Friday, January 27, 2012

Caring for Cutting Boards

A good, solid cutting board is one of those kitchen tools that every cook should have.  As one who spends a lot of time in the kitchen cooking up meals for my family, I rely heavily on my cutting boards to get me through many culinary tasks.  Although my boards experience a lot of cutting, dicing, slicing, chopping & mincing on a daily basis, I treat them gently by maintaining them well.  Any type of cutting board is an investment for the home cook, and it's one that shouldn't go to waste because of neglect. 

Wood is my preferred surface for cutting boards, but there are other types available to the home chef, such as polypropylene (these I highly recommend for cutting meats because they can be cleaned in the dishwasher) and bamboo, which are suitable for any kitchen.  A wooden board, however, is sturdy, beautiful to look at and is easiest on knives for cutting.  They are prone to splitting and cracking if not taken care of properly, but if you follow a few simple basics, a wooden cutting board will get you through years of meal preparations.  This is what I do in my kitchen.

This small collection of cutting boards sitting on my dough counter is due for a monthly oiling.


A good food-safe mineral oil can be found in supermarkets, hardware stores and at any kitchenwares store.  I don't recommend using a vegetable oil for cutting boards because over time it can grow stale and give off an unpleasant odor.  Not a good thing. 

  • A new wooden cutting board should be oiled every single day for the first week in your kitchen and then on a weekly basis for the first month. 

  • Every wooden cutting board should be oiled once a month.

Add a few drops of mineral oil to the cutting board.


Work the oil into your cutting board with a paper towel, making sure you get every inch and all around the edges.  After 5 minutes, wipe off any excess oil with a clean paper towel. 

Edges are the areas most susceptible to cracks and splits if there is excess humidity in your home or if the air is quite dry.  Wood likes a stable environment that isn't too humid or too dry.  



All done.  The boards are well oiled and ready to assist me in my next culinary endeavor.  Some of these boards have been in my kitchen for about a decade now.


 If I've just used my cutting board for preparing a meal and it isn't too dirty or stained, I simply sprinkle some coarse kosher salt on the surface.


Using a lemon half, I scrub the cutting board all the way around.  The lemon acts as a natural disinfectant and 'detergent', while the salt acts as an abrasive.  When I'm done, I simply wipe off the excess salt.  I then dry the board with a clean kitchen towel and store it either on my counter or on a shelf.   

If your board is excessively stained or odorous, you can wash it with a mild dish soap and hot water. 

  • Never let a wooden board soak in water because it will absorb moisture; this will make it swell, warp or split.
  • A wooden cutting board should never be cleaned in the dishwasher. 
  • Keep a separate cutting board for meats, poultry and seafood; this board should always be washed with dish soap & hot water.  If there is excess wear & tear after years of use, replace the board.  Deep grooves and nicks can harbor harmful bacteria. 


This little piglet is one of my prized boards that gets a lot of use.  I bought it many years ago from the Martha Stewart Everyday line, which is no longer around.  I cherish this piggy.

If you own a cutting board or plan on buying one soon, make sure you have a bottle of food-safe mineral oil to help you maintain its beauty.  Cutting boards make thoughtful gifts for friends and family, especially for those who are just starting to put a home together.  It is my belief that every home cook should have at least two cutting boards in their kitchen (one for pungent ingredients & one for everything else).  As you can see, I have several ones that I use for specific tasks.  I'm not one who likes to use the same surface for strongly-flavored ingredients (think garlic & onions) and for something delicately flavored like fruit or a tea bread.  Having said that, I encourage you to keep a regular routine for maintaining the cutting boards in your kitchen; it doesn't require much to do this.  Caring for a cutting board is a wise thing for the home cook.  Cheers! 

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