Friday, February 17, 2012

Cutting Board Appreciation Day

Tired overworked wooden kitchen tools much in need of a day off. (click image to enlarge)

Cutting boards, wooden bowls, and spoons are some of the first items we reach for in the kitchen. Sliced, cut, scraped, stabbed, and pounded they are also some of the most abused hardest working members of the utensil family.  Standing in jars on counters or slid in drawers, these beaten items scream for a little attention.  As I was getting my second cup of coffee this morning, I heard the voices of the wood speaking to me and realized I had not given any care to these battered friends since before the heavy lifting of the holiday season. So I have declared today to be Cutting Board and Wooden Utensil Appreciation Day and am going to give these kitchen employees a much needed and deserved 2 day pass to the wood spa........

Spa Day (click image to enlarge)

Body Scrub:
The first step at the wood spa is a thorough scrubbing of all items. I work over all surfaces with dish soap and warm water using a scotch-brite pad or a dobie cleaning pad.  For this process I use one sink to hold the warm soapy water, and the other to do the scouring in as I do not want to get the wood to wet by soaking. Scrub the services evenly including the edges and ends of items such as spoons.  Rinse completely.  Be sure to give equal treatment to both sides of the cutting boards in order to prevent warping.

Chemical Peel:
The second step is to mix a solution of bleach and water, I use a 1:1 ratio.   Latex or rubber gloves should be used in order to prevent burning your hands with the solution.  Working in the same manner as in the a fore mentioned body scrub, I place the bleach water in one sink and scrub in the other.  It is important to work the entire surface evenly using the scrubbing pad. The bleach will actually remove a very thin layer taking with it the small frayed ends created by cut marks from knives.  This process also sanitizes the wood in preparation for the next process.  Rinse thoroughly making sure to completely remove all bleach water residue.  Dry the items and place on a drying mat or towel.  Stand the boards on their edge so that both sides are exposed to the air.

Deep Relaxation:
The third step is to let the wood dry.  I allow 8-10 hours for drying time rotating the items halfway through to achieve an even drying.  It is very important that all moisture has had ample time leave the wood in order for the oils to be able to soak in.  If the wood is not allowed to dry completely, the remaining moisture in the wood will push its way out taking the newly applied oil with it.

Butcher Block Oil purchased at a woodworking supply store. (click image to enlarge)

Oil Massage:
The final step is to  apply a butcher block oil to the wood.  Do not use vegetable, corn, or olive oils as they can become rancid.  I like General Finishes Butcher Block Oil which I get at a woodworkers supply store like Rockler, and have found it to be about half the price of similar products offered in gourmet kitchen stores or Bed Bath and Beyond. Using a small soft cloth or folded paper towel apply a generous coat of oil rubbing in the same direction as the grain of the wood.  Be sure to coat all surfaces and edges.  I let the wood absorb the product for about 15 - 20 minutes.  The oil will absorb into the wood in some areas faster than other, use the cloth to move excess oil from the wet areas to those that absorbed quicker. Let stand for another 10 minutes and wipe off the excess product with a dry cloth or paper towel.  Allow the wood to dry for at least 12 hours before turning over to do the other side giving the product time to completely soak into the wood and cure.  Repeat this  process for the other side.  Be sure to work on a flat surface and oil all surfaces as this will help to prevent warping. I use chopsticks to dry my spoons on exposing all sides to the air. If a board has been badly neglected it may require a second treatment of oil.  Again make sure to allow adequate drying time.

A 120 year old wooden bowl well maintained and ready to use (click image to enlarge)

It is hard to beat the beauty and functionality of wooden kitchen items.  Keeping your cutting boards and utensils cleaned and oiled helps to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria and mildew, makes clean up a bit easier, and dramatically extends their life.

Nourished and Refreshed back to serve  (click image in enlarge)


1 comment:

  1. Are you available for hire? My wooden utensils have started complaining.