One of the best parts of Sider’s Woodcrafting is talking with people about the cutting boards we make. After all the hard work and decision making on how best to showcase the beauty in the wood, it is so rewarding to have people admire the final product. But there is always one question people ask, “What do you have to do to take care of the wooden cutting board?”
So the first topic we wanted to share in our blog is how to care for your new wooden cutting board. At first, it may seem a bit intimidating to realize that you have to give a bit of special care to a cutting board made from wood, and you may be asking yourself, wouldn’t plastic be easier? But the reality of the value, quality, and beauty of the wooden board versus plastic definitely makes the 5 minutes of monthly care worth it!
Ok, so don’t be intimidated, it really isn’t as hard as you think. There’s just a few things to keep in mind. Water is the force that will work to warp or crack your board, so do not submerge or soak the board in water. This means that the dishwasher is not a good idea. But, yes, you can get the board wet. Just wash it under running water with dish soap and wipe it dry. That’s it!
Yes, you can use your board for any type of food prep - even raw meats. Just wash your board right away and sanitize it using white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. (In the picture below, I am using white vinegar.) Studies have shown that the structure of the cells within the wood wicks the bacteria to the surface of the board, instead of harboring that bacteria in cracks like plastic boards do. “Hardwoods, like maple, are fine-grained, and the capillary action of those grains pulls down fluid, trapping the bacteria – which are killed off as the board dries after cleaning,” says Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher at NC State University.
If you are more curious about the research, here is a link to an article written by Huffington Post on the subject and this article by the Common Sense Home cites a lot of the scientific studies done comparing wooden and plastic cutting boards.
But no type of board is safe unless you always practice food safety guidelines by washing and sanitizing your board in between uses to avoid cross contamination. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends having one cutting board to use specifically for meats, poultry and seafood and the other for your vegetables, fruits and breads. Here is a link to the USDA Food Safety Guidelines. It's always a good idea to use extra caution when it comes to food prep!
When the wooden cutting board goes too long without oil, it can dry out which also causes cracking and warping. All of our boards come treated with mineral oil and beeswax to protect the board from drying out, but every wooden cutting board needs to be oiled regularly. You can use mineral oil to oil the board. This oil is usually found in the pharmacy. We would caution you against using any variety of cooking oil. That means vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, and even coconut oil are out. These oils can spoil and turn your board rancid over time.
We recommend using our own Cutting Board Finish that we make ourselves. It is a combination of mineral oil and beeswax that oils the board and leaves a nice sheen to protect the board. You can apply it right out of the container, but we believe it works better if you heat it up first. Check out our video below to see how we do it!
Directions for Using Sider's Cutting Board Finish
Microwave the entire container in the microwave for about 60 seconds on high, check it, then microwave again for 30 seconds after that. I microwave it with the cover just sitting on top of the container, but open to vent. The Cutting Board Finish should go from a solid waxy substance to a soft, butter-like substance.
Rub a clean cloth in the container and get a couple of tablespoons' worth on the rag.
Work it into the board. You can wipe it off right away or wait an hour and then buff it smooth with another rag. For a serious treatment, apply a thicker layer and leave it on for 4 hours and then polish it off.
There isn’t a regular time table to use when it comes to oiling the cutting board, but it also isn’t hard to tell when to oil the board either- you can feel it in the board. Instead of smooth and silky, it will feel rough and dry, kind of like your own hands feel when they need hand lotion. The picture of the twin boards above shows the difference between a treated board and a neglected board. Obviously, the board on the left has been oiled and cared for. (By the way, our Cutting Board Finish is great for your hands, too!)
It is worth mentioning again that if you soak your board in water, or neglect to oil it for 6 months or longer, then the wood will warp and crack. As we know here in Maine, wood heat especially makes the air in your home dry. Someone in my family (I'm not saying who) has wood heat and neglected to oil their End Grain cutting board, and it did get some visible cracks. With some work, Bruce was able to repair the cracks so they closed, but they are still there. As Benjamin Franklin said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
So that's it. By washing your board under running water and oiling it regularly, you will ensure that the quality and beauty of the wood will last for many years. Enjoy!