Is Red Oak Good For Cutting Boards? [Answered]

All kinds of wood can be used for cutting boards. Even plastics can be used. But what if the only material you have available is red oak?

So today we are going to look into the question: is red oak good for cutting boards?

Yes, Red Oak is a decent material for cutting boards. It is a hardwood and can withstand the slicing of a knife. Though the large pores found on oak wood are a problem. But, it can be easily counteracted.

Still wondering if red wood will be a good choice? Our in-depth article will guide you in your search for answers.

Let’s jump in!

What Makes Wood Good For Cutting Boards?

What Makes Wood Good For Cutting Board

Not all wood is good enough for cutting boards. We shall consider three key characteristics for being good for cutting boards. Let’s see how red oak fairs in those characteristics.

Wood Hardness

Wood hardness is calculated by a test called the Janka hardness test.  The test compares various types of wood and their relative hardness.

The Australian Buloke is on the higher end of the Janka hardness test. Its rating is at 5060.  Balsa comes in at the lower end. It has a mere 70 rating.

Now for a cutting board, the hardness has to be just right. The optimal hardness is in the Janka range of 900 to 1500 for cutting boards.

The hardness has to be optimal. It is because wood that is too hard may cause your knife’s cutting edge to dull quickly. On the other hand, wood that is too soft will make the board easily absorb liquid and even mar. 

Red oak has a Janka rating of 1290. It is perfectly in the optimal hardness range. 

Wood Porosity

Wood porosity is another aspect you must consider. Porosity is an intrinsic property of wood. The pores or holes are basically like pipelines inside the trunk of a tree.

Woods that have more closed pores are better suited for cutting boards.  This should be considered with great importance. Especially since chopping blocks are usually constructed using end-grain.

Notably, woods with high porosity should not be used. Because they may absorb liquid and food.

Red Oak has a very porous grain. But this problem can be solved via sealing methods.

Wood Toxicity

Last but not least, the wood must be safe to use for food contact. Some woods are naturally toxic. Some woods have insect repellent oil in them. It goes without saying, both of them should be avoided for cutting boards.

Some exotic woods are not appropriate for cutting boards. The dust created from working on such woods is the main cause of irritation or toxicity.

Red oak is safe for use. It does not cause harm when it comes into contact with food.

Red Oak Cutting Board

Out of the three properties we discussed, red oak has two nailed down. But the porosity of red oak is a problem.

This is why red oak is not the best choice for making cutting boards with. Maple, Walnut, and Cherry are the best woods for cutting boards. But red oak is usable.

To use red oak as a cutting board, you must seal it. Or else the porosity will cause problems. So let’s look into the sealing process.

Sealing a Red Oak Cutting Board

Sealing is a necessary step for all wood cutting boards. It not only helps with the porosity but also helps to prevent anything from penetrating into the wood.

The sealing process is pretty simple to execute. All you need is the adequate sealant. With that, you are ready to seal your board.

To seal the red oak, you will need a suitable oil. Linseed or walnut oil will do the trick. Careful about using these oils though. As they will usually add their own color tint to the wood when used. The color of the tint is shown on the packaging.

To apply the oil to the cutting board use a lint-free cloth. Rub the cloth in circular motions along with the board. Continue rubbing till the oil has been evenly applied. Then allow the oil to soak in.

So we can see that sealing your red oak board is pretty easy. But it is best if you repeat this process once every few months for maximum protection. 

Best Grain For Red Oak Cutting Board

Wood has different kinds of grains. Different grains have different characteristics. So some grains are better than others for cutting boards.

So which grain of red oak should you select for your cutting board? There are mainly three kinds of grains. They are:

  • The face grain – This has the lowest quality and is most prone to deforming.
  • The edge grain – This is the mid-quality of the three.
  • The end grain – This is the highest quality grain. It is often used in butcher’s blocks.

There are cutting boards made from face grains. They are cheap but of low quality. They break easily. Especially for expensive timber like red oak, it is best to avoid face grains. Hits from the knife may easily deform the board.

On that note, using end grain red oak is the best choice. End grains are very tough and are unlikely to deform easily. And the composition of end grain wood is very good for cutting boards.  

Surprisingly, end grain boards are good for your board as well. They also help your knife retain its sharpness. 

It is because the wooden boards have been condensely packed with a bunch of brush bristles. When your knife blade hits the board, the bristles of the wood move apart. This gives way to the blade. Again, when the blade is lifted the ‘bristles’ of the wood grain move back to their original place.

Of course, the phenomena take place at a micro-level. So you can’t really see any of this with the naked eye. But it is for sure that end grain cutting boards are far better for the edge of the blade than any other grain type.


Is Red Oak Bad For Cutting Boards?

Red oak is not a terrible choice for cutting boards. But due to its high pore density, you will have to seal the board before using it. Or else it may absorb liquid or food into the pores.

What Is The Best Wood For Cutting Board?

Cherry, Walnut, and Maple are the top choices for cutting boards. These three kinds of wood meet the criteria for being durable, safe, and having the right amount of pores for cutting boards. You cannot go wrong with any of these three. 


Now we hope we could answer: is red oak good for cutting boards? Red oak is not the best choice, but it is a good choice.

In case of hardness and toxicity red oak is excellent for cutting boards. But the porous nature is what holds it back. 

Until next time!

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