Professional chefs, at-home chefs, and gourmets set high standards when it comes to what cooking utensils and accessories they use and feature in their kitchens. From knives to cutting boards, quality, durability, and safety make a difference when seeking out the right tools. Cutting boards are essential to all aspects of a meal. Obviously, there is the prep of dicing, mincing, chopping, and slicing. Larger cutting boards or butcher blocks are pulled out on holidays to carve turkeys, hams, and roasts. And, with today’s trend of making charcuterie and dessert boards for happy hours and dinner parties, cutting boards have become more popular than ever.
Your cutting board should be able to handle both meal prep and carving. Woods and grains are taken into consideration when determining the best wood for end grain cutting boards. Before picking up a knife or cleaver, thinking about the most reliable hard surface in the kitchen is definitely on every chef’s mind. In this article, the best woods for end grain cutting boards will be examined. First, you will learn why end grain is the favored wood grain for cutting boards, and how these woods score within the Janka system.
Hardwoods from native tree species are the most reliable for end grain cutting boards. Dense hardwoods with fine grains including walnut, hard maple, birch, and cherry are the most commonly used. You can’t beat these woods for their extraordinary durability.
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End Grain Cutting Boards
The cut end grain of hardwood is the strongest side. This side of the wood gives your cutting board the best stability.
Knives and cleavers are best protected when working upon the surface of the end grain cut. This solid wood can better absorb the force of the knife cutting upon the wood. In fact, this side of the wood is considered to be “self-healing.” As the knife punctures the surface it creates a cut, but as the knife is pulled out, the wood fibers close back up on their own.
In general, this end grain side can take quite the beating and maintain a smooth and durable surface that holds up over many, many years. Because of the surface’s tight wood fiber structure, the end grain repels food or bacteria from seeping into the body of the wood. Thus making this surface very food-friendly and sanitary.
Typically end grain cutting boards are made in cuts ranging from 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches thick. You’ll enjoy these types of cutting boards for years to come. They won’t split or warp.
Chefs love their end grain cutting boards for the wide variety of designs and unique patterns including checkerboard, houndstooth, and basketweave, just to name a few.
Woodworkers choose dense hardwoods including Walnut, Hard Maple, Birch, and Cherry when constructing cutting boards for multiple reasons including knife protection, anti-bacterial and renewable sourcing.
The Janka test was created to measure the strength and hardness of wood. An innovative variation of the original Brinell hardness test, the Janka version measures how much force is required to push a steel ball (0.444 inches in diameter and 11.28 millimeters) into the wood equal to the depth of half of the ball’s diameter. Janka is the force unit or pounds to force.
Best Woods for End Grain Cutting Boards
In the mid to late 1800s, cutting boards aka butcher blocks were popular amongst butchers for cutting meats. Over the years, cutting boards became even more practical in modern kitchens to prepare and cut food while protecting kitchen countertops and providing a stable surface for knife use.
Known for its beauty and fundamental applications, walnut is American sourced from forests in Maine and Virginia. A top wood choice for end grain cutting boards, walnut is a popular end grain wood for its anti-bacterial and moisture resistant properties. Walnut is a little softer than the other woods that will be discussed next. The porous wood of walnut is just easier on knife blades, which will actually help to maintain your knives, not dull them. The blade of the knife cuts between the wood fibers not straight into the wood. Another benefit is stains are hard to see against the dark wood. Its Janka rating is 1010.
Walnut’s deep color is a beautiful accent in the kitchen.
Also known as sugar maple, maple is a sturdy and renewable native tree species from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. This solid Hard Maple is one of the more ideal uses for cutting boards. Its solid surface resists deep cuts, scratches, and significant scoring. Resistant to bacteria, maple is closed grain, which prevents food particles from permeating into the hardwood. Janka’s rating for Hard Maple is 1450.
The light color maple brightens up a kitchen workspace and works well in a range of kitchen decors.
Another great option to check out is birch. This type of wood will serve your cooking and kitchen needs well. Found in the northern parts of the U.S., birch is also grown in the mountains of Oregon, Virginia, and Tennessee. One of the best woods to take on the impact of chopping, Birch is one more durable wood for end grain cutting boards.
Featuring a smooth texture and surface, birch is a stable hardwood. Knives will not leave permanent scores or marks on the surface. It features a tight grain so food bits can’t creep into the wood enabling chefs to keep the cutting board free of bacteria. Its Janka rating is 1260.
Birch is characterized by its reddish-brown shading and adds rich warm tones to any kitchen.
Cherry is known for its strong, dense, and stable natural properties. Grown in Michigan, Washington, California, and Oregon, cherry wood comes from the cherry tree. The non-toxic wood makes it safe and appropriate when food comes into contact with it. In addition, this fine grain wood is not porous. This is a great benefit to preventing any bacteria growth and food staining. Even though cherry is strong, the wood is soft enough to take the impact of a knife without damaging the knife or cutting board. The Janka rating is 1000.
The rich color of cherry wood is pretty and is both practical and beautiful to work with.
Maintenance and Care
Taking care of your end grain cutting board is essential. You’ll want to follow these simple how-tos to keep your end grain cutting boards in the best shape for long time use.
- Never put it in the dishwasher.
- Wash your board with soap and hot water.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Professional wood makers suggest treating your boards with a monthly rub of food-grade mineral oil. Note: Do not use vegetable or olive oil.