Bamboo looks like a wood, but it is not. It is actually a grass.
Bamboo fibers are actually quite hard, so bamboo cutting boards are harder on your knives than just about any kind of wood cutting board.
However, bamboo is one of the most sustainable materials on the planet, so if you're environmentally conscious, you may want to choose a bamboo cutting board over wood.
You can read more about bamboo cutting boards in our review of the best bamboo cutting boards.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Safe?
Yes, as long as cutting boards are made of woods that don't contain toxins and are put together with food-grade glues and finishes (such as food-grade mineral oil), they are safe.
All glues used on cutting boards should be food-grade and safe for food preparation, but you should always make sure before you buy, especially if you go with a bargain or no-name brand.
What Is FSC Certification?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organization that certifies that wood used in manufacturing comes from well-managed forests.
FSC certification means that a cutting board is made from sustainable, ethically sourced woods. It can also indicate that the manufacturer uses environmentally conscious manufacturing practices.
All in all, FSC certification is a seal of approval for anyone who cares about the environment.
How to Care for Wood Cutting Boards
Though wood is probably the highest maintenance cutting board material, they are easy to care for, nevertheless.
Caring for wood cutting boards requires two main tasks: washing and oiling.
Washing: Wash a wood cutting board after every use. To wash, use warm soapy water and a scrub brush. Do not immerse the board in water. Wet it, scrub it with soapy water, rinse, wipe with a kitchen towel, then allow to air dry completely, preferably on a wire rack so air can reach all sides of the board.
Oiling: Oiling a wood cutting board is very important. Regular oiling will prevent cracking and warping because it seals it, preventing water from seeping into the wood. The best oil to use is a food-grade mineral oil because it's non-toxic and won't go rancid like cooking oils can. (Don't use non-food-grade mineral oil because it can have additives like fragrances that are not safe to consume.)
To oil, simply pour oil on a clean, dry cutting board and spread it around so that it coats the whole board (you can do one side at a time if it's easier). Allow the oil to soak into the board for several hours or overnight. It's a good idea to keep applying oil until it stops soaking into the board. When saturated, wipe the excess oil off the board and buff it a bit to dry it and shine up the surface.
How often should you oil your board? It depends. When a board is new, it needs more oiling, especially if it did not come oiled (some do, most do not). Boardsmith, the makers of our favorite board, recommend oiling before the first use, then weekly for the first month, then monthly after that, or as needed. If you live in a dry climate, your board may need more frequent oiling, but once a month is the most common time period recommended by experts.
Problems with Wood Cutting Boards (And How to Fix Them)
In addition to regular cleaning and oiling, there are a number of issues that you can have with a wood cutting board that require special treatment. Here are the most common issues and how to fix them.
Stains: Foods like beets can leave stains on a wood cutting board. The easiest way to deal with this is time, because the stains will dissipate with time and several cleanings. If you want to get the stain out, though, you can sprinkle the board with baking soda, then spray lightly with vinegar and scrub vigorously with a brush. Rinse thoroughly and air dry on a wire rack (if possible). This will remove most stains.
Odors: Wood can absorb odors such as onion and garlic. There are a few methods to remove odors: one is to rub with a raw apple or potato, either of which will absorb odors. Or, you can sprinkle with coarse salt, then scrub with half a lemon, which will absorb odors and clean the board. Whichever method you use, rinse the board afterward and allow to air dry, preferably on a wire rack so air can reach all sides.
You can use the salt-and-lemon method for stains, too.
Warping: Even thick cutting boards can warp. Warping is caused by water seeping into the pores of the wood, particularly just on one side. The moisture causes part of the cutting board to swell, while the rest of it remains dry--which can cause it to warp.
The easiest way to correct warping is to wet the un-used side of the board. This should cause it to straighten out. If not, repeat the process until it does straighten out. Then let it dry thoroughly and oil it, which is the key to prevent warping in the first place (because the oil prevents water from seeping into the board).
We talk more about oiling above in the section on how to care for wood cutting boards.
Cracks: Small cracks and splits usually happen in dry months and correct themselves in wet months, so if they're small, don't worry about them too much. Cracks also happen to boards that haven't been properly oiled. To fix, oil the board thoroughly--and be sure to oil often enough to prevent cracks from happening again.
Wood Cutting Board Pros and Cons
Here's a summary of wood cutting board pros and cons:
Our Recommended Wood Cutting Boards (Reviews)
Here are our favorite wood cutting boards out of all the boards we researched and tested.
Best End Grain Cutting Board: Boardsmith Maple End Grain Board
Size: 18" x 12" x 2"
Weight: 12.5 lbs.
- End grain maple made from sustainably harvested trees
- Soaked in food-grade mineral oil (ready to use!)
- Buffed with food-grade beeswax
- Recessed handles
- Rubber feet on one side
- Made in USA.
What we like: This board is, in a word, exquisite. The finishing is flawless; all the sides are buffed to complete smoothness, as you can see in this photo:
Most experts consider maple the best wood for cutting boards, and we agree. This Boardsmith board won't disappoint. It stands up to heavy use and time. It should last in your kitchen for a decade or more.
Cutting on this board is a joy. Cuts heal beautifully, so the board shows very little wear and tear. It grabs your knife blade ever so gently and feels great. Cut marks barely show on the surface of this board.
We love that this board is well-oiled and buffed with beeswax, so it's ready to use out of the box (all wood cutting boards need to be oiled before use and regularly thereafter if you want them to last). Boardsmith recommends oiling weekly for the first month, then monthly for a few months, then "as needed" after that. You'll get a feel for the board and when it needs oiling with regular use.
It comes with rubber feet, and is available in a few sizes (two sizes on Amazon). If you want to exclude the feet or want a different size than Amazon carries (this one and a larger one for about $340), check out the Boardsmith website.
What we don't like: Other than the price, there's nothing to dislike about this cutting board. If you have ergonomic or strength issues, you may prefer a lighter board, but you won't get the quality you get from a thick board like this one, and it won't be as stable on the countertop.
This Boardsmith board is pretty much perfect.
buy boardsmith Maple end grain board:
Best Edge Grain Cutting Board: Teakhaus Large Cutting Board
Size: 20" x 15" x 1.5" (several sizes available at the link above)
Weight: 10.5 lbs.
- FSC certified edge grain teak wood, ethically and sustainably produced
- Recessed handles
- No juice groove (available on other sizes)
- No feet.
What we like: This is a large, durable cutting board. Teak is a good wood for cutting boards, even favored over maple and walnut by some makers. In general teak is similar to maple in hardness, though it's a little harder on knives.
Teak has other favorable qualities, too, such as requiring less oil than other woods, being very non-porous so it doesn't absorb a lot of moisture or odors, and holding up well to cuts and scratches.
Teak is also one of the most durable woods for a cutting board.
This cutting board is also pretty, with its intermingling shades of brown and tan.
There are 14 size and style options on this Amazon page, so if this isn't the size you want, or if you want a juice groove on one side, check out the link to see all the different cutting boards available.
What we don't like: Teak has a higher silica content than maple or walnut, so even though the hardness rating is close to maple, it's harder on knives. But unless you have very expensive knives, you probably won't notice much of a difference (some makers even say teak is better for knives than maple).
The board we picked doesn't have feet or a juice groove, which we think is preferable for your main prepping board. But if you want a juice groove--or a different size--check out the Amazon link to see Teakhuas' many, many buying options.
Teakhaus cutting boards are made in Vietnam, the only one of our picks that isn't made in the USA.
Some of the negative reviews on Amazon were about splitting, warping, and poor quality finishing. However, one of our testers has had this board in his kitchen for more than three years, and hasn't had a bit of trouble with it.
buy teakhaus cutting board:
Best Budget Cutting Board: Sonder Edge Grain Maple Board
Size: 17" x 13" x 1.5"
Weight: 8 lbs.
- Edge grain, sustainably sourced hard maple
- Recessed handles
- Deep juice groove
- Cracker well on one side
- No feet
- Comes in a gift box
- Made in USA.
What we like: Sonder is a respected name in the cutting board industry, known for their high quality and their superb customer service. We love that all of their products are made in the USA from sustainably sourced woods.
This is a very pretty, light-grained cutting board that can double as a classy charcuterie board. It has a deep juice groove on one side, and a well for crackers on the other (see image below). These features make this board a versatile tool you can use for prepping, meat carving, and presentation.
At 1.5 inches thick, it's heavy enough to stay in place when you're cutting on it. It's hard enough to be durable but soft enough to be easy on your knives.
This is far from the cheapest wood cutting board on Amazon. You can find them for under $20, but none of them are going to be made from sustainably sourced hard maple (most of the cheapies are acacia or bamboo, which are harder on your knives), none of them will be this thick, and none of them will have the quality or the customer service you'll get from Sonder. Also, when you buy from a reputable maker, you can rest assured that the glues and finishes on the cutting board are food-grade and safe to use.
For the quality, this is an excellent price.
If this board isn't right for you, check out Sonder's Amazon page. They have several options.
What we don't like: The deep juice groove is a nice feature if you're going to use it for carving meat, but it does reduce the amount of usable cutting area. And even more so does the cracker well on the other side. As great as this board is, be sure you want these features before you buy--and if you do want to use it for a charcuterie board, you probably won't want to cut on this side in order to preserve the appearance.
buy sonder edge grain maple cutting board:
Best Splurge Cutting Board: Brooklyn Butcher Block End Grain Cutting Board
About $350 ($370 at BBB website)
Weight: About 10 lbs.
- Black walnut and cherry wood (primarily walnut)
- Made in USA
- No handles or feet (all cutting surface)
- Beautiful brick pattern.
What we like: This cutting board from Brooklyn Butcher Blocks is striking in appearance and great to use. It is made of black walnut wood, which many experts believe rivals maple for the best cutting board wood, with cherry wood "mortar" in between the blocks of walnut. It's gorgeous and a joy to cut on. Black walnut is quite a bit softer than hard maple, so if you're looking for a premium board in a softer wood, go with this one over the Boardsmith board (above).
(See Janka ratings above for more details on wood hardness.)
You may not want to cut on it because it's so pretty, but have no worries: this board heals from cuts so well that you can hardly tell it's been used. That may also be attributable to its dark surface.
At 18" x 12", it's a good size for most kitchens, and a pretty standard size for a main prepping board.
What we don't like: This board is stunning and there's not a lot to dislike, but there are a few things. First, it has no handles or feet, and neither are an option. The weight keeps the board stable on your countertop during use, but it can be a little tricky to maneuver without any handles. There's also no juice groove, so it's not a great choice for carving meats.
There are no other sizes available in this design. Other Brooklyn Butcher Block cutting boards offer buying options such as feet, handles, and a juice groove, but they tend to only come in one size.
And of course, this is a real investment, though if you can afford it, it's a piece that will look great in any kitchen and should last for a decade or more.
Finally, it's heavy, so it's not a good choice for anyone with ergonomic issues (especially without handles).
buy brooklyn butcher block end grain cutting board:
Other Boards We Tested
Aidea Acacia Wood Cutting Board Set (15"x10", 12"x8", 9"x6", 0.6" thick, about $30): This was by far the cheapest cutting board we tested, and we found that you really do get what you pay for. Yes, they're smaller than other boards we tested, but the price is still too high; these boards were thin and felt cheap, and they were poorly finished, with edges rough enough to give you slivers. Not recommended.
Boos Maple Edge Grain Cutting Board (20"x15"x1.5", about $130): A lovely board, but the Sonder board we pick as best edge grain board is just as thick (and slightly smaller) for half the price.
Boos Reversible Maple End Grain Cutting Board (20"x15"x2.25, about $295): We all loved this board, but it had a high number of 1-star reviews, mostly complaining about cracking and warping. WAY too expensive for this number of negative reviews.
Ironwood Acacia End Grain Board (14"x14"x1.25", about $45): This is a very pretty board and looks sturdy, but the one we ordered had a crack in it. The end grain pieces are small, which means more glue, which means more places the board can crack.
Made In Beech Butcher Block Edge Grain Board (18"x12"x1.5", about $130): Beech is nice wood for a cutting board, right in the middle of the Janka scale. This board was pretty and felt durable, but is very light, and not as pretty (in our testers' opinions) as some of the other boards tested. The Made In board we tested was excellent, but we did find a few negative reviews online, which shouldn't happen at this price.
Mevell American Black Walnut Edge Grain Cutting Board (17"x11"x0.75", about $60): Made in Canada with sustainable black walnut, this is a very nice, reasonably priced cutting board. The finish was a little rough, but otherwise it's a pretty board and a good size. It's thin, but if you want a lighter board you may prefer this. If you want to save money yet still get a good-sized board, this is a decent choice.
Shun Hinoki Cutting Board (15.75"x10.75"x0.5", about $50): For the price, it's not a bad board, but it's thin and pretty soft, which is good for your knives. (Hinoki wood is recommended by many experts for Japanese knives.) This board is thin enough to warp, but if you want a smaller, lighter board, it's a good choice. And if it does warp, Shun recommends you flip it over and use the other side until it straightens itself out.
Virginia Boys Kitchen Black Walnut Edge Grain Cutting Board (17"x11"x0.75", about $85): A pretty dark wood board that gets good reviews, is a decent price, and is made in the USA. Unfortunately, it had poor quality finishing, such as an unsanded juice groove and somewhat rough edges. And it's on the thin side for a heavy duty board (though no complaints of warping). It was also supposed to have been pre-seasoned, and it didn't seem to be. We really wanted to love this board, but overall, we think it's a miss.
Wood Cutting Board FAQs
Here are some common questions about wood cutting boards.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Better than Plastic?
It really depends on your preference. Wood cutting boards are prettier and, surprisingly, more sanitary than plastic cutting boards because the cuts heal over, and this kills the bacteria. Plastic cutting boards can't do this, so they tend to harbor more bacteria. However, plastic cutting boards are dishwasher safe and don't need oiling, so they're easier to maintain.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Sanitary?
Yes, wood cutting boards are sanitary, but they do need to be washed after every use, like all food prep tools.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Safe to Use?
Yes, wood cutting boards are sanitary, but they do need to be washed after use (like all kitchen tools). Some woods have antibacterial properties, and when the cuts in the wood heal over, they seal in the bacteria and kill it. This means that wood cutting boards are actually safer to use than plastic cutting boards.
Another safety issue is that wood cutting boards are manufactured with glues and finishes, all of which should be food-grade and safe for preparing food. But we recommend not buying cheap, no-name cutting boards to make sure all the glues and finishes are safe.
What Is the Best Wood for a Cutting Board?
There are differing opinions on this, but the top three woods seem to be maple, walnut, and teak. Other popular woods for cutting boards include cherry, beech, and acacia. Most experts seem to like hard maple best.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Dishwasher Safe?
No, you cannot put a wood cutting board in the dishwasher. They must be washed by hand with warm soapy water, rinsed thoroughly, and left to dry where air can circulate around the board.
Can Wood Cutting Boards Mold?
Yes: Anything in your kitchen can mold if it's not properly cleaned after use. To prevent your wood cutting board from molding, wash after every use and let it air dry.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Good for Meat?
Wood cutting boards are excellent for carving cooked meats, especially if they have a juice groove. You can use wood for raw meats, as well, but plastic may be a better choice because you can put it in the dishwasher. If you do use a wood cutting board for raw meats, be sure to wash thoroughly with warm, soapy water.
Are Wood Cutting Boards Easy to Maintain?
Wood cutting boards are the most difficult to maintain of all types of cutting boards, but even so, they are not difficult to care for. You must wash by hand and oil them periodically to prevent cracking. Most people who want the beauty of a wood cutting board are willing to take on these simple maintenance tasks.
Final Thoughts on Wood Cutting Boards
Wood cutting boards are the most popular choice for main prepping boards among professional chefs and serious home cooks. They are beautiful, sanitary, better for your knives than other materials, and add a beautiful touch to any kitchen.
The best woods for cutting boards are maple, walnut, and teak, with other popular choices being beech, oak, cherry, and acacia. They do have to be washed by hand and oiled periodically, but most people find the maintenance easy to do.
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