Talking about Teak
I've had a large rectangular end grain teak cutting block from Proteak (sustainably farmed teak from Mexico) for about 6 months now.
It looks lovely on my pale counter tops, and I've been happy with the performance/usability. I picked it up at a great price from Amazon (a larger one than the WS one linked to above).
Reading some of the recent discussions here about different cutting board materials, where people have cited that wood cutting boards should only be from the wood of trees where human consumption of the sap or products (seeds, nuts) is possible, (a la Maple, Walnut, Cherry, etc...) got me rethinking my teak board. A bit of googling revealed that "Teak wood is a tropical hardwood that is part of the mint family", so that alleviated fledgling concerns about possible toxicity and appropriateness for contact with food for human consumption.
But, several of these online discussions about the suitability of teak for a cutting board also mention that "Teak has a high silica content and can be very hard/abusive on sharpened metal edges". I read this on several discussion boards (including a post in a Chowhound discussion from back in June, Wiki articles, Boardsmith's FAQ on his website, etc). However, all the sites I found that mention this high silica content in teak, and this being abusive to knives were from the kinds of websites that I would not necessarily consider to be a definitive source for accurate scientific data (all these sites *could* be people repeating or re-citing mis-information published elsewhere online)?
Cooks Illustrated's review of cutting boards found a Proteak edge grain board to be the most Highly Recommended, and their discussion/comparison of a wide range of cutting board materials (many species of wood, and many other materials) makes no mention of teak having a high silica content, or that teak as a harder wood was unnecessarily tough on sharpened knife edges (and this was an edge, not end grain board they tested over a period of months)? This is the type of data or performance detail I would have expected CI to be a reliable source on?
Has anyone else had longer term experience cutting on teak? Anyone noticed any issues with the longevity of their knife's edge on teak? I haven't noticed any detrimental effects... but I am not certain if I trust myself to notice, or more specifically if I trust that I have the background experience to make a meaningful comparison, as prior to acquiring the teak board, I used an array of lesser/cheap boards, and hadn't formed a foundation expectation for my knife's edge retention to be a basis for comparison to my teak cutting experiences?
Here's my take:
(A) Unless you're cutting on that board all day, every day, you're probably not going to notice any accelerated dulling of your cutlery. Think about it: a router bit turning 18,000 RPM for 30 seconds probably does more cutting than you would do with your kitchen knife over several decades, and removes more material that you would in a lifetime.
(B) Teak dust, like dust from MANY tree species, is toxic. See, http://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/wood-allergies-and-toxicity/ Usually the greatest danger is from ingesting or breathing the dust (some species can really mess you up), teak is also a contact irritant in addition to being a sensitizer. See, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/artic... So if you or anyone in the house is prone to eczema, teak might not be a good choice. Still, how much dust are you and yours going to come in contact with from a finished kitchen cutting board?
Let me chime in as a woodworker, and part time cook. In the world of woodworking, where sharp tools are as or perhaps more important than in cooking, teak is known to dull edges on plane irons, chisels, saw blades, jointer knives, etc. Why is this known, because woodworkers have used teak for it's other properties for centuries and have experienced this first hand. If you're spending hours a day sharpening your tools, you're not making product, so woodworkers are very atuned to the "workability" of the various woods. Teak is one of the bad ones for workability because of the silica. Is this as critical to a cook who makes a few knife strokes that contact the wood as it is a woodworker who is actually cutting the wood, probably not, but it doesn't change the fact that there is silica in the wood and that's not a really positive thing. Not as bad a a glass cutting board, but not a positive.
As Chem stated, the wood selection is a general guide line. Again as a woodworker first, be aware there are a number of people who can not work teak and other exotic tropical hard woods because of alergic reactions. You probably wouldn't want a walunt board if you had nut alergies either. Alergies to the natural oils of tropical woods is quite common and well documented in woodworking literature. Just because it's in the mint family, doesn't mean it's entirely safe for everyone.
My final remark on teak boards is again as a woodworker, it's oil makes teak difficult to glue.
It wouldn't be one of the woods I would pick for a cutting board for the above reasons. However, if you have one, and you are happy with it then there is really no reason at this point to change. I don't think it will dull kitchen knives nearly as quickly as it does a plane iron and you would probably know by now if you were alergic to it.
"and I've been happy with the performance/usability."
As long as you are happy with the performance, then it is fine.
“I found that mention this high silica content in teak, and this being abusive to knives were from the kinds of websites that I would not necessarily consider to be a definitive source for accurate scientific data”
Teak wood does have a good level of silica, but this level also varies among trees. In the following study:
1) Average contents of silica was significantly different between provenances ranging from 0.27% to 0.66%.”
2) DUPUY and VERHAGEN (1993) reports that silica content can be as low as 0.03% in timber from Ivory Coast to as high as 1.40% in timber from Togo.”
From Lauridsen and coworkers, Silvae Genetica, 48, 1, 1999.
There is more than one way to dull a knife. Having higher silica percentage alone may not be the determining factor. Again, you can be the judge of the performance aspect.
“Cooks Illustrated's review of cutting boards … makes no mention of teak having a high silica content, or that teak as a harder wood was unnecessarily tough on sharpened knife edges”
Cook Illustrated is Cook Illustrated. It does not claim to be a scientific journal. Moreover, an absent of mentioning is not the same as denying.
"where human consumption of the sap or products (seeds, nuts) is possible, (a la Maple, Walnut, Cherry, etc...)"
That is just a rule of thumb. It is not always true as you can imagine. Black Walnut is known to have a high concentration of Juglone especially around the root, though it is everywhere.
There was a discussion over the usage of walnut in the egullet. Ray roud was against it for making cutting boards, while others stated that it is fine.
"Cook Illustrated is Cook Illustrated. It does not claim to be a scientific journal. Moreover, an absent of mentioning is not the same as denying."
...totally agree, I didn't mean to imply that I think CI is the definite source on cookware data, but if teak is notorious for dulling knives quickly, relative to other wood species, that is the sort of thing I would expect ( or *hope* ...?) a CI several-month performance assessment to raise as an issue, maybe my faith in CI is a bit too high?
"As long as you are happy with the performance, then it is fine."
...fair point, but I was trying to indicate that I don't know if I have a fair basis of knife use on a high quality not-teak cutting block, to form a "control group" type of experience to compare with? Maybe my knives are dulling unreasonably quickly and taking unnecessary edge punishment, and I don't know any better to realize it? Ignorance can indeed be bliss... but I was hoping for a more experienced (than I) opinion on teak performance?