Why Choose Wood
Wood is an excellent choice when it comes to picking a cutting board material. The natural anti-bacterial qualities, softer material that is easier on knife blades, and of course the fact that they look great are just a few reasons that come to mind. Additionally, with a more forgiving flat surface, you will have better connection between the knife blade and board, making for easier, cleaner food cutting.
Take a look at the following sections for a little more information about woods themselves, as well as how to care for your cutting board.
Type of Wood Grain and Species
The best way to think of wood grain, is to visualize the board as a collection of very small straws. This is important to understand so that you can know the difference between edge grain and end grain cutting boards. Edge grain cutting boards have the straw orientation horizontally, which does not allow for as much absorption, and is a harder surface to cut on. End grain cutting boards (or butcher blocks) have the straw orientation vertically, which allows for more absorption, is easier on knife blades, and has slightly better “healing” properties where the straws can reconnect slightly after cuts.
With the faster absorption that comes with end grain cutting boards, it is even more important to maintain the board with some type of board butter or wax to keep it conditioned. This will extend the life of the board and help prevent it from warping or cracking.
The hardness of a wood species is determined by a scale, called Janka. Without going too in depth, this is a way to quantify how much resistance to pressure a specific species has, and a method of comparing different wood types. It is important to have a wood that is hard enough to avoid deep cuts, while not being so hard that it dulls your blade quickly.
A Janka rating of 900 - 1500 is typically an ideal range for cutting boards as a good balance between soft and hard, which is the range where Cherry (950), Walnut (1010), and Maple (1450) are classified. While exotic woods like Tigerwood (1850), Purple Heart (2090), and Bloodwood (2900), make very good-looking cutting boards, it is important to note their hardness as they will have the tendency to dull blades faster. Alternatively, woods like Fir (440) and Pine (540) are too soft and results in deeper cut marks.
One last noteworthy aspect of exotic woods is that certain species can cause allergic responses for some people. While most of the issues would only arise if the wood itself was ingested or the dust inhaled, it is important to understand the risks, despite how small they may be. Food safe finishes do help minimize the risk of allergic response, but we want you to stay informed in the case of more allergy sensitive individuals.
Maintenance and Care
Cutting boards should be hand washed with soap and water, then left to dry. Never put your board in the dishwasher, as the water temperature and duration can be damaging. Also, you do not want to submerge your cutting board fully, its best to have running water to clean.
As a general rule, about once a month it is a good idea to condition your board to keep it from drying out, which can lead to cracking. Food grade mineral oil is commonly used for this as it absorbs into the wood efficiently. What I have found that works even better is a mix of beeswax and mineral oil to both absorb into the grain and have an added layer of protection. Another option if you would prefer not to use mineral oil would be fractioned coconut oil, which can also be combined with beeswax for similar protective benefits.