Cutting boards are one of the most heavily used items in the kitchen. They come in all shapes, sizes, and materials, the most common material being wood; well, hardwood to be exact. Hardwoods, such as walnut, cherry, maple, oak, and hickory, are the best woods for cutting boards because of their higher density, which prevents knife marks from forming that ruin the beautiful, natural grain of the wood. Hardwood cutting boards will last a lifetime if properly taken care of, and can potentially become an heirloom for your future family chefs.
Notice that I said hardwood cutting boards will last a lifetime IF properly taken care of. This is the critical part that will determine whether your cutting board becomes an heirloom or termite food. The good part is that it is easy to maintain your wood cutting board, but you have to remember to do it. This blog will explain what to do and what you will need to properly maintain your wood cutting board.
The first thing you need to do is understand what hardwoods are. Hardwoods are also known as “porous woods”, meaning they have pores in the wood. These pores were used when it was still a tree to produce and store sap throughout the tree.
Now, as a cutting board, these pores no longer hold sap, or anything for that matter. If those pores are not filled with the proper substance, then this can create a problem. As you cut different foods on your cutting board, the food juices get caught in the pores of the wood. Even after washing with soap and water, there may be some food juices left behind in the wood pores. Over time, this will promote the growth of bacteria and can cause rancidification, or those juices becoming rancid, rendering your cutting board unusable for food preparation.
Luckily, this situation can be reversed. If your wood cutting board is in need of a deep cleaning, I recommend Howard Cutting Board Cleaner, which you can order here. This product will clean out the pores in your wood cutting board and neutralize odors, if any. It is easy to use, too! Just apply with a sponge, rub until you form a lather, then rinse and dry. Plus, it contains lemon oil and coconut oil, leaving your cutting board smelling great!
I must also mention that you should never submerge your cutting board, nor should you put it in the dishwasher. This will waterlog your cutting board, which may cause it to go rancid again. Always wash your cutting board by hand and dry the board right after you wash it.
Another problem that can arise is the wood drying out. Wood will expand and contract as the water content of the wood changes. Because of what your cutting board is being used for, the wood is in a constant cycle of exposure to water and food juices when being used, then long periods of drying out. Over time, as the wood dries out more and more, the seams where the wood parts are glued together will begin to separate due to the wood contracting, and the wood itself will begin losing its density, or hardness, in a process known as dry rot. These issues can compromise the integrity of the cutting board completely.
The best way to prevent all the aforementioned issues is to keep the wood saturated with the proper substance. I recommend using a cutting board oil, which I offer to my customers here. Cutting board oil is a food grade mineral oil that is shelf stable, meaning it will not go rancid. It will go deep into the wood grain to keep the food juices out and to prevent dry rot. It is easy to apply, too! Just pour a small amount onto your board, rub it into the board with your hand, let it sit overnight, then buff with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Another product that will help protect your cutting board is butcher block conditioner, which is a blend of food grade mineral oil, beeswax, and carnauba wax. The wax provides a protective barrier to the wood, keeping the mineral oil in the wood for a longer time. It is applied the same way as cutting board oil, but some extra buffing of the conditioner will be required once you let the board sit overnight. However, that extra layer of protection for your cutting board will be worth it! Get that extra layer of protection here.
That’s all there is to it! Knowing your wood and how it behaves will allow you to take better care of that potential heirloom. It is also important to know what products to use to properly maintain your cutting board. At JPD Wood Products, we provide our customers with the products and the knowledge to take the best care of your wooden cutting boards, charcuterie boards, bowls, utensils, and more! And remember, a little goes a long way.