Cutting boards are an essential kitchen tool from slicing bread to dicing onions. But with so many materials and styles available, deciding which type is best for your needs can be tough. Two of the most popular options are cherry and maple cutting boards. Both offer durability, knife-friendliness, and style. But they have some key differences that may make one better suited for you than the other.
|Criteria||Cherry Cutting Board||Maple Cutting Board|
|Hardness||Softer (Janka rating ~950)||Harder (Janka rating ~1450)|
|Toughness on Knives||Gentler on knife edges||Slightly harder but still knife-friendly|
|Staining||More prone to staining||Resistant to staining|
|Appearance and Style||Rich, warm hues; antique look||Light, neutral tones; modern look|
|Cost||Generally more expensive ($30-50 for entry-level)||More affordable ($20-30 for entry-level)|
|Maintenance Needs||Similar to maple; frequent oiling required||Similar to cherry; frequent oiling required|
|Safety||Food-safe; antimicrobial qualities||Slightly better for food safety due to hardness|
|Best For||Lighter tasks, aesthetic appeal||Heavy-duty tasks, all-purpose use|
The hardness or density of a cutting board impacts how well it resists knife marks, scratches, and wear over time. Harder woods generally hold up better to heavy usage and cutting tasks.
Maple is the harder of the two woods. On the Janka wood hardness scale, which measures the force needed to embed a steel ball halfway into a sample, maple ranks around 1450. Cherry is much softer, rating around 950 on the Janka scale.
This makes maple the preferable choice if you’ll use your cutting board daily for intensive slicing, chopping, and carving. Its hardness helps the surface stay smooth and free of grooves from knife cuts. Maple can stand up to heavy duty use from cleavers when breaking down chicken or roasts. And it’s less likely to show cut marks from repeated slicing tasks like dicing piles of onions or mincing garlic.
Cherry’s softer composition makes it more prone to surface wear, scratches, and impressions over time. It’s better suited for lighter duty tasks like slicing bread, chopping veggies, or light meat prep. For infrequent use or lightly used extra boards, cherry is fine. But maple is the wiser choice for your primary cutting board used daily.
Toughness on Knives
In addition to durability, preserving your expensive knives should be top of mind. The ideal cutting board is hard enough to resist wear and impressions, but not so hard that it dulls knives.
Cherry is slightly gentler on knife edges compared to maple. The softer composition causes a bit less friction against the blade. So over time, cherry may maintain your knives’ sharpness marginally better.
However, maple is still considered knife-friendly. It’s not so hard that it wreaks havoc on edges or causes excessive wear with normal use. Unless you’re a professional chef cutting several hours a day, any minor advantage of cherry is negligible. Most cooks are happy using maple boards long-term without issues with their knife edges.
Additionally, maple’s hardness gives it stability that makes cutting tasks easier. The board won’t flex while bearing down to slice meat or chop through squash. This also lessens knife wear since there’s less blade vibration.
For most home cooks, maple and cherry are both sufficiently knife-friendly options. But maple may have a slight edge for its added hardness and rigidity.
Staining is another key cutting board concern, especially when working with certain foods like beets, berries, or tomatoes that can leave lingering stains or discoloration.
Cherry is more prone to staining than maple. The softer porous structure absorbs pigments readily. This can lead to reddish or purple hues lingering after cutting beets, blueberries, or other colorful produce.
Maple is naturally lighter in color with a harder, tighter grain. It resists absorbing stains as much over many uses. While no board is completely stain-proof, maple does a better job staying free of discoloration long-term, especially with thorough cleaning.
So if maintaining a pristine appearance is important or you regularly work with notoriously staining foods, maple is the better pick. For the occasional staining culprit, either wood can work fine with proper care. But cherry will show wear sooner.
Appearance and Style
Beyond practical considerations, many choose a cutting board based on visual appeal. This is a personal preference, but cherry and maple have definite style differences.
Cherry has a distinctly reddish-brown tone, ranging from rich mahogany to lighter cinnamon. When new, there may even be hints of pinkish orange. Maple is uniformly pale blonde across the board.
Over time and with oil treatment, cherry darkens into a deeper brownish-red. Maple maintains its light beige color. This darker aging gives cherry boards a more refined, antique look than maple’s youthful appearance.
The reddish tones of cherry provide a warm, inviting style. It looks striking against stainless steel countertops or appliances. For those desiring a touch of vibrancy in their kitchen, cherry is a great way to incorporate natural color.
Maple’s lightness keeps a kitchen looking bright and opens up smaller spaces. The neutral beige tone complements any style from modern to farmhouse chic. It can be dressed up with unique shapes or inlays yet still feels understated and classic.
Ultimately cherry offers rich, saturated color while maple has a subdued, minimalist look. It comes down to the atmosphere you aim to cultivate in your kitchen.
Budget is often another deciding factor when purchasing a kitchen necessity like a cutting board. Is there a significant price difference between maple and cherry boards?
Maple is generally the more affordable option. As one of the most common hardwood species, maple lumber is readily available. Harvesting in the large quantities needed for cutting board manufacturing is easy. This ample supply keeps costs down.
Cherry trees are less prevalent and take longer to mature to meet lumber demands. Limited availability drives the price per board foot up. Also, slower tree growth produces tighter, more figured grain valued in cabinets and furniture for decorative purposes. This further increases cost since Cherry lumber is in demand for various industries.
For an entry level board around 12-15 inches long, expect to spend $20-30 for maple and $30-50 for cherry. With larger sizes or thicker end-grain constructions, maple runs $50-100+ and cherry $100-200+. Remember that, except for thin boards, edges are often glued up sections of smaller wood pieces so one solid slab is not required.
There are ways to economize if your heart is set on cherry but your wallet can’t quite swing the price tag. Search for sales and closeouts of display models or online returns. Or look for smaller boards under 12 inches that use less wood. With proper care any wood board can last for years, so the savings on maple won’t compromise quality.
All wooden cutting boards require basic maintenance to maximize lifespan and performance. Regular oiling protects the wood from moisture and food acids that degrade boards over time. But is there any difference between how cherry and maple should be cared for?
The answer is that cherry and maple have very similar maintenance needs. Both woods should be treated frequently with food-grade mineral oil to hydrate and seal their surfaces. Most makers recommend oiling a new board several times on each side before its first use. From then on, a few times per month is sufficient, or more often with heavy usage. Allow the oil to soak in for an hour or so and then wipe away any excess.
Avoid submerging boards in water which can damage the wood fibers. Wash by hand gently with mild soap and dry thoroughly. To further sanitize and deodorize, spritz with a mix of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Re-oil the board after cleaning to restore moisture.
With proper oiling and care, either wood can potentially last for decades. So whichever you choose, keep up a routine maintenance regimen for best results. Don’t let a maple or cherry board dry out and crack!
A top priority for any cutting board is food contact and preparation safety. You want assurance that harmful bacteria won’t multiply in crevices in the wood and contaminate your edibles.
The good news is maple and cherry both rank among the best and safest cutting board materials. Their tight, close-grained structure leaves minimal space for bacteria to take hold and spread. Numerous studies have confirmed the antimicrobial qualities of these dense hardwoods.
The key is using an end-grain or edge-grain board, which seals moisture from the side wood fibers. Avoid cheap laminated boards bonded with glues that can break down. With quality construction, both woods are naturally hostile to microbes. Their safety profile competes with plastic boards when properly maintained.
However, maple may have a slight advantage for food safety purposes. The harder composition could potentially be less porous and more sanitary long-term. But with good oiling and cleaning habits, both woods provide adequate food-safe use overall.
The Final Verdict: Cherry vs Maple
With their pros and cons compared across the key decision factors, which wood ultimately wins out in the cherry versus maple cutting board debate?
For its unmatched durability and density, resistance to staining and wear, budget-friendly cost and classic style, maple excels as an ideal all-purpose cutting board material. This versatile workhorse withstands daily slicing tasks in busy kitchens while maintaining its smooth surface and light blonde color. Maple keeps your knives sharp and your countertops spotless with minimal upkeep. And its muted tones work in any kitchen decor.
Cherry offers a refined, elegant look unmatched by other woods