To Maintain Your Cutting Board, Look No Further than The Pantry
I was recently asked to share my opinion about cutting board maintenance and thought you all may be interested in hearing how I approach the topic. Spoiler alert: With simplicity and resourcefulness, of course!
1. What kinds of kitchen oils are suitable to use on a cutting board and why?
I believe in simplicity, resourcefulness and good health when it comes to my kitchen. For that reason, caring for my essential and beloved tools is very intentional as I choose ingredients that I already have on hand and that serve many purposes like salt, baking soda, lemon, apple cider vinegar, etc. Cleaning and conditioning my wooden cutting board is no exception.
I always keep a jar of virgin organic coconut oil available because of its versatility in the kitchen and bathroom (I even brush my teeth with it) and its strong nutritional profile.
Therefore, I use it exclusively to revive my cutting board to its original luster. After all, my maple Boos cutting board is one of my work horses and I value its surface for achieving artful and precise cuts of food (with a sharp knife of course!). With so much use and exposure to the elements, it's important that we properly seal the wood like we would condition a piece of wooden furniture and protect it from cracking, warping or staining.
2. What kinds of oils are you better off avoiding because of toxicity concerns? Any oils that you know of that can damage wood cutting boards or cause funky smells?
Coconut oil is a natural, safe conditioner and can be purchased easily in a grocery or health food store, unlike the suggested mineral oil that is always sold in tandem with a cutting board. I would not choose to spend extra money on yet another product that mind you, can be found in the paint solvent area of a hardware store. Mineral oil is a byproduct of crude oil refinement and contains toxins which, personally, I don't really want touching any food surface.
You might wonder about other organic oils as an alternative. I am conscious about not stocking any industrial seed oils in my pantry so I haven't tried those but I do know that olive oil contains fats that will spoil and cause funky odors if used in this manner. Having spent time on an olive ranch in California, I value this liquid gold too much to spread it all over my board!
3. As someone who cooks often, how regularly do you oil your board? Is it something you do on a schedule or do you look for signs that your board needs it?
Oiling my board is definitely an intuitive process without a time schedule as it depends so heavily on usage. On average, though, it ends up being a quarterly and thus, seasonal ritual.
Generally, I run my hands across my board every time I use it and notice the condition of the surface or whether it's starting to lose its natural luster. Using our senses is critical in a kitchen, whether it be examining the freshness of ingredients, savoring the entire cooking process, or examining the current state of our prized tools and equipment.
4. Do you have any other tips for keeping wood cutting boards in good shape?
I hand wash my board after every use with warm water and eco-friendly dish soap. Never submerge it in water or run it through a dishwasher!
To disinfect it or neutralize odors, I'll do one of two things: either spritz the surface with a 50/50 diluted white vinegar spray or sprinkle with coarse salt and use half a lemon to rub it in and then rinse off with water. Both techniques keep the board safe and can be done regularly.
After making sure it's properly dried is a good time to engage in the oiling ritual. I rub about a tablespoon of coconut oil into one side of the board (going with the grain) using a kitchen towel or rag, and even get the side walls of the board too. I then lean it against the wall to soak in overnight and it'll be glistening the next morning. The next evening, repeat on the other side. I love to view this process as a mindful massage for all the hard work and support that my board has offered me!