This week, Spring Cleaning continues with care for cutting boards and other wooden accessories used in the kitchen. This is an often overlooked duty I see evidence of in most homes I tour: proper care of cutting boards, especially wooden boards.
I use three cutting boards regularly, all wooden. Plastic cutting boards are fine, although the science of plastic boards and safety continues to change and develop. One nice thing about plastic boards is that they can go in the dishwasher for cleaning and sanitizing; but since I don't use a dishwasher...I stick with my wooden boards (which should never go in a dishwasher).
The top board was made by the fine folks at my alma mater Berea College, in the woodcraft department. They've since changed the design; I hope they bring this classic and utilitarian design back into production. (They make great house warming gifts!) The other larger board was bought locally at a supermarket, it's not especially thick and has a small warp because of that fact. The smaller board I use all the time--at the bar or slicing herbs or sometimes for a cheese hors d'oeuvre.
Wooden boards need frequent cleaning and sanitizing to keep them safe from passing along food-borne bacteria. The method I use most frequently is a heavy salt coating on a wet board. Liberally sprinkle kosher salt across the surface of a damp board and allow the board to sit undisturbed overnight. I learned this technique from seeing it used in restaurants on large chopping blocks. The salt heats and dries the work surface, killing any bacteria that may be present. The salt will also stick to the surface of the wood, so you will have to scrap it off with a cloth. Rinse the boards again and allow to dry.
Another method to sanitize the board would be a bleach and water solution washed over the board and then allowed to dry.
I don't know the science of all of this but have found the systems to be effective across time.
After the boards have dried, they need to be oiled. Oiling the boards will return the deep luster to the wood and also prevent the wood from chipping, cracking and deteriorating quickly.
Here I use mineral oil purchased from the drugstore. Yes, there are special oils sold at kitchen supply stores which are a mixture of mineral oil and other proprietary ingredients; but mineral oil from the drugstore is food-quality safe (digested as a laxative)and works especially well. (I also use mineral oil on some porous stone countertops to return the luster to them as well.)
Do not use vegetable oils or nut oils as these quickly turn rancid and could also flavor the foods you are preparing.
Begin oiling the boards with a small amount of oil, and add more if needed. Using a paper towel or clean cloth, work the oil into all the crevices as well as oiling the backs and sides of the boards. Your hands will become oily during this process, and I just think of that as extra moisturizer for them.
Allow the boards to dry upright in a well-ventilated space for several hours, even overnight, before use. Any excess oil may be removed with a dry cloth.
The newly-oiled boards are now ready for use for many weeks. Wash after each use with hot soapy water and allow to dry completely in a well-ventilated space--do not put boards away wet ever. You do not need to re-oil the boards after each salting or bleaching cleaning; but keep an eye for any signs of the boards drying--that's when you re-oil.
This same method of oiling wood should be used for your wooden spoons as well. Never put your wooden spoons in the dishwasher, clean them by hand and give them a good oiling from time to time, especially if you've invested in quality ones. Even cheaper ones will benefit from this technique.
I'll post a wrap-up of spring cleaning chores later this week(things I'm sure you've never thought of), so if you have any ideas about it, send them my way and I'll include them too. Thank you all.