How to Care for Your Wooden Cutting Board
Whether you’ve received your wooden chopping board as a gift or treated yourself, you want to take the necessary steps to protect your investment. Here are our best tips for protecting and caring for wooden chopping boards.
Why buy a wooden board?
Marble, ceramic and glass cutting boards can do extensive damage to your knives by dulling and chipping the blades. Dull knives are far more dangerous than sharp knives because they require more force to use than a sharp knife. More force = accidents.
Dull knives happen for two main reasons:
1. When the edge of the blade becomes bent or rolled to one side caused by physical pressure to the edge of the blade, such as when it is used on a chopping material with little to no give.
2. When the edge of the blade becomes rounded from friction, tearing or abrasion (usual wear and tear), such as when the knife is used on a material that is too hard and resists scoring. This will cause the edge to round from the increased abrasion on the knife.
Marble, ceramic and glass are too hard of materials to protect knife blades from rolling or rounding, resulting in a dull blade and danger to your fingers.
While plastic boards generally have more give to them, they are a nuisance on the environment, suck up stains and melt if brought too close to the stove. They should also be replaced every two years because surprisingly, they harbor bacteria more than any other material due to their porous nature.
Wood is the best choice. It is a material that has a natural give to protect your blade for longer and is exceptionally durable and nigh-on impossible to break. Plus, if you take proper care of it, it shouldn’t stain, crack or harbor oodles of bacteria.
End grain chopping boards are the best option for keeping knives sharp. Because the wood fibers are standing up vertically, perpendicular to the knife, the board accepts the force of the knife without damaging your blade. Oak has a particularly open fiber structure, so that your knives stay extra sharp. Light cuts to the board can even ‘heal’ up when dampened, as the grain swells a little to repair itself.
How to take Care of Your Wooden Chopping Board
Once you’ve chosen your wooden board, it’s important that you take care of it. Regular maintenance can protect your board from cracking, warping, mould and naturally-occurring bacteria that can seep into the material and make you ill. Thankfully, this is rather easy to do and only requires about 30 minutes of your time once a month.
Every time you use the board
Make sure that when you’re finished with it for the day, you wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water. Do not submerge the board into a sink full of water though, as this will encourage cracking and warping. Scrub the board well, wetting both sides. Leave it to dry standing on its side, propped up against the drying rack or a wall, or dry it with a clean dish towel. Do not let it dry flat - this will cause one side to dry more quickly than the other, which could cause the board to warp.
Give your wooden board the spa treatment. Everyone enjoys a little pampering, and your board works hard for you to eat fresh, delicious food every day, so it deserves it.
First, give your cutting board a salt and lemon scrub down. Grab a small handful of coarse sea salt and sprinkle it across the board, then use half a lemon to rub the salt around the surface of the board in little circles. By sanding down the board slightly, you’re removing a very thin layer of the board that has become porous from use and may be harboring bacteria. The lemon juice will also kill any bacteria and reduce any lingering food smells (like smelly onion or garlic).
Second, rinse your board off in the sink, giving it a little wipe down with a wet cloth, then leave it to dry completely (as above) before performing the next step.
Finally, treat your board with a little oil. The oil creates a thin barrier between the wood and your food, protecting it from moisture and food residue. The oil also helps treat the wood, keeping it from drying out and cracking.
Certain vegetable oils are to be avoided when oiling your board. Olive, almond, canola, avocado and other types of vegetable or nut-based oils can become rancid very quickly if exposed to the air. Use a food-grade mineral oil or coconut oil. Personally, I use coconut oil as it has a more stable shelf life and is highly resistant to rancidity.
Condition your board by taking a teaspoon to half tablespoon sized amount of oil (depending on the size of your board) and rubbing it all over the board in circular motions, making sure to get every side, corner, nook and cranny. Much like you would rub moisturizer into your face. Allow the oil to dry for a couple of hours and then repeat this process a second time. Leave the board to dry overnight and resume using it as usual.
Although it may require a bit of maintenance once in a while, a wooden chopping board will keep you going right through to a ripe old age. And really, don’t the best things in life often need a little love?