How to care for wooden cutting boards

All wooden cutting boards require maintenance over time (we shared some of our best tips right here: https://food52.com/blog...). We’d love to know how you’re caring for your board: what’s working best for you? And what lessons have you learned along the way?

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7 Comments

702551 March 31, 2021
Wash and let dry upright (not flat).

One thing I know is that the Japanese do not use mineral oil or other coatings on their wooden cutting boards. They moisten their cutting boards (including the wood counters in their restaurants) before and during use which helps minimize staining. Wipe messes promptly with a wet cloth.

Amusingly high-quality wood cutting boards in Japan are very affordably priced and are plentiful in restaurant supply shops. I bought one on my travels and lugged it back in my suitcase because the ones sold here are about 5-6x the price (priced similar to premium Western-style cutting boards).

There are really cheap ones in the local Japanese dollar shops (in my part of the USA), about five bucks. I'd rather buy a couple of these and replace them every ten years than spend $100+ for some fussy, hardwood Western-style wood cutting board.
 
702551 March 31, 2021
Oh, my favorite wood cutting board is the traditional Japanese cypress (hinoki), the same wood used in sushi restaurant countertops. It's not super hard and thus won't dull knife blade edges so quickly.

It's also a single plank of wood, not one of the composite boards with a bunch of pieces glued together. Even a quality composite board like a Boos Blocks will start to show signs of separation in a few years (I won one of these in a contest).

A single plank of wood is a better cutting board. Cleanup is quick and simple.
 
Nancy March 31, 2021
On news that Japanese are not using mineral oil on their cutting boards. Do you know reason why? Specific advice re a single wood or method of manufacture and/or applicable to all cutting boards?
 
702551 March 31, 2021
I doubt if there's a single reason. Like so many other things, this is likely a combination of multiple factors that dates back centuries including but not limited to tradition.

I do know that untreated wood has natural antibacterial properties (trees need this to protect themselves). There are also aesthetic considerations in terms of appearance as well as aroma.

Wet hinoki has a rather pleasant aroma that does not carry strongly over to the food when used in quick contact during preparation. Westerners use wood barrels to impart flavors to things like wine and distilled spirits so this is not specific to their food culture.

As far as I can tell, this is not specific to a specific type of wood or item. Japanese use untreated wood in all manners of use (including building materials, furniture, etc.) and future replacement is a given. They don't seem to be compelled to slap on a couple of coats of polyurethane sealant onto something so it can look brand new five years later.

They seem to have a nuanced appreciation that everything has its season. New wood becomes old wood in time, the natural way.

If they want wood to last, they lacquer it. But that's a different aesthetic where the lacquer is the primary focus, not the wood itself. Carefully maintained lacquerware can last decades, even centuries. But I'm digressing...
 
Nancy March 31, 2021
Thanks for your further comments on aesthetics and wood.
 
Gammy March 30, 2021
I seriously scrub them about once a week, usually with a plastic (not metal) scrubber, occasionally with salt and a lemon. When the boards get dry looking I use Boos Block Board Cream conditioner on them. I have also taken older cutting boards than have warped over the years to my BIL who has the woodworking equipment to plane them flat. Never put them in a dishwasher or soak in water.
 
Nancy March 30, 2021
Yes, and/or for the treatment - food grade mineral oil. Available at many hardware stores and from some manufacturers of kitchen equipment. BTW, good also to treat wooden utensils.
 
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