Guest Author - Launa Stout
Seasoning and Caring for your Cutting Board
You spent a long time choosing, and a lot of money on your new, beautiful, butcher block cutting board and now you want to know what to do to keep it as beautiful as the day you brought it home.
Before you use it the first time you will want to season it. Seasoning works to prevent staining of the board and also the absorption of food odors and bacteria. By following the correct seasoning steps you help the surface guard against germs or mold growth.
Best choice is oil that can be applied repeatedly to fill the wood pores and repel food particles, liquids and oils…but you NEVER want to use a vegetable oil.
Vegetable, olive or cooking oils will go rancid and then your lovely cutting board will reek with a rancid, spoiled oil odor. (And trust me, that is not the smell you want permeating your kitchen)
You will want to use a food-grade mineral oil. Mineral oil remains safe and will not go rancid. There are products that are manufactured specifically for cutting boards and butcher blocks; they may be named something like “Butcher Block Oil, or Butcher Block Finish”. But, you can save money by going to the hardware store and just purchasing “Mineral Oil”. DO NOT buy “Mineral Spirits”- that is paint thinner.
If you see the terms “food safe finish” it will generally mean that mineral oil has been used. To take care of it wood, wipe mineral oil on the surface of the board and watch it soak in. When the oil no longer soaks in, just wipe off the excess with a dry, clean cloth. You cannot apply too much oil- in this case more is better.
Occasionally, beeswax is added to mineral oil to give a tougher finish to the wood. It helps to make the wood water-resistant but not water proof, and helps protect the wood surface from daily use and wear. It also makes the wood have a nice smooth finish, and you can do it yourself. In a microwave dish put a cup of mineral oil, then shave in about ½ teaspoon of beeswax; microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Apply to the cutting board while it is warm, wipe off excess- always wiping with the grain.
You might also want to apply a beeswax top coat if you are re-finishing a cutting block. The difference is that the oil soaks into the wood, and the beeswax sits on the surface of the wood. Wipe the beeswax on with a clean cloth and then when it is dry you can buff it to a nice shine.
It is also possible to use walnut or almond oil- they are natural and will not go rancid as easily as some oils, but will go rancid eventually. Steer away from them completely if your family has any nut allergies. (I do not recommend either of these oils)
Coconut oil can be used as it is very stable and resistant to rancidity. Don’t store it in direct sunlight and if you live in a warm climate it is best stored in the fridge. To use this oil, warm it slightly then apply with a clean cloth in the direction of the grain. Allow the oil to soak in between each of the four or five coats needed for the initial seasoning, wipe off the oil that does not soak in. Re-oil your cutting board or butcher block monthly or more often if needed.
The time and effort needed to take care of your cutting board will be an investment well spent.
Enjoy it, and take good care of your butcher block or cutting board and it will last longer than a lifetime.