7 tips for maintaining wooden bowls, utensils and cutting boards

July 29, 2015

Wooden spoons, bowls and cutting boards are functional and charming. Because you use them so often, it's easy to overlook them, but a bit of attention will keep them looking and working well — and will keep you from having to toss them before you need to.

7 tips for maintaining wooden bowls, utensils and cutting boards

1. Don't machine-wash wood

  • Dishwashers are so convenient that it's always tempting to throw everything in there. But put your wooden spoons and wood-handled utensils aside for hand washing.
  • The heated drying cycle in your dishwasher robs wood of its natural oils.
  • Dried-out wood utensils will crack and break, but those you hand-wash will reward you with many years of service.

2. The right oil is good for wood

  • Most wooden kitchen tools and bowls will benefit from a coat of oil when their surfaces seem dry and dull, but you have to use the right oil.
  • Never use vegetable oil — it will become rancid and sticky. And never use furniture oils; they may include ingredients that are not safe for use with food.
  • Look for products labelled "salad bowl oil" or "spoon oil." These contain mineral oil or sometimes a nut oil, such as walnut, combined with beeswax.
  • Be aware that some wooden bowls and utensils have a permanent surface finish that precludes oiling; check the cleaning directions that came with the item.

3. Sand the fuzz away

  • If your wooden item has become a little fuzzy, it's because moisture has raised the grain.
  • In this case, smooth the wood with medium-grit sandpaper followed by fine sandpaper before applying oil.

4. How to clean a wooden cutting board

  • Wipe the board with a clean, dry cloth after each use.
  • To remove stuck foodstuffs, wipe vigorously with a hot, wet sponge or cloth; then towel off excess water, and dry upright in a dish rack.

5. Turn the board over

  • Trees suck water out of the ground through a network of tiny straws called cells.
  • As a result, you can think of a cutting board as a pile of tiny straws glued together and laid on their side.
  • When you chop on the board, you slice the top layer of cells.
  • This means that a nicked-up side of a cutting board will suck up moisture from the food and even the air more readily than an undisturbed side.
  • So to get maximum life from your cutting board and to keep it flat and prevent cracks, be sure to use both sides.

6. Never soak cutting boards

Never soak a wooden cutting board. Cracking and warping occur when wood repeatedly goes from a wet to dry state.

7. Keep it cool

Don't set hot pots and pans on a wooden cutting board. They'll leave burn marks and can warp the wood.

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