Three Ways Mineral Oil Can Help Preserve Cutting Boards and Butcher Blocks
Applying food-grade mineral oil to your wooden kitchen utensils is a great way to extend their lifespan.
The old saying “A craftsman is only as good as his tools” might just as well apply to the culinary arts. Quality knives and a solid cutting surface are the starting point for any chef, so it’s just as important to protect your cutting board as it is to keep knives properly sharpened. While chopping blocks and boards may be made from a variety of materials, wood is hard to beat for traditional looks and performance. But wood requires extra maintenance beyond simply keeping it clean. Here’s the proper way to condition your natural cutting surface and make meal prep a pleasure.
Mineral oil is a great conditioner for any cutting board made from wood or bamboo. It penetrates deeply and leaves a finish that holds up with repeated rinsing. However, not all mineral oils are created equal; in fact, some less-refined oils are considered toxic. Before wiping down a cutting board, make certain that the product you use is labelled as “food grade” mineral oil, which is more highly refined to remove the hazardous elements found in lower-quality oils.
A cutting board is not the only kitchen utensil that benefits from regular oiling. Salad bowls and tongs, knife handles, and practically anything else made of wood can be instantly rejuvenated with a fresh dose of oil. For initial conditioning, thoroughly coat the surface, allow the oil to penetrate for several minutes, and then wipe off the excess. Repeat five or six times on new boards, and then every couple of weeks or as necessary once the board has been broken in.
A wood butcher block is the cutting board’s big brother. It can be freestanding or countertop, as long as it is beefy enough to sustain the pounding and chopping inherent in breaking down primal cuts of beef, chicken, or pork. Butcher blocks are usually end-grain surfaces, meaning the open grain of the wood faces up to present a softer face that won’t dull knives and is self-healing. That end grain also soaks up oil like a sponge, so a conditioner blended with dense natural waxes, such as beeswax, will go farther and help the board surface stay malleable to prevent splitting and cracking as it ages.