The simple kitchen implement known as the cutting board has probably been around in man’s kitchen for millennia. Cavemen cut hunks of meat on a stump to cook over their newly discovered fire. More modern people used simple slabs of wood to prepare their meals that were to be cooked in a wood fire oven or over a hearth in a fireplace. Todays modern man uses boards made from wood and a plethora of other space age materials to get his delicacies into the convection oven or on the infrared grill to cook. This blog post will deal with the care of wood cutting boards simply because they require TLC to keep them clean, flat and disinfected.
The board above in the picture is an end grain cutting board. It’s essentially a bunch of pieces of hardwood all glued together so the end grain of the boards form the cutting surface. This is done because obviously it looks amazing but it also is easier on the cutting edge of your knife. The one pictured below is a board I recently made from barn wood. It is just a slab of rock hard oak cut into the shape of a pig. While a good end grain board can cost hundreds of dollars and a slab cutting board can be thirty dollars the care for the two boards is exactly the same.
Basic care should begin from the very beginning of life for a wood cutting board. The maker should have applied a food safe finish on it to make it usable as soon as you get it home. Any number of natural waxes like bees-wax or carnauba wax are excellent choices. Maybe they used a natural oil to seal the wood such as mineral oil, coconut oil or raw linseed oil. These are the only oils I recommend because they will not turn rancid over time or impart a taste or smell on to the food you cut on the board.
When preparing food on a wood board never let blood sit on the board for very long as it may soak in and stain the wood. Strong smelling foods should be cut and removed from the board as soon as possible. Onions, garlic or fish are examples of this. If you do not have time right away to wash your cutting board at least wipe it dry and remove excess residue from it but you must wash it before its next use.
Washing a wood cutting board is a simple straight forward process. Warm water with a small amount of soap and a little elbow grease will do the job. Never soak your cutting board in water. Especially the end grain variety. The wood fiber soak up the water and swell causing the board to warp and it will not lay flat anymore.
After you have properly washed it now its time to disinfect. This can be done with pure white vinegar or a well diluted bleach (two tablespoons to a gallon of water) solution. It’s best to pour either of these solutions onto a wash cloth and wiping the surface as opposed to pouring the solution on the board and wiping it off. If you prefer a completely natural disinfectant you can cut a lemon in half and use the juice to disinfect the cutting board.
The last and possibly most important step is to dry your board with a soft lint free towel. Do a good job drying it and inspect it before you store it away.
Pay close attention to gouges or deep knife marks in your board. These are the places food particles can lodge and remain to cause problems down the road. Clean and disinfect any of these areas thoroughly.
If you notice any spot on your board beginning to appear dry it is a good idea to clean, dry, disinfect and apply a light coat of mineral oil to your board. Allow a couple of days for the oil to penetrate into the wood then wipe off any excess left on the surface.
If you want to revive an old cutting board that is in rough shape you can sand its surface smooth, apply a good food safe finish and it will be as good as new.
Again with proper care a well made cutting board should last many years if not many decades. Pay close attention to its condition and care for it properly so it can continue to be a joy to prepare your family meals on.
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Thanks for reading. Be good. God bless.