Chinkapin oak is a medium-sized, tall tree, often with large, low branches and a narrow, irregular crown.
Leaves are alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long, 1–3½ inches wide, broadest near the base or above the middle, ending in a pointed tooth (but no bristles or tiny spines on the edges); distinctively coarsely serrated or wavy (like sawteeth) along entire margin; 8–13 teeth per side. Underside paler than top, with gray hairs and conspicuous veins.
Bark is ashy gray, with shallow grooves and short, flaky ridges.
Twigs are slender, yellowish- to reddish-brown, initially hairy, becoming smooth with age.
Flowers April–May, in catkins.
Fruits September–October, acorns mostly solitary or in pairs, nut brown, shiny, broadest near the base and tapering slightly to the tip, ½–¾ inch long; cup covering about half the nut, bowl-shaped, thin, brown, hairy, the scales small, flattened; the seed sweet, edible, ripening in autumn of the first year.