How to Keep Any Wooden Cutting Board in Tip-Top Shape

November  6, 2018
Photo by Rocky Luten

We love to call our double-sided wooden cutting board a workhorse. It was co-designed by over 10,000 people and sold out a casual three months earlier than expected (psst: it's back in stock on 11/9!).

One side is ready for everything from carving a turkey to slicing up an extra-juicy grapefruit. The other side is totally flat (so you can chop a million onions), save for a phone slot (for reading that recipe that asks you to chop a million onions). Because if we're in the kitchen, odds are we're using our cutting board for one thing or eight.

But the thing with workhorses—like, literal workhorses—is that you have to take care of them. You have to feed them and brush their manes and pet their noses. The thing with cutting boards is they’re relatively low-maintenance. No feeding necessary. But they still get tired from time to time and need a little love (who doesn't?). Here are our top tips to help any wooden cutting board feel its very best, so it can keep up with you in the kitchen for many years to come.

1. Skip the machine and wash by hand.

Wooden cutting boards are happy to hop in the sink for a quick shower. But, unlike plastic boards, they hate the dishwasher. Why? Over-soaking any wood can lead to cracking or warping. Not what we want. A quick scrub-down with warm water and mild soap does the trick. Which gets us to...

2. Dry the wood thoroughly.

Remember that warping we just talked about? That’s when a board curves or bends. This happens if it isn’t dried properly—say, it’s soaking wet and either left in the sink or set back on the counter or on a wet surface. Dry your board well with a towel (hey, I know just the one). For bonus points, prop it on its edge, so both sides are exposed to air. The more evenly it dries, the happier it will be, and the better, stronger work surface it’ll be for you.

3. Moisturize regularly.

Just like our skin, wood gets a little tired of being washed all the time. That’s where moisturizing comes in. After the board is totally dry, rub it with mineral oil or another food-safe oil (like this). Let soak in for several hours, then buff with a towel. Some folks even swear by beeswax. But our favorite trick is as old-school as it gets: After you carve a roast beef or slice marinated mushrooms, massage any excess fat or oil into the board. (I guess what I said about boards not needing to be fed wasn’t totally true after all.) Be sure to moisturize generously on a regular basis, especially in the very beginning, and your board will thank you for years to come.

4. Take It to the Spa.

Well, tell the board it's going to the spa, but really it's just your kitchen. (Maybe play some soothing music—our Five Two board loves Enya.) Every couple of months, generously sprinkle your board with kosher salt, like you're seasoning a steak, then massage it all over with lemon halves, rubbing in small circular motions. Wipe away the salt, then rinse in the sink and dry. Not only does this exfoliate the wood, but it gives the board a clean, happy scent to boot.

How do you take care of your wooden cutting boards? Tell us your tricks in the comments and show us how you're using your Five Two board with #f52byyou!


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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.


JoAnn H. November 7, 2018
Thank you for this. I thought it was the drying element in the dishwasher that was so hard on them. And I’ll bet the salt and lemon treatment gets rid of odors.
Smaug November 8, 2018
Warpage in a piece of wood is generally caused by an uneven absorption of moisture, causing (usually) one side to swell more than the other- for example, if a piece is finished on one side only, that side will tend to absorb moisture more slowly, and the wood will tend to cup in that direction. You can see something similar in pocketbooks in humid weather- the glossy side of the cover will absorb less moisture, and the cover will curl. These boards appear in the photos to be constructed of vertical grain wood (as a board should be)- wood with that grain orientation will do most of its swelling in it's thickness, so warping is much less of a problem.
Karen November 7, 2018
My husband made me a beautiful cutting board made with six different colors/types of wood. It’s a piece of art I treasure so I take great care with it. It’s washed with gentle soap and water and dried carefully. I let it air dry before storing it. Every two months I gather all my wooden utensils and cutting boards and wipe thoroughly with beeswax and mineral oil mixture and buff them to a mellow glow. I have a wooden spoon from my grandmother that is over 50 years old thanks to this care. It’s my go-to spoon for mixing, though I admit I have at least two dozen wooden implements I use in the kitchen.
Gammy November 6, 2018
Yes definitely: Wash with soap and water, dry with towel, then allow to air dry.
Yes definitely: Spa day with salt and lemons.
Yes definitely: Moisturize with food-grade mineral oil. Even bee's wax.
NO WAY: Rub beef fat into board.
Smaug November 6, 2018
You can't get a board- or really much of anything- truly dry with a towel, and this one has a lot of exposed endgrain, making it harder. It won't absorb enough moisture to warp just from poor drying, but dampness can allow fungus and microbes to grow. You really need to airdry before putting it away.