Some choose to do yoga and others knit to pass their time. Here at Earlywood, we have a penchant for the timeless art of woodworking. What started out as a hobby has now become our life’s work and we couldn’t be prouder! Whether you’re a fellow wood crafter or simply appreciate the beauty of wooden kitchenware, this guide is for you. We’ve carved our fair share of wooden utensils and picked up a thing or two along the way. We hope this post will be helpful to you, our dear readers, who want to learn about the best wooden utensils for your kitchen. So if you’re ready, let’s get started!
Which wood is superior: softwoods or hardwoods?
It’s crucial to have the right kind of wood for your kitchen utensils. Akin to selecting the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving, the right lumber makes a huge difference in the quality of your utensil. We can say a lot about wood selection and there are obviously thousands of choices out there. But we don’t have the space or the time to go through each one so let’s make it simple, shall we?
There are two main kinds of wood: softwoods and hardwoods. The softwoods are simply lumber from trees that typically produce seeds in cones (like pines or spruces). On the other hand, hardwoods are lumber from trees that produce seeds enclosed in fruits. There are other differences between the two but we won’t bore you with the specifics.
Here’s all you need to know: It’s very easy to find and grow softwoods but they are generally less durable and show wear and tear quite easily. Hardwoods are much more ideal for kitchen utensils because of their durability, density and resistance to scuffs and scratches. However, they aren’t as readily available like softwoods and are thus more expensive.
Qualities to look for in hardwood for utensils
✓ Non-Toxic – The most toxic section of any type of wood is its dust. So for the most part, wood in solid form is unlikely to cause any problem. However, there are a few species that are known to cause more allergic reactions than others like cedar, wenge, etc. You can refer to this guide for more information about wood toxicity.
✓ Durable – A wood’s durability is measured through its Janka hardness. The higher the Janka rating, the more durable it is. For reference, basswood has a Janka rating of 410 lbf while hard maple has a Janka rating of 1,450 lbf . This simply means that hard maple is more likely to resist dents, scratches, wear and tear compared to basswood.
✓ Neutral Flavor – It’s best to use woods that are odorless and flavorless. Generally, those with high tannins, such as oak and walnut, can impart flavors into food and change their taste. Fruit woods like apple, orange and olive can also impart flavors into food but to a lesser degree. It’s also important to note that some people actually enjoy the odor or taste of certain woods… so to each their own.
✓ Close-Grained – Hardwoods are further subdivided into open-grained (ring porous) and close-grained (porous diffuse). Hardwoods such as ash and oak are characterized by large, open pores in their rings. Open-grained hardwoods can soak up moisture, stains and bacteria quite easily due to their “tubular” characteristic. That’s why it’s best to use hardwoods with tight grains since their pores are “sealed” and less likely to harbor bacteria or show stains.
Who knew that wood selection can be this rigorous, right?! And we’re not done just yet! We’ve tested about 20 different types of hardwoods. Honestly, we saw a lot of differences and suffice to say, some woods just didn’t make the cut.
Our top 4 hardwoods for kitchen utensils
1. Hard Maple – There are different varieties of maple but the sugar or rock maple is definitely a favorite here at Earlywood. It’s close grained, fairly strong and easy to work with. The lighter, brownish white (sometimes almost white) color comes from its sapwood and is therefore highly sought after. It also has a satin-like surface when finished which is quite beautiful especially for spoons and spatulas.
2. Jatoba – More commonly known as Brazilian Cherry, this hardwood has a very lovely deep, burgundy shade. It’s hard, durable and incredibly long lasting which are qualities that we really look for in our kitchen utensils. Another great thing about jatoba is that it’s highly resistant to stains. If you love cooking spaghetti or working with spices like turmeric or saffron, jatoba is a perfect match for you!
3. Bloodwood – This hardwood has a gorgeous, reddish pink to reddish brown shade. Bloodwood is a great option for kitchen utensils because it’s very dense and strong. It also ages well like fine wine and the beautiful red hue stays intense over time. From a wood worker’s perspective, it’s really challenging to work with bloodwood because it’s hard (like a stone) but the results are definitely worth it.
4. Mexican Ebony – Sometimes referred to as Katalox, Mexican Ebony doesn’t actually belong to the true ebony species. It was named so because of its great density and its black color (with hints of purple) that turns darker over time. Just like bloodwood, Mexican Ebony is somewhat tricky to work with but worth all the troubles because of its exotic beauty.
Technically, any close-grained, non-toxic and durable hardwood can be used for utensils like spoons, spatulas, chopping boards and bowls. After testing out various species though, these four hardwoods put the others in the shade especially in terms of durability, uniqueness and beauty.