Can You Put Wood In The Oven?

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Putting wood in the oven may seem like an unusual idea, but there are actually some good reasons why you might want to do this.

Wood can be used in the oven as a baking/roasting surface, to impart flavor, or even for decorative purposes. However, not all types of wood are safe to put in the oven.

Wood Types Safe for Oven Use

Here are some woods that are generally considered oven-safe:

  • Maple – Probably the most popular type of wood used in the oven. Maple has a smooth, tight grain and holds up well to high heat. Maple cutting boards are commonly used in the oven.
  • Cherry – Similar to maple, cherry has a tight, dense grain that resists warping. Cherry imparts a mild sweet flavor and works well in both savory and sweet applications.
  • Walnut – Walnut is a durable hardwood that can withstand high temperatures. It has a smooth finish and adds a subtle, nutty flavor.
  • Oak – With its sturdy structure and resistance to warping, oak is an excellent choice for oven use. It has a slightly more pronounced flavor than maple or cherry.
  • Cedar – Most commonly used with fish, cedar effectively blocks out other odors. It has a distinctive, aromatic scent.
  • Alder – This Pacific Northwest native has gathered popularity for baking fish, thanks to its subtle, woody flavor.

Unsafe Wood Types for Oven Use

Some types of wood are unsafe for oven use and should always be avoided. Here are woods to keep out of your oven:

  • Pine – Pine contains resin that can melt or leach chemicals at high temperatures. Exposure to heat may cause the wood to crack or splinter.
  • Cedar – While western red cedar can be used in the oven, other types of cedar like white, eastern red, and eastern white cedar should not be used with food.
  • Plywood/Composite Woods – These man-made woods often contain glues or chemicals prone to leaching and breaking down under heat. Do not put any composite wood products in the oven.
  • Unfinished/Untreated Woods – Any wood that is unfinished or treated with stains, paints, etc. should never go in the oven. Chemicals and finishes can release toxic compounds when heated.

In summary, softwoods like pine are unsuitable for oven use, while dense hardwoods make the safest options. When in doubt, avoid putting wood in the oven. Treated, composite and unfinished woods are automatically unsafe.

Popular Uses for Wood in the Oven

Now that you know which woods can safely go in the oven, here are some of the most popular ways to utilize wood for cooking:

Baking/Roasting Surface

Wooden cutting boards, planks, blocks, or trivets can be placed on oven racks to provide a baking/roasting surface. Maple and cherry are common choices for this purpose.

Top with your food item and place in a preheated oven. The wood gives an attractive presentation while absorbing any oils or drips from the food.


Wood chips or planks (typically alder, oak, maple, hickory, cherry, apple, or pecan) can be used to infuse smoked flavor. Place soaked wood chips in a smoker box or lay wood planks directly on the oven rack.

Top with meat, fish, vegetables, cheese, or anything you want to give a smoky taste. This imparts natural smoke flavor without needing an outdoor grill or smoker.


Woods like oak, maple, and cedar can be infused with herbs, citrus zest/juice, or other flavors by soaking them prior to oven use.

Place the flavored wood planks or trays underneath fish, meats, breads, or pizzas to lend extra taste. Soak wood chips in wine, hickory smoke, minced garlic, or rosemary for even more options.

Moisture Control

Because wood absorbs liquid, an untreated oak or maple plank in the oven can help keep meats or fish from drying out.

The natural moisture in the wood steams and adds light seasoning without charring. This technique works well for delicate proteins.


Unfinished wooden trays, blocks, or planks (popular types include maple, cedar, and oak) can add nice decorative touches to oven-baked dishes.

Using untreated wood lends a rustic, natural look and showcases food beautifully. Decorative wood must be removed immediately to avoid cracking.

With the right wood and precautions taken, putting wood in the oven can take your baking and cooking to the next level.

Just remember to avoid softwoods and treated woods, watch for cracking/charring, and remove decorative wood promptly after cooking.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking With Wood

Cooking with wood in the oven is an intriguing but sometimes confusing concept. Here are answers to some of the most common questions people have about using wood for oven cooking:

Is it really safe to put wood in my oven?

It is safe provided you use an untreated, food-safe hardwood like maple, cherry, oak, or alder.

Softwoods like pine contain resins that can leach chemicals, so they should never be used. Composite woods, plywood, and treated wood should also be avoided as they contain adhesives and chemicals.

Does the wood need any special preparation before going into the oven?

Some woods benefit from pre-treatment before oven use:

  • Soaking in water prevents cracking from too much dry heat.
  • Infusing with spices, herbs, citrus or liquids adds extra flavor.
  • Light sanding provides a perfectly smooth surface for cooking delicate proteins.

Untreated, unfinished hardwoods also work with no prep. But ALWAYS avoid woods with stains, paints, or chemicals.

What types of food work best when cooked on wood?

Salmon, snapper, bass, and other fish do wonderfully when oven-roasted on a cedar plank. Fruit crisps and galettes bake beautifully placed right on a maple board. 

Vegetables and breads gain flavor roasted atop an oak plank. And meats stay moist and cooked over cherry or maple.

Can I just use any old piece of firewood?

No, firewood is often pine, evergreen, or scrap lumber which contains harmful resins and chemicals. ONLY use natural, untreated hardwood cut specifically for food use – not random pieces of firewood or construction lumber.

Is oven-cooked food infused with a woody flavor?

Not necessarily – it depends on the wood type used. Maple and cherry add only subtle sweetness, while oak, cedar, and alder provide mild woody tones.

Stronger flavored woods like hickory or mesquite are best reserved for outdoor grilling. With lighter wood, the natural moisture and smooth surface mainly enhance flavor indirectly.

Cooking with wood may seem out of the ordinary, but this simple, back-to-basics technique can make for beautiful presentations and expertly enhanced flavors.

Follow proper safety measures, choose suitable hardwoods, allow extra preheating time, watch closely to prevent charring or cracking, and remove decorative/serving wood immediately after baking. With a little practice, wood-fired cooking offers exceptional results.


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