How to Care for Your Wooden Cutting Board (Larch & More)
February 16, 20224 min read
When discussing different kinds of knives, I find it really helpful to compare them to cars; some drive super fast but require more care, while others are super tough but less speedy. Japanese knives are the ultra-fast Ferraris, western knives are better suited for off roading. If your knife is like your car, your cutting board is the race track full of roaring engines and screaming fans. Like any good road, your cutting board needs proper care.
Your end grain cutting board has the potential to become a kitchen heirloom, but you need to know how to care for it. It isn’t hard, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to hand it down to your grandkids.
The best advice I can give you about taking care of nice tools is to treat it like you spent $500 dollars on it, and you’ll be fine. A good cutting board is no different than a good knife, so common sense goes a long way. Here are a few pointers:
Always wash and dry by hand. Dishwashers destroy wood. End of story.
Thoroughly dry your board before putting it away in the cupboard. Damp wood in dark places tends to get mouldy. You have a gorgeous board, consider displaying it proudly on your counter.
The board is made of wood, and will burn if you put hot pots and pans on it.
Be gentle when using a serrated knife or cleaver on your board. The scratches and gouges can be deeper and harder to hide after the damage is done.
Washing & Drying
The folks at Larch Wood have a great line about washing your board: “Give it a shower, not a bath.” Use a mild dish soap and a soft cloth or sponge while running warm water over the board to give a good clean. Dry it with a clean towel afterwards.
Let’s pretend that you made dinner for a bunch of friends and forgot to clean up as you went along. The next day you go into the kitchen to find that your board reeks of onion and garlic. No problem! For a deeper clean, dip a halved lemon in some coarse salt and use that to scrub the board. It’ll take some of its waxy finish off, but that’s easily fixed. Vinegar and salt also works, but lemon is better (and smells nicer).
Here’s what you should never do with a good cutting board:
Soaking your board in water. This will cause swelling and warping, which will eventually cause the joints and glue to break and twist apart.
Never use super hot water to clean it. This will strip the waxes and oils from the board, drying it out to an extreme. It will need some conditioning to ensure it isn’t permanently damaged.
Avoid using coarse steel wool or wire brushes, they can scratch your board deeply. Use a Tawashi Brush or the salty lemon trick in cases where you need aggressive scrubbing.
Never use baking soda on your board. It will stain your cutting board, even when mixed with an acid.
Don’t use abrasive or chemical cleaners. They aren’t necessary and can scratch the board, weaken the wood, or mess with the glue.
Hydrating Your Board
The key to a long-lived cutting board is keeping the wood greased up when it starts to dry out. While your board will come “seasoned” (greased up with waxes and oils), it does take some regular maintenance to keep it in tip top shape. A board that is properly seasoned will repel water, stains, and unwanted odours. Regular waxing will also help close up the scratches and cuts that arise with regular use.
We carry a fantastic Knifewear Board Wax, locally made just for us. Smear a healthy dose on your board whenever the wood loses its shiny lustre. Apply it generously with your hand or paper towel and let it sit for a while, even overnight if you’ve let it get out of hand. Buff out the excess with a clean paper towel or cloth and you’re back in business. Here's a visual guide:
A dried out, unhappy board.
Slather your board in wax, let it sit overnight. Buff it with paper towel or a dry cloth in the morning.
Voila, good as new!
If you’ve really let things get bad and you’re dealing with Sahara levels of dryness, rub your board all over with some food safe mineral oil prior to waxing. The oil does a better job of penetrating the wood and the wax will seal it in. Don’t be tempted to use cooking oils as they will go rancid, smelly, and sticky. Also, do not use woodworking oils as they aren’t food-safe.
If you follow our advice here, your cutting board should last the rest of your life and long enough to get handed over to the next generation. You can also use all the info here and apply it to your knife handles, spatulas, Beau Grain magnets, and anything else made of wood in your kitchen. Happy waxing folks!
Chris is a relocated Maritimer that can be found slinking in and out the back doors of Ottawa's restaurants, often with his daughter in tow. Chris has been a fixture in the Ottawa food scene for the past 10 years and has recently laid down his apron to learn the ways of Knifewear. Chris loves cooking big pieces of meat over a live fire and spends his summer feeding wood into his BBQ, Lemmy Smoke-mister.