The Basics for Oiling and Cleaning Cutting Boards Made from Wood
Cutting boards are an integral part of any household space or professional kitchen, known for their abilities to protect both knives and surfaces from damage while preparing food. Wood cutting boards have long been a popular style, known for their elegant and rustic charm, as well as a providing a durable surface that won’t damage your knives.
Cleaning cutting boards is crucial for their maintenance, particularly with wood varieties, and with the right care and methods, you will adding years to this stunning piece of kitchen hardware.
Wood cutting boards require a special form of care compared to plastic or glass types, due to the nature of the wood. A common misconception is that wood can hold bacteria and other germs which may be harmful to ingest, however, with the right care these are some of the most hygienic cutting surfaces available to prepare food on.
Not only is cleaning your board regularly crucial but so too is oiling it. When you oil your wood cutting board you’re helping to keep the moisture in so that it prevents it from cracking and splitting. While these extra bits of maintenance may take a little more time, the look and feel of a wood cutting board are far superior to any other material.
Why Wood Cutting Boards
There are many benefits to owning a wood cutting board, including aesthetics, functionality, durability, and sustainability. While wood cutting boards are commonly known to be more expensive than their plastic counterparts, the extra money spent is well worth it as they will outlast other types for many years.
Cleaning wood cutting boards may seem like a lot of work, but it’s really a simple process that will become second nature to you once you get the hang of it. This additional care and maintenance is really the only disadvantage to these stunning boards, and they are worth the extra effort.
Here are just a few benefits of wood cutting boards and how they differ from cheaper styles:
Wood has long been considered one of the most elegant materials to use in all aspects of your home, including flooring and kitchen utensils. A wooden cutting board can add instant charm to your kitchen and home, and it can be left out on the benchtop when not in use as stylish décor.
Each type of wood has its own unique grain and color, making wooden cutting boards one of the most versatile materials available. The appeal of hardwood is undeniable, and it works particularly well for serving food to guests as well.
The touch of wood on a cutting board is both durable and soft. Thanks to its softer nature, it allows for your knife to remain steady as you prepare food. Unlike glass or stainless steel, your knife won’t slip on the surface of a wooden cutting board and so it’s a lot safer to use.
As the surface of these cutting boards is smooth, it won’t affect your food preparation and will allow you to perform a precise and even cut every time.
Protect Your Knife
Many people forget about the protection of their knives when purchasing a cutting board, and instead focus on keeping their bench top or table safe. Wood cutting boards are the only durable material that will protect both knife and benchtop as you prepare meals.
While your board may take a beating from the knife and show up with various scarring and scratches, a clean wooden cutting board and regular oiling will help those marks to add character to this gorgeous item.
Long Life and Durability
Wood is known for its long life, which is why it makes such a popular choice for building materials, floors, and furniture. The same goes for wooden cutting boards and butcher’s blocks, as these will outlast every other type of board for many years.
As wooden cutting boards are thick and durable, they’re known to have very long lives. To add to these years even further, a clean cutting board that is kept dry when not in use and oiled regularly will make it last as long as you like.
In a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin, tests were done on cutting boards to see which was the most resistant to harmful bacterias such as salmonella. The wood varieties consistently showed how well it resisted the strain when compared to plastic cutting boards.
After three minutes of infecting boards with both salmonella and listeria, the wooden cutting boards showed no traces whatsoever of it. However, the plastic boards had kept all of the harmful germs.
Although wood is prone to small scratches which may harbour bacteria, it can’t get trapped very far in and will dry out eventually. This is another reason why it’s essential to know the cleaning wooden cutting board basics for your home.
A recent trend in food presentation has seen butcher blocks and wooden cutting boards used as more than just a preparation device. Many cafes and restaurants now serve meals and platters on these boards, due to their rustic charm and elegant look.
Many people choose to use their wooden cutting board as a platter in their own home, to serve up cheeses or roast meats to their guests while replicating the authentic feel of an upscale restaurant.
The thick wood construction is also useful for preventing heat from reaching your table, so it can be used to serve up hot dishes as well. If you use your wooden cutting board for a lot of meal preparation, you might even like a separate board just for serving food.
Lifespan of a Wood Cutting Board
Although wood cutting boards are generally more expensive than their plastic or glass counterparts, this cost is a guarantee of just how long these items will last in your home. When cared for correctly, a cutting board will last as long as you allow it to, provided it doesn’t sustain any serious damage.
With washing and oiling, you will notice after each rejuvenation how refreshed your cutting board looks. Provided you can place a drop of water on top and it doesn’t soak in, you can assume your cutting board is still doing its job.
Plastic chopping boards need to be replaced every 12 months at least, as they’re known to take a bit of obvious damage. Not only will their superficial value decrease, but their ability to trap germs and bacteria will grow over time, unlike a wooden cutting board which can continue to prevent this from happening for many years.
Hygiene and Wood Cutting Boards
With a clean wood cutting board, you are ensuring the very best in sanitation for your kitchen and guests. Numerous studies have shown just how sanitary wood is when used in food preparation, particularly when in comparison to plastic boards.
There have been many years of speculation regarding the hygiene surrounding wooden cutting boards, as people assumed bacteria could easily soak into the wood grains. However, while there is the potential for germs to enter the wood they are not able to continue living on the surface as they can with some other materials.
According to the FDA, provided you are using a separate clean cutting board for preparing meat and another for the rest of your ingredients, wood has the potential to be one of the safest and most hygienic boards to prepare food with.
There’s no need to use a butcher block cleaner or other harsh chemicals to keep your board at its most hygienic, provided you follow the correct instructions for care and maintenance. This includes not only washing your board but some extra steps and precautions you can take as well.
Wood Cutting Board Care
Wood cutting board and butcher block care are fairly simple, provided you are consistent with your methods. With the correct maintenance performed, you’re able to add years of life and character to this kitchen tool and help maintain the life of your knives in the meantime.
Keeping your cutting board clean after each use is the most important way we can care for these items, and is a crucial step to ensuring they’re kept hygienic. You’ll also need to keep your wood board out of water for too long, as leaving it in a dishwasher or other form of water for extended periods can warp the wood and damage it.
Wood cutting boards also require regular oiling, as this will prevent them from drying out, and causing cracks and splits. By selecting the correct oil for your type of wood you’ll be able to add many years of life to your board, and it will thank you for it.
While it may be a turn off for some having to regularly maintain your wooden board, consider the money you’ll save when you don’t need to purchase a new plastic board each year or whenever it gets damaged. It’s such a simple process that you eventually won’t think twice about the task, and it will be rewarding to see just how nice a simple oiling can make it look.
What Can be Harmful to Your Wood Cutting Board
An essential part of maintaining your cutting board’s look and longevity is understanding what to avoid. Although known for being a durable material, there are still some things which can be harmful to wood.
One of the quickest ways to ruin your wooden cutting board is to wash it in the dishwasher. While it may be tempting to do things the easy way, your cutting board will soak up the water and cleaning agents used in the dishwasher, causing it permanent damage. Not only will the wood swell, but it will have trapped the taste of your dishwasher cleaner within.
When cleaning wood cutting board, you should never let it soak in water. As wood absorbs liquid very effectively, allowing it to sit in water will warp the wood and cause damage. Always perform a rinse first before washing and ensure you’ve dried it thoroughly after each use.
While wood is ideal for holding hot dishes and plates, you should always avoid contact with an open flame or hot plate. Although it’s durable, the wood will burn and it will become severely damaged. Provided there is no flame present, your wooden cutting board should be able to withstand fairly high heat levels, such as a casserole dish straight from the oven.
As wood is known to absorb most things in comes into contact with, you need to be cautious with the type of cutting board cleaner you’re using. Most of the time, a simple wash with detergent and water is all that’s needed. Try to avoid any harsh chemicals that may stain the wood or become trapped inside the grains and transfer to your food.
As unpleasant as it sounds, there is a small risk that your board may come into contact with blood. Whether this is from an accident or simply from meat you are cooking, you will still need to wash the blood off completely as soon as it occurs. As cuts and nicks are standard procedure with cooks, particularly those who are still learning the basics, it’s essential to understand just how harmful blood can be to wood.
Cleaning Wood Cutting Boards
The next step to correct wooden cutting board care is keeping it clean. You’ll need to wash your board after each use with soap and warm water to remove all traces of food and bacteria, then allow it to dry completely.
If you’ve only prepared dry foods on it that won’t pose a threat of harmful bacteria, such as using it to cut up and serve bread, a simple wipe down with water will be all that’s needed. Not cleaning it too often with soapy water will help to prolong its lustre as well.
According to the Food Network, studies have shown that a quick rinse before washing your wood cutting board is very effective in removing a lot of the bacteria before cleaning. This means that you aren’t transferring many of the harmful germs to the dishwater before you scrub it clean.
Once you’ve washed your wooden board with soapy water, you may find that it needs a little extra cleaning. If this is the case, you can use pure white vinegar soaked onto a rag and work it into the surface of the board. As the pH levels in vinegar are low, this will remove any additional bacteria or smells from your wooden board.
A clean butcher block may become dull and dried out over time, at which point you would need to oil it. As there are different types of oils available, you’ll need to be sure you have the correct one to prevent further damage to your wooden cutting board.
Why Oil Your Cutting Board
Oiling your wooden board is essential, as these oils will help to fill in the cracks and splits that occur over time. By entering this space, it means that water and other liquids cannot, so your wood is given a much longer life.
Not only does oiling the wood keep it safe from the liquid, but it prevents harmful bacteria from entering too. With less space to invade, there is less likelihood that germs will be able to get far into your wooden board, helping with its overall sanitation.
Once you’ve oiled your wooden board you’ll quickly notice the rejuvenating power this process has. Your board will appear brand new again and the scratches and scars that covered its surface will have mostly disappeared.
The best oil for a wooden cutting board is a food grade mineral oil as it won’t go rancid like other types. Some people mistakenly use other organic oils for their boards without realising that the fats within these can quickly spoil and damage the wood. Once the oil has turned rancid it will develop a smell that is impossible to remove, and you will need to replace your board.
How to Oil Your Wood Cutting Board
The final step in cleaning cutting boards is oiling them. Many people with wooden boards fail to do this process, resulting in a shorter life for their product and an increased risk of bacterial contamination.
Ensure Your Board is Clean
Before attempting to oil, a clean cutting board is essential. If you’ve already washed with warm soapy water and feel that it needs a more thorough clean, you can use the vinegar solution as mentioned earlier to give a more hygienic scrub. Without cleaning your board prior, you may be helping to trap harmful bacteria and other food items within the wood grains which will damage your board.
Dry the Board Thoroughly
After cleaning to your desired level, let the board dry out completely. While it may be tempting to wipe it down with a dry cloth and assume the job is done, you will need to let it dry completely with air first. This can take a few hours, so you may even want to do it the night before you plan on oiling your board.
Without dry wood, your oil will be ineffective in soaking through the grains and helping to improve its quality.
Apply the Oil
Using either a paper towel or a clean, dry cloth, dip this into your oil and rub it into the grains of wood. Be cautious not to use too much or it won’t be able to dry effectively, rather aiming for an even thin layer on the surface of your wood board. Ensure that you cover the edges as well if these are also made of wood.
Allow for Soaking Time
The oil will need to soak in order for it to be truly effective, so ensure you have factored this time into your plan. If you can perform the oiling at night before retiring to bed, this will be adequate time to allow it to seep through the wood. Without leaving it on long enough, the oil will only have reached the surface and will be ineffective at preventing moisture and bacteria from entering the deeper layers.
Remove the Excess
Once the oil has dried completely, run your finger over the surface to see how it feels. If you notice that it’s slightly sticky or oily, you can then use a new dry cloth to wipe off any excess. Perform this in a circular buffing motion to ensure you have covered the entire surface of the board.
How often you oil your wooden cutting board is a personal choice, and many prefer to do it as required. If you feel that your board is losing its shine or seems to be covered in many marks and scratches, this would be an ideal time to oil it. Regular maintenance of at least once a month will help add years to your butcher’s block and will keep your kitchen at its most hygienic.
The Wooden Cutting Board Advantage
There’s no denying the superior advantages that wooden cutting boards have over all other materials. Wood has long been the material of choice for many uses, including home construction, furniture, and flooring, so it makes sense to put its durable nature to work in your kitchen.
Just like anything worth having, you will need to pay extra attention and care to your wooden cutting board and butcher’s block. Taking care of cutting board made from wood isn’t as simple as throwing it in the dishwasher as you would with a plastic one, but the extra upkeep will pay off with a much longer life and more elegant kitchen item.
Cleaning cutting boards after each use is essential, and will help to maintain the already hygienic nature of this wonderful, natural material. With a little extra love and attention, you can keep your wooden cutting board looking brand new for years to come and ensure that it outlives most of your kitchen appliances.