Introduction: Care for your board and it will care for you.
This is part 3 from a longer form blog series.
->Skip if you have read any of the other blogs in the series.<-
After deciding to take cooking more seriously, I thought it would make sense to start by upgrading my kitchen equipment. First, are foremost the knife. A good knife can change your whole cooking experience. But what good is a fancy knife without a good cutting board? For the longest time I overlooked my cutting board; I had that $20 plastic one from Target- I mean yeah, it’s not exactly the ideal, but it gets the job done. What I didn’t know is that old plastic cutting boards can actually harbor bacteria that are near impossible to clean out of the groves left by the knife cuts. A chef friend directed me to a study the NCBI posted this study that says,
“At least some of the work with knife-scarred plastic indicates that the surface is very difficult to clean and disinfect … Further, one of these studies indicated that use of plastic cutting boards in home kitchens is hazardous, whereas use of wooden cutting boards is not.”
And that’s when I knew I had to get something better. After significant time and money spent searching for the perfect board, I could not find one. Thus began my journey to create the perfect wood cutting board. Who would have thought there were so many decisions to be made regarding a cutting board? What size is best? Do I get one for meats specifically? What kind of wood is best? How does one season a cutting board? Do I need one with grooves to catch juices? How do I properly clean a cutting board? What oil do I use to coat the board? Each of these topics is complex enough to solicit its own blog post, so for this one, we will focus on cleaning and caring.
But because I like you, here is the gist:
A large wood cutting board is your best option. Before using the board and once every month, clean the board with lemon and salt then season it with coconut oil. And absolutely do not dish-wash or soak a wood cutting board.
Caring for your wood.
Now that we know which material is best (see blog here), let’s talk about how to care for that new wood (seriously, get maple) board. Caring for your board will ensure that it does not warp, crack, stain, or absorb odors.
Most boards will come unseasoned which means that they have not been properly oiled. Also, the seasoning will wear off over time, so it’s is useful for re-season once a month or more depending on usage.
Wait, but how to I know if my board has been seasoned or not?
Easy, drip some water onto the board and see if it absorbs - if it does then you need to season. Additionally, if it smells or is stained, its time to season.
What is seasoning?
Seasoning is just a fancy word for rubbing in oil to your cutting board. Just like your skin, wood dries out over time and need some oil to stay it tip-top condition.
How to season: which oil is best.
There are lots of different options for oils and some are NOT good.
[Bad]: food oil: canola oil, olive oil, corn oil, etc. These oils oxidize quickly and leave you will a smelly cutting board.
[Ok]: mineral oil: Flax oil. These are better the food oils, but they are impenetrable which means any bacteria that get’s trapped will be unable to be cleaned.
[Best]: Coconut oil. Does not go bad and has anti-microbacterial properties.
Secret tip: After coating with coconut oil, heat + mix 4 parts coconut oil to 1 part beeswax and spread that onto the board once the first coat is dry. The beeswax helps to keep liquids from soaking into the wood.
Steps for cleaning and seasoning.
Step 1: Clean your board:
My favorite way to clean a cutting board is with lemon and salt. Here is how to do it.
Evenly sprinkle coarse salt over the board.
Cut a lemon in half and use it to rub the salt into the board. Think of it as an exfoliation.
[For JCCB owners] Use the specialized brushes (pictured above), included with the Juice Catching Cutting Board, to make sure the holes in your board are properly cleaned.
Let it sit for 5 minutes and then scrape the dirty liquid off.
Rinse and repeat as necessary.
Step 2: Oil and Wax:
Make sure your board is fully dry.
Heat up your coconut oil.
Pour the oil onto sections of the board and use a cloth to rub the oil into the wood.
Wipe off the excess oil.
Let the oil sit for 4+ hours.
Grate enough beeswax to fill a small bowl and heat enough to melt.
Add 4 parts coconut oil (ex: ¼ cup beeswax + 1 cup coconut oil). And the resulting substance should be the consistency of paste.
Use a cloth to rub in the paste like you did for the coconut oil and you are good to go!
Tips for general board care:
Never put in the dishwasher! This will warp the board.
Do not soak the board, this will also warp it.
Clean after each use and especially after cutting raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.
Do not use bleach. Soapy water is good. Lemon and salt is better.
Now you are really good to go. If you take the time to properly clean and wax your cutting board every-so-often, it will last so much longer. Like most things in life, if you care for them, they will last longer! Let me know if I missed anything! Now get out there and start cookin!