Red oak is a popular wood for a variety of uses, from furniture to flooring. But what about cutting boards? Is red oak good for cutting boards? This is an important question to consider, as the wood you use for cutting boards can greatly impact the quality and longevity of your board. 

For starters, red oak is a hardwood harder than softwood varieties. It is more durable and less likely to dent or scratch easily. Red oak is also a dense wood, which helps it retain its shape and resist warping. This makes it a good choice for cutting boards, as it can handle the rigors of being frequently used. Red oak also has a nice, natural grain pattern, adding beauty to any cutting board. Finally, red oak is relatively affordable compared to.

Is it worth it?

Though we use cutting boards day in, and day out, we rarely regard them with the same prestige as knives. Or consider the pros and cons of different models as we would when buying an expensive blender or air fryer. Most people have several in their rotation, a mix of suspects like plastic and wood. Sometimes with a more unexpected material thrown in, like rubber.

You would probably be wise to own your cutting board to grab whatever the task may be — chopping, carving, smashing, grating, slicing, peeling, fileting — at any moment.


Red oak is perfectly safe to use, not to mention prestigious conventionally. It is not recommended by many because of its open grain. Most do not realize there is a difference between “open grain” and “porous.” All hardwoods are porous by definition. Some woods have bigger pores than others. One contender for Red Oak is White Oak.

On the one hand, White oak has large pores but is closed-grained due to being watertight (That is why it is used for whiskey and wine barrels). Leaving producers with Red oak, which is “open-grained” with large pores, making it the conventionally preferred choice within the cultured household.

Product Guarantee?

Red oak, while being a non-ideal choice for cutting boards, is also toxic due to its tannins that will transfer to food if used for cutting boards. So be careful of unsealed wood products as they may carry the risk of food poisoning. Even though red oak has a high rating in terms of hardness, it is only usable once it is completely sealed. 

Customer Satisfaction?

Bacteria can survive long on any wood rendering it a pointless worry. One shouldn’t worry too much from that standpoint. Red oak is considered for its resilience compared to other woods, with a high rating of 1290 according to the Janka hardness scale. This property makes the cutting boards resistant to cuts or dents caused by knives.

This water resistance feature only applies when the cutting board has been completely sealed with water-resistant cutting board oil. Although it is considered a hardwood, the end-grain oak boards are soft and gentle on the blade. The large pores of red oak can absorb the oil product easily and seal up faster than close-grained wood species. 

What do Experts Say?

Indeed, when I called up a bunch of experts to ask them about their favorites, many told me they had never thought so hard about what makes a great one. But then it turned out (unsurprisingly, I suppose) that they had a lot to say — and passionately, at that. They also own varying sizes, some with fully flat surfaces and some with additional bells and whistles, but in the end, the buck stops at Red Oak.


You should avoid using open-pored wood for cutting boards as food particles can become trapped within the pores, leading to hygiene issues. Red Oak wood is one example of open-pored wood unsuitable for cutting boards. However, White Oak has open pores that have been naturally sealed, making it a suitable option for cutting boards. You must seal the Red Oak cutting board properly before using it to ensure the food’s safety and hygiene.

Avoid unsealed wood products, as they may contain food poisoning

Pros and Cons of Red Oak for Cutting Boards

A common choice for cutting boards is red oak, which is affordable and attractive. However, like any material, it has its pros and cons. Here are six pros and two cons of using a red oak cutting board:


Affordable: Red oak is less expensive than other hardwoods, making it an excellent choice for those on a budget.

Beautiful appearance: The wood has a unique grain pattern that creates a beautiful and rustic appearance.

Durable: Red oak is a dense and strong hardwood, making it long-lasting and able to withstand heavy use.

Availability: Red oak is a common wood used in construction, so it’s easy to find at many lumberyards and home improvement stores.

Customizable: The wood is easy to cut and shape, so it’s simple to create a custom cutting board design that fits your needs.

Easy to work with: Red oak is a soft hardwood, making it easy to work with hand or power tools to create a custom cutting board.


Open-pored grain: Red oak has an open-pored grain that can trap dirt, moisture, and food stains, making it harder to clean and maintain over time.

Prone to warping and cracking: Red oak is more susceptible to warping and cracking over time, especially if not properly maintained or sealed regularly.

Overall, red oak is an excellent choice for affordable and beautiful hardwood for a cutting board. However, you have to keep in mind its susceptibility to warping, cracking, and moisture buildup over time.

Red Oak vs White Oak Cutting Boards

While oak is a popular choice for its durability and attractive appearance, not all types of oak are created equal. For example, red and white oak have some significant differences that make them better suited for different uses.

Here is a table of the key differences between red oak and white oak cutting boards:

Red Oak Cutting Boards White Oak Cutting Boards
Open-pored grain that can trap dirt, moisture, and food stains Naturally closed-pored, making it less likely to trap dirt and moisture
Susceptible to warping and cracking over time More resistant to warping and cracking
More affordable than white oak Slightly more expensive than red oak
Ideal for decorative uses or as a secondary cutting board Ideal for heavy use and as a primary cutting board
Requires regular sealing to prevent moisture buildup and bacterial growth Requires less frequent sealing due to its natural resistance to moisture

A red oak cutting board may be the way to go if you’re looking for a more affordable option for decorative or occasional use. However, if you need a durable, long-lasting cutting board that can withstand heavy use, a white oak cutting board is likely the better choice.

Red oak is a dense and strong hardwood, making it long-lasting and able to withstand heavy use

Oak Cutting Board Sealing: 5 Easy Steps

If you have an oak cutting board, you must seal it properly to protect it from moisture, food stains, and bacterial buildup. Sealing the board with a food-safe oil will prevent it from absorbing liquids, making it easier to clean and extending its lifespan. Here are the five steps to sealing an oak cutting board.

Step 1: Choose the Right Oil Sealant 

Choose a food-grade oil sealant that is colorless, odorless, and water-resistant to ensure a durable seal. Some good options include Tung oil, linseed oil, walnut oil, salad bowl finish, and food-grade mineral oil. Avoid using vegetable oils like olive oil, as they don’t harden and can leave your board vulnerable to damage.

Step 2: Clean the Cutting Board 

Before applying the oil sealant, ensure the cutting board is clean. Wash it with mild soap and warm water, then dry it thoroughly before sealing.

Step 3: Apply the Oil Sealant 

Place the cutting board on a flat surface and pour a small amount of the oil sealant onto the surface in a zigzag pattern. Use a lint-free cloth to spread the oil over the wood using circular motions or long passes along the wood grain. Apply subsequent oil coats until the oil no longer gets absorbed into the wood.

Step 4: Wipe off the Excess

When the cutting board can’t take in more oil, wipe off the excess oil on the surface using paper towels. Allow the cutting board to sit on a rack and cure fully. The curing period depends on the oil product used.

Step 5: Regular Maintenance 

Regular maintenance ensures your oak cutting board remains in top condition for years. Schedule re-sealing every 2-3 months to keep your cutting board well-protected.

Red oak has an open-pored grain that can trap dirt, moisture, and food stains, making it harder to clean and maintain over time


Why is red oak a good choice for cutting boards?

Red oak is a good choice for cutting boards because of its hardness and durability. This hard-wearing wood can withstand a lot of wear and tear, and its dense surface helps to prevent knife marks from showing up on the surface.

How does red oak compare to other woods for cutting boards?

Red oak is one of the hardest woods, making it a top choice for cutting boards. While other woods like maple, walnut, and cherry can also be used for cutting boards, red oak stands out for its hardness and durability.

What are the characteristics of red oak?

Red oak is characterized by its light to medium reddish-brown color with a distinctive grain pattern. It is also known for its resistance to moisture and durability, making it an excellent choice for cutting boards exposed to liquids and moisture.

How do I maintain my red oak cutting board?

To maintain your red oak cutting board, it is important to clean and condition the surface regularly. This will help to prevent the surface from drying out and cracking, and regular conditioning with a food-safe oil will help to keep the wood looking beautiful and functioning well.

Is the red oak knife safe?

Yes, red oak is a knife-safe wood. It is less likely to dull your knives than softer woods, and the surface is less likely to show knife marks, making it a safer surface for preparing food.

Is red oak a sustainable choice for cutting boards?

Yes, red oak is a sustainable choice for cutting boards. This wood species is grown in sustainably managed forests, which means that it is harvested in an environmentally responsible way. When you purchase a red oak cutting board, you invest in a long-lasting and sustainable kitchen tool.

How does red oak impact food safety?

Red oak is a natural material that is safe for use with food. It is a non-porous wood, which means it is less likely to harbor bacteria and germs. However, regularly cleaning and sanitizing your cutting board is important to ensure its safety.

Is the cost of red oak cutting boards worth it?

While red oak cutting boards may be more expensive than other types, they are worth the investment. This high-quality wood is designed to last, and with proper care, it can last for many years. Red oak is a beautiful wood species, making it a great addition to any kitchen.

Wrapping Up

Red oak is a popular wood for cutting boards due to its durability and aesthetic appeal. Red oak has a high shock resistance and is resistant to cracking and splintering, making it an ideal material for long-lasting, high-quality cutting boards. Red oak is also relatively inexpensive and easy to find, which makes it a great material for DIY projects. Whether you are a professional chef or a home cook, a red oak cutting board is a great investment for your kitchen.