To properly care for your wooden kitchen utensils, you must know where they come from. I’ll differentiate the types of wood used for utensils in this article. So, which types of wood are your kitchen utensils made from?
Kitchen utensils are made from the following types of wood:
- Osage orange
- Black walnut
- Hard maple
Ahead, I’ll first explain the difference between hardwood and softwood, then delve into more details on the 9 types of wood above, so make sure you keep reading!
The 9 Types of Wood Your Kitchen Utensils Could be Made From
Now that I’ve shared the most common types of wood used to manufacture kitchen utensils, I’ll dive into a few specifics and details of each of them.
Popular is a tree species in the Populus genus that’s also referred to as cottonwood and aspen. Categorized as hardwood, poplar trees have smooth bark (in colors like gray, green, or white) that can fissure with age.
Due to its colorful bark, poplar wood tends to have streaks of brown, green, or ivory when made into utensils, which can liven up your cookware.
There is only one species of poplar that’s suitable for producing kitchen utensils, and it’s tulip poplar or yellow poplar. The other species of poplar are too porous, which increases the risk of cross-contamination.
Tulip poplar though is diffuse-porous. This refers to hardwood with denser and smaller pores. You’ll have to worry less about food safety.
If you’re seeking wooden kitchen utensils that have a rich depth of color, bloodwood is a phenomenal choice.
The hue of bloodwood is anywhere from stunning red-brown to a quaint pale pink color. The color doesn’t tend to change much even over many years.
More so than its hues, bloodwood is beloved for its density. Some have said that using a bloodwood kitchen utensil is practically the equivalent of steel.
If you’ve had wooden utensils fall apart on you in short order, that shouldn’t happen with bloodwood.
I’m sure you’re wondering, why is it called bloodwood? The species produces sap with a bright red color that looks like blood. Kind of spooky, but that’s the origin of bloodwood’s name.
Bloodwood features a grain pattern that can be regular or irregular depending on the tree. Its pores are always small, and the texture is fine.
Even if you bought two bloodwood kitchen utensils from the same tree, the utensils could look wildly different. If parts of the tree were exposed to more sun and rain than the other or if those parts are older, the grain will vary.
That’s part of the fun of buying bloodwood cookware!
The Maclura pomifera or Osage orange tree is a hardwood that grows fruit. The fruit is unrelated to oranges, despite the name. Instead, the fruit has a bumpy texture and is greenish-yellow.
Cutting open an Osage orange tree reveals a bright yellow or golden wood. The wood doesn’t retain its color over time though and eventually becomes medium brown due to UV rays.
In Osage orange earlywood, the pores are very, very large, but they shrink in maturity.
The reason Osage orange wood is regarded as a great kitchen utensil material (besides its sunny color, that is) is that it expertly resists decay. You’d be hard-pressed to find a North American wood that’s more decay-resistant!
American black walnut or Juglans nigra is a deciduous hardwood that grows throughout North America, especially central and southwest Texas, northern Florida, south Georgia, and southeast and western South Dakota.
This particular wood is beloved for its workability and its trademark deep brown color. Choosing your kitchen utensils based on color and durability is extremely common.
I know I prefer to match many of the custom pieces in my own kitchen.
Its heartwood fine grain is used in everything from kitchen utensils to boat oars, household floors, furniture, and even coffins.
Among all the trees in the Acer genus, hard maple is the most sought-after since it’s the densest, hardest, and strongest.
The Acer saccharum tree that grows in northeastern North America is sourced for its sapwood rather than its heartwood.
Allow me to explain the difference since heartwood came up once already. Sapwood is from a tree’s secondary layers and is still alive while heartwood is central wood that’s dead.
The color of hard maple sapwood can be anything from golden yellow to red or ivory. The hard maple wood has a fine texture and a straight grain that may sometimes be wavy.
Rot-resistant and workable, it’s no wonder that hard maple is frequently selected to produce kitchen utensils.
Often referred to as Brazilian cherry, jatoba wood is not related to most US-produced cherry woods. It’s a hardwood renowned for its strength, stiffness, and affordability.
The dark color that’s a trademark of jatoba wood doesn’t start out that way. Rather, whether it’s sapwood or heartwood, the colors grow deeper from UV exposure.
The result is a dark, mature, smoky brown color that ought to turn heads whenever you pull out your jatoba kitchen utensils.
The coarse texture of the interlocked grain allows jatoba wood to be diffuse-porous. Its pores are small enough that the wood is a suitable cookware option.
It’s got great rot-resistance as well so you can hold onto your jatoba kitchen utensils for a long time to come!
One of the most popular hardwoods by far is cherrywood, which comes from the Prunus serotina tree.
This deciduous tree has many nicknames, all involving cherries, such as the mountain black cherry tree, the rum cherry tree, or the wild black cherry tree.
So what’s with the cherries, you ask? Does the Prunus serotina grow the fruit? Not exactly.
Rather, the color of the wood the tree produces is brownish-red and very distinct. The hue is reminiscent of cherries.
With its straight grain, stability, and easy workability, it makes sense that cherry utensils are such a staple in kitchens everywhere.
Mesquite wood comes from a tree in the Prosopis genus that grows in dry regions throughout the Americas.
Since the genus that mesquite trees are in has more than 40 species, you have your pick of mesquite woods.
If you’d like a warmer wood color for your kitchen utensils, select honey mesquite. Black mesquite is a dark brown while African mesquite is darker still.
The texture of mesquite wood is often coarse or medium with a straight grain. The pores can be open depending on the species, but some mesquite trees such as the black mesquite are diffuse-porous. That makes the wood suitable for manufacturing kitchen utensils.
Here’s another perk: mesquite wood is rot-resistant!
The last type of wood that’s frequently used to make kitchen utensils is katalox or Mexican ebony, which is technically known as Swartzia cubensis.
The Fabaceae family the Mexican ebony belongs to includes roughly 200 other tree species.
Like cherry wood, katalox can be reddish-brown, especially its heartwood. Sometimes the heartwood is practically black and other times, it appears purple, which is certainly a treat. That’s some color variety you could be in for.
Mexican ebony sapwood is much paler and yellower than heartwood.
Katalox frequently has a straight grain, but interlocking or irregular grain patterns are possible. It’s typically rot-resistant, but more so, Mexican ebony wins acclaim for its strength and stiffness.
Hardwood vs. Softwood – Which Is Better for Kitchen Utensils?
All wood can be categorized into one of two groups, hardwood or softwood. The difference between the two comes down to the type of tree the wood is sourced from.
Hardwood is made from deciduous trees that produce nuts, fruits, or flowers. Softwood comes from conifer trees.
That’s why in some instances, softwoods are even harder than hardwoods, despite the name. Yew wood is a great example of that, as it’s renowned for its toughness and durability, more so than some hardwoods.
The opposite can be true as well in that some hardwoods are softer than softwoods. Balsa wood comes to mind, as it’s not very dense.
It’s not so much that wooden kitchen utensil manufacturers will always favor hardwood over softwood when making cookware. Whether the wood belongs to the hardwood or softwood family doesn’t matter so much as the wood’s density, pore size, and durability.
How to Identify the Wood Used to Make Your Kitchen Utensils
Now that you’re privy to the various types of wood that could have gone into the production of your kitchen utensils, how do you know which wood you have? Try these methods to narrow down your options.
A hardwood’s color varies whether it’s sourced from sapwood or heartwood. However, if a species of wood is known for a trademark hue, you can bet your wooden kitchen utensils will feature that hue as well.
Cherry wood will produce a bright pop of color, Osage orange will be a gorgeous shade of sunny yellow, and bloodwood will usually be pinkish or reddish. Keep in mind that UV exposure can change a wood’s color over time!
If the color isn’t making it clear enough, you can always check out the label on your kitchen utensils or find the original online listing.
If your cookware is made of authentic wood, the retailer will usually disclose what kind.
Maybe you bought something homemade such as on Etsy, where the online listings can expire. Feel free to message the seller and ask. I’m sure they’d be happy to help you!
The price tag of your wooden kitchen utensils can also be a big giveaway.
Although the value of wood can fluctuate, bloodwood is somewhat expensive, and high-end cherry wood can be costly as well. Poplar is lower-cost, as is walnut.