When I first got my wooden cutting board, I was excited to use it, but also very sure I was going to ruin everything. I got over it, but I would have gotten over it a lot faster if I had'd Food 52's comprehensive guide on caring for the things.
Photo by Didriks.
The section on choosing an oil is particularly helpful. Everyone knows you're supposed to protect your slab of wood with oil to keep it from drying out and absorbing food odours, but which oil should you use? Canola? Olive? Motor? There are a lot of options. (Hint: The three I just mentioned are not viable.)
According to Food 52, your best bets are:
- Linseed and walnut oils: These "polymerizing oils" will harden as they dry, creating a pretty durable finish. They can take a while to build up, and can cause your board to darken in colour, but once you've got a solid foundation they're pretty easy to maintain. (One other thing to keep in mind: they may cause reactions in people with nut allergies.)
- Mineral oil: This odourless, colorless, neutral petroleum byproduct is completely food-safe, and is used extensively throughout the food industry. It never totally dries (though you can just wipe off the excess), and you have to apply it fairly often, but it's super cheap, and has a pretty extensive shelf life. (Both Food 52 and this article say it stays good basically forever.)
- Wax-based salves: These wax/oil hybrids make for a more easily-controlled application, and have real staying power. In fact, once it's one there, this stuff is almost impossible to get off. (Though, like anything that gets used regularly, your cutting board will need regular applications to stay in tip top shape.)
Beyond oiling, cutting boards can need sanding or even complete refinishing, so be sure to click the link below to learn how to bring wooden utensils back from the brink of death.