I’m going to make some cutting boards, but I’m not sure which woods are food-safe. What can I use, and what shouldn’t I use?

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Q:

I'm going to make some cutting boards, but I'm not sure which woods are food-safe. What can I use, and what shouldn't I use?
—Jessy McKenzie, St. Joseph, Minnesota

A:

For cutting boards that will be used daily, Jess, stick with tight-grained domestic hardwoods, especially maple, birch, and beech. The small pores on these dense hardwoods leave fewer hiding places for foodborne bacteria than an open-grained wood, such as red oak. (Bamboo, actually a grass, offers another safe option.)

Lighter wood colors also work better than walnut, purpleheart, or other dark woods, where the color can leach out when wet. That's especially true if you use highly diluted chlorine bleach to sanitize your wood cutting boards.