We compared, by retrospective chart review, the free radial forearm flap and the pectoralis major flap in repairing intraoral soft tissue defects resulting from tumor ablation. Statistical significance of differences was determined using Fisher's exact test and chi-square analysis. Fifty-one free flap and 126 musculocutaneous flap transfers were analyzed. The former were used more often for defects in the anterior part of the oral cavity, whereas the latter were used more frequently in the posterior part. Significantly more patients with pectoralis major flap transfers had late-stage (T3 and T4) disease than did those in the free radial forearm flap group (p = 0.004). Also, the complication rate was significantly higher in the pectoralis major flap group (p = 0.01); this was due to differences in the rates of dehiscence, fistula formation, and flap loss. We thus conclude that, despite the need for microsurgery, the free radial forearm flap is at least as reliable as the pectoralis major flap and that the choice of flap should be based on defect considerations rather than on the perceived reliability of the reconstructive method.