Toxic woods for cutting boards – how not to make a mistake with the choice?

A cutting board is a simple and indispensable item in any kitchen. In cooking, it plays no less a role than a frying pan, knife or stove. A high-quality cutting board will help you get the maximum benefit and taste from the cooking process.

A cutting board is an element of kitchen utensils that is used as a substrate when cutting food, as well as a chopping block, and sometimes even a tray.

There is a wide variety of boards made of different materials, different shapes and sizes on the market, and this article is devoted to their analysis from the point of view of safety of use.

How to choose a cutting board?

A cutting board can perform a huge number of functions in the kitchen, in addition to directly cutting food on it. It is for this reason that when choosing a cutting board, it is very important to pay attention to such important criteria as:

  • material of cutting board;
  • strength;
  • hygiene;
  • ease of use;
  • practicality;
  • safety;
  • cost.

The main competitors in the fight for a place in the kitchen are wooden boards, plastic cutting boards and glass cutting boards. However, most often in the kitchen people prefer to use wooden boards for a number of reasons.

Centuries of experience proves the durability and ease of use of wooden cutting boards. In addition, the tree is a renewable natural resource, which indicates its absolute environmental friendliness.

Now that we have realized that a wooden board is better, let’s understand the criteria for choosing it.

By what criteria is it necessary to choose wooden cutting boards?

When choosing, it is important to take into account what kind of wood the board is made of. One of the best options is oak, and we will consider the other options a little later.


An equally important criterion that many do not pay attention to when purchasing a wooden cutting board is the toxicity of wood. It is important to be able to choose the highest quality (and usually more expensive) option.

In this case, you can insure yourself against the release of resin or other dangerous substances.


The next criterion is the assembly of a wooden cutting board: whether it is made from a single piece or is a glued analog.


It is also important to pay attention to such quality of wood as its lowest porosity. Which means that the pores on the wooden cutting board should be minimal and invisible. Porous wood is prone to rapid damage and sudden breakage.

There are woods that are too soft for a cutting board. For this reason, they may have cracks and knife marks or may even change their original shape from use. The knife blade can be dangerous for some types of wood, for example: juniper, red spruce, cedar, Douglas fir and balsam.

Although many types of wood have a fairly high porosity, they are practically not affected by bacteria. This is achieved by using high-quality hardwood: beech, oak, maple, cherry, walnut and others, as well as by repeatedly applying special mineral oils after manufacture.

The oils are absorbed into the pores of the cutting board made of wood, providing additional strength, hygiene and moisture resistance. During the life of the board in your kitchen, the top layer of oil, of course, is erased, and woods shrink, or wood warping may appear.

Therefore, it is necessary to periodically cover the wooden boards with a new layer, so that you can prevent such problem as woods shrink.

Cost and design

Finally, it is important to pay attention to the cost and appearance of the utensils, because cutting boards should fit the overall interior of the kitchen or dining room.

As for the prices of cutting surfaces in stores – they vary depending on the wood and the cutting board makers. Usually the cutting boards fall at the bottom of the rows with the boards, and the cutting blocks are at the top.

What is a unacceptable material for cutting boards?

Anything that is very hard is an unacceptable material for a cutting board. It can be glass, marble, stone, cement, granite or something else very hard.

Firstly, the materials are very hard and can blunt the blade quite quickly.

Secondly, these slippery materials, such as granite and glass, are also unstable for cutting, since the knife does not stick as soon as it comes into contact with the cutting board, and this can mean that you can cut yourself too.

What kind of wood makes the best cutting boards?

Wooden boards make the kitchen bright and homely. This is a classic, relevant at all times, although such kitchen appliances have their drawbacks.

The cheapest and short—lived option is boards made of softer woods (birch, pine and linden) or open grained woods, they wear off quickly, deform from moisture, but they do not blunt knives. Basically, cutting board makers prefer making this type of board.

Knife notches easily appear on these store bought cutting surfaces, through which germs penetrate.

Hardwood (beech, oak, ash, acacia) is not afraid of water, lasts longer, but damages the edge of the knife, oak boards are ideal for chopping meat, such as steaks.

The best modern materials of wood for cutting boards with excellent cutting surfaces are bamboo and rubber tree hevea.

Such boards are very practical, because they do not absorb food odors, do not deform from water and temperature changes, scratches and cracks do not form on them.

Let’s consider separately the best wood species for cutting boards, which can provide excellent cutting surfaces.

Hard maple

Hard maple is the standard wood for cutting boards, because it does not give food a taste and has good wear resistance.

Maple is an excellent material for carving and creating wood cutting boards. It has a high resistance to chipping, so very thin cuts can be made on its wood.

Hard maple (1,450 pounds per square inch on the Janka hardness scale) is mainly used in the production of wood cutting boards. This is because hard maple cutting surfaces is more resistant to scratches from sharp objects, has a smooth surface and is out of competition.


This tree is native to North America, Europe and Asia. It has excellent hardness and durability. A characteristic feature of the material is a reddish hue and a beautiful natural pattern.

The main disadvantage of this breed is hygroscopicity, that is, a beech board, like a linden board, absorbs moisture well.

To extend the service life, the surface of this wood is impregnated with varnish, which is not very good for working in the kitchen.

But if you use it for cutting exclusively dry products, for example, bread, then it will be able to last quite a long time.


In hardness, and in many characteristics, walnut wood is similar to oak. It is easily processed and has a smooth and large texture and a luxurious color.

Kitchen cutting boards made of black walnut are not afraid of moisture and have high wear resistance.

A smooth and stable cutting surface is obtained from this type of wood.

Wood is cheaper than oak or other wood species, if the funds do not allow you to purchase “royal” wood, then this will be the optimal choice.


Teak is famous for its enviable durability, water resistance and resistance to mechanical wear. Even after several months of constant use, the teak cutting board will retain its original color and original texture.

A smooth and stable cutting surface is also obtained from this type of wood.

Teak shrinks less than other kind of relatively inexpensive wood for wood cutting boards. Therefore, there is an opportunity and advantage to process it less often than other cutting boards.

When choosing a suitable board, pay attention to its side surface, according to which it can be concluded that it is made of solid wood or glued together from individual bars. The presence of a wood pattern indicates that you are holding a solid wood board in your hands.

If the board has a sufficient thickness, the fibers do not go across, but along the board, which means that it will last much longer.

In general, it is believed that the glued board is more durable and does not deform if it is not left for a long time in a humid environment.

However, many housewives are wary of boards made of glued bars, plywood and chipboard — and they do it right, because with poor-quality gluing, the board can be stratified, and glue particles will get into food.

The choice of wood for making wooden spoons and other household utensils will be the same.

What woods are food safe?

All of the above woods (maple, beech, walnut, teak) are food safe. However, in addition to this, manufacturers produce wood for cutting boards from a variety of tree varieties, many of which are food safe, for example, end grain cutting boards. Let’s find out more about these food safe wood varieties.


It has a beautiful silky structure that somewhat resembles oak. In terms of density and hardness, this wood surpasses even oak and other woods.

Such a cutting board is practical, resists moisture well, has a very long service life, but knives quickly become dull about it. This wood can be considered as a food safe wood, and can be used in order to produce butcher blocks.


Products made of it have excellent quality, probably it is the best material for a cutting board. It is practically not susceptible to rotting, has amazing antibacterial properties. The wood has a golden-brown hue and texture that cannot be confused with anything.

This wood for cutting boards and butcher blocks is dense, though somewhat weighty, which guarantees a long service life and resistance to wear.

Oak grows for a very long time, there are trees that are more than 1000 years old, it is quite difficult to process – all this affects the price.

But it’s worth it: such products are not afraid of moisture. Professional chefs prefer this particular material.


This is a very good dense and hard wood with a reddish tinge. It grows mainly in Australia, Africa, Mexico and Asia. It makes excellent kitchen boards that serve their owners for more than one year. This wood can be considered as a food safe wood.

Can any wood be made food Safe?

The main advantage of cutting boards from wood is environmental friendliness, because natural wood is used for their manufacture.

But this does not apply in any way to those products that are made of sawdust and glue, like plywood.

According to the standards, no chemical reagents or substances dangerous to human health should be used in production.

The manufacturer must comply with all regulations and guarantee absolute safety.

However, it should be borne in mind that the cheapest products are unlikely to be made according to the norms, or using the best wood.

What woods are toxic?

Since ancient times, it has been known that some types of wood and objects made from them can be dangerous to health.

According to statistics, 2-5% of people have an allergic reaction to compounds contained in wood, even if it is not so toxic.

For example, with prolonged contact, the time of which depends on the individual characteristics of the organism, rosewood and even thuja (sometimes called red cedar), and other types of wood can cause trouble.

Exotic woods or its certain wood species can cause even more harm to health, causing inflammation, which doctors classify as skin irritation, or as allergic dermatitis. Rocks called primary irritants cause inflammation of the first type.

Such types of wood as silk tree (satinwood) and snake tree (snakewood) are breeds with irritating properties. Another examples are Purple Heart and other woods from tropical regions (hardwoods and exotic woods).

You should be alerted by the suspicious color of the wood, for example, an amber-yellow surface.

How to properly care for a wooden cutting board

Even after several months of constant use, cutting boards made of good material will retain its original color and original texture. No matter how reliable the material is, it still needs to be taken care of.

To protect the wood from odors and bacteria that can penetrate into the wood fibers along with the juices of fish, meat, vegetables and fruits, it is recommended to cover the household item with a protective compound.

How to cover a cutting wooden board? The answer to this question is found below in the article.

How to cover a wooden cutting board

To suppress wood’s natural tendency to warp or split as surrounding humidity decreases, natural ingredients are used – oils and mastics, which do not include toxic synthetic substances. It is best to cope with the task:

  • linseed oil;
  • mineral oil;
  • a mixture of mineral soap with beeswax;
  • nut butter;
  • carnauba wax;
  • food grade mineral oil.

Olive and vegetable oil seep into the pores of the cutting surface, turning the products into completely sealed and providing noticeable water-repellent properties.

On the other hand, over time, olive or vegetable oil can become rancid, which is why the taste of products cut on such a board can significantly suffer.

These types of oil should be applied to wood cutting boards and butcher blocks to suppress wood’s natural tendency to shrink.

How to clean a wooden cutting board properly

Compliance with the rules of care for wood for cutting boards, cutting surface made of wood and butcher blocks is, first of all, a hygienic requirement.

Regular cleaning wooden cutting boards and disinfection of cutting surface will help to avoid the settlement of pathogenic microorganisms or mold growth and poisoning of people.

Of course, proper care allows you to significantly extend the service life of the wood for cutting boards and to prevent such issues as mold growth.

The wooden product should be washed immediately after application, this will not allow odors and pigments to be absorbed from cutting surface. Soda, vinegar, or lemon juice are suitable for washing and disinfection.

All these substances perfectly remove odors from food preparation surface. But it is better to abandon the use of household cleaning chemicals – it eats into the cutting boards, and it is quite difficult to wash it from the fibers.


Can you use rosewood for a cutting board?

With prolonged contact, the time of which depends on the individual characteristics of the organism, rosewood can cause trouble. And also rosewood is too hard.

How to clean the cutting board after its application?

1. Immediately after use, the board should be cleaned with a knife to remove the pieces of food;
2. Rinse in warm water using baking soda or kitchen soap;
3. Pour boiling water over for disinfection;
4. Get wet with a dry towel and put away for storage in a dry, well-ventilated place.

If you are a woodworker, then you might find the article what is the best wood for a desk top helpful.

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