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Is red oak safe for end grain cutting boards

44440 Views 18 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  bondogaposis
I saw a coment that Red Oak is NOT safe for cutting boards (end grain or Long grain) anyone got an opinion on this. I have been using all kinds of oar red and white for years and have had no problems with it actually it seems hard to get it to take oil when your curing it
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Red oak is so longitudinally porous that you can breathe through it. The indicates to me a wonderful warm place for bacteria to gather, well out of sight. I wouldn't use it at all for a cutting board.

Stick to the accepted choices which include maple and cherry.


I wouldn't use it; too porous. I think that many people who know little about woodwork hold red-oak as the "wood to end all woods." I have met my fair share who say, "...its solid red-oak, it must be great!"

There are far better woods out there that I would rather use. Good luck!
Red oak is perfectly "safe" to use. Just not recommended by many because it's open grain. Most don't realize that there is a difference between "open grain" and "porous". All hardwoods are porous by definition and some woods have bigger pores than others. White oak has large pores but is closed grained due to the tyloses in it (That's why it's used for whiskey and wine barrels). Red oak is "open grained" with large pores, which is why it's frowned upon in the cutting board world. I don't believe bacteria can survive long on any wood so I wouldn't worry too much from that standpoint. My guess would be that the biggest problem is having juices and such get soaked in too deep causing stains and odors to linger. I would just make sure you seal the wood as best as possible and the most common way to do that is with beeswax. Beeswax is the most common wax with food prepping tools….

My $.02
I dont use Red Oak for conventional cutting boards. I did want to use it for a butcherblock island top but I think I will use something like hickory bnecause the color is more like what I want
My $.02 worth. we have been using a red oak cutting board for nearly 20 years. use it for meat , veg and anything else.To my knowledge none of the family has had as much as a belly ache because of it. Doesn't mean it can't happen , just hasn't made us any problems.
I actually have access to some FREE solid 3X3X48 inch red Oak stock That I might use for the Island top it would make an awsome end grain Butcher block
My advice is that the wood shouldn't matter as long as you pick the correct type of finish. I would say with red oak or any wood that is so open grained, don't use things like wax or oil as your only finish, its just not enough to keep it water tight. I would suggest using a lot and i mean like 6 or 7 coats of salad bowl finish to make sure that it is fully water tight. I had a few cutting boards that the had a few holes in them due to not the best fit (my bad) but they filled in with some saw dust/glue/ and salad bowl finish and they are 100% water tight. Plus it adds a great finish to any wood.
Red Oak? Burns purty. That's the only use I have for it.
Some times we think too much. The factory raised meat you buy is much more likely to kill you than a bit of Oak.
Oak is a wonderful wood. We've just seen so much of it in cheap crap that we forget it's potential.
It's not safe at all. You might not get sick from it, but you might not get sick either if you lick a parking lot.

Like others have said, oak is a cheap open grain wood. There is a reason why boos doesn't sell oak boards.
I have made cutting boards from many different hardwoods and exotics and I have made many boards out of red oak. As a business owner I am more concerned about my customers perceptions and I only use Red Oak for long grained or edge grained boards. The long grained boards are generally only cheese boards that don't get a lot of heavy cutting. My end grained boards have to have tight grain and the perception of food getting stuck in the end isn't good for business. An open grain is much harder to clean properly!

One man's opinion!!
For what it's worth, the FDA recommends only "hard maple or an equivalently hard close-grained wood"
My cutting boards are so beautiful that no one dares cut on them. Tongue in cheek, so lay off.
We all know that a wood cutting board shouldn't get submerged, or put in a dishwasher, we also know they will. Red Oak is a really poor wood to use in a wet condition, and it's porous nature makes it not a front line choice for cutting boards. That said, I have seen some red oak, end grain, boards, and they worked ok, provided the user kept it well oiled, and out of the wet.
We've been making red oak cutting boards for 40 years and never had a problem with one, and still making them on a regular basis. End grain, edge grain and flat grain. My wife has a red oak board she inherited that has to be 75 years old. I know of no one that has gotten sick or died from her cutting board.
I don't use red oak in my boards. If you have ever spent time looking at various woods through a microscope you will know why. The pores in red oak are enormous. I know wood is naturally anti bacterial, but I can't help but think about all of the meat juices, fruit juices and vegetable juices, mingling in those pores and eventually causing off flavors to develop. There are so many other woods that are suitable for cutting boards that there is no need to use it.
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