By Alex Delany. Photos by: Alex Lau and Laura Murray.
“Whoever invented the glass or ceramic cutting board, I’d, uh, like to have have a little conversation with them,” Brad Leone said, fuming. Leone, our test kitchen manager, is all about the wooden cutting board. His opinions on the matter border on obsession.
You might not think that a slab of wood involves upkeep, but let us assure you, your cutting board needs love and care. It doesn’t have to happen every day, but once every other week, you should do it. For Leone’s regimen you’ll need two materials, besides tap water and a lint-free microfiber cloth:
Food-Grade Mineral Oil This petroleum-based oil hydrates wood once absorbed. It’s commonly used on wooden spoons, among other kitchen appliances. It’s colorless, odorless, and lightweight (when it comes to oils). Leone says you can buy a gallon of it on Amazon.
Boos Block Board Cream Our second material helps protect the first. Boos Board Cream is made from a mix of beeswax and mineral oil, but as you can probably guess, Leone usually makes his own out of the same materials.
Once you’ve acquired the oil and cream, it’s time to get to work.
Step 1: The Wash
Wash your cutting board with water (soap is fine too), including the underside and edges, removing anything that’s stuck to it with a lint-free rag. Most people only wash the top, and that actually ends up hurting the board. When moisture reacts with grain, it swells, and if the swelling isn’t uniform, it can warp the board. A rocking cutting board usually means that only one side was washed.
Then, wipe down the board and let it dry thoroughly overnight, standing it on edge (shown above) so that both large faces are facing out.
Step 2: The Oil
The next morning, use your hands to apply a generous layer of mineral oil to the sides, top, bottom, and any groove, grip, or handle. You don’t need puddles of oil on your board, just enough to cover the wood with an even coat. Like a hungover coworker on a Wednesday morning, the wood needs hydration. Let the oil soak into the board for at least three hours. Leave it on its edge to dry just like before.
Step 3: The Cream
After the oil has had enough time to soak into the grains, it’s time to apply the cream. Apply it directly to the wood and spread the cream over the entire board, making sure to get in every nook and cranny. The cream is greasy, so if you don’t want to get it all over your hands, apply it with a lint-free microfiber cloth. Once you’ve covered the whole piece of wood, you’ve created a barrier to help the wood retain moisture. You know what to do. On its side. Broad faces out. Let it sit overnight.
Step 4: The Polish and Buff
In the morning, use your lint-free microfiber cloth to rub the board in circular motions, polishing and buffing in a motion that would make Mr. Miyagi proud. The wood will get glassy and beautiful. After you finish, Leone says red wine will just pool on it rather than soak into the wood. You’ve created a successful barrier.
Knowing When to Give It Up
Theoretically, with the right upkeep a cutting board could last your entire life. With this cleaning process, the wood should look great for decades.
If deep cut marks start to show up on the face of the wood, you can sand out deep ridges by taking sand paper to the entire face of the board. You have to sand evenly, which takes time, but it can give the board a whole new life. Make sure to start from the beginning of the cleaning process after.
Sometimes your board will warp, even with the best of care. In that case, get a new one. When the glued joints start to fail or heavy cracks develop, food and bad bacteria can start to build up and potentially make you sick. We don’t want that.
“If you take care of it, it’ll take care of you,” Leone offers wisely. Get something beautiful. There’s long grain, end grain, squared tiles, and tons of other styles. Shop around and find one that speaks to you. “At the end of the day, it’s as much art as it is a tool.”
And, please, Leone begs, never put a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher. You’re better than that.
This story originally appeared on Bon Appetit.
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