How to Maintain the Quality of Your Cutting Board Over Time
Oil treatments and food-safe cleaning products are essential for this process.
Kitchen essentials like cutting boards, pots, pans, and utensils all come in contact with food on a daily basis, so it's important to understand the best ways to keep them clean. While popping most everyday cooking tools in the dishwasher or hand washing them are sufficient in terms of getting them clean and ready for use, cutting boards generally require a bit of extra care. Whether you use wooden or synthetic cutting boards, they are likely to experience wear and tear over time just with the use of knives on the surface. Not only is getting them clean after each use important, but you'll also need to ensure that they aren't warped or cracked. Here, we'll explain how to maintain your cutting boards for years to come.
When it comes to daily use of a cutting board, the best rule of thumb for a wooden board is to hand wash it using warm soapy water. "It's important to never place a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher or submerge it in water for extended periods of time," Jerry Kellar, the founder of Pino Grande Woodworking, says. "The high heat and steam in a dishwasher increase the moisture content in the wood resulting in warping and cracking once dry." Synthetic cutting boards, on the other hand, are usually dishwasher safe, but Kellar still recommends hand washing for optimal care. Either way, always check the manufacturer guidelines to make sure that your board can go in the dishwasher.
Clean a wooden cutting board with ingredients you likely already have on hand in your home: white distilled vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and kosher salt. Kellar notes that vinegar is an acetic acid that has been used as a disinfectant for generations. Make your own cleaning solution by mixing one part vinegar to four parts water and pour it over the cutting board. After sitting for a few minutes, simply rinse and then hand wash the board with soap and water. There are a few other tips to follow after putting certain types of food on a wooden cutting board. "To clean a wooden board after cutting raw meat, hand wash the board right away using hot soapy water and follow up with the vinegar disinfecting solution," Kellar says. "An alternative to the vinegar solution could include mixing together one teaspoon bleach to two quarts water and pouring over the wooden board in a kitchen sink." Just like the vinegar solution, allow the bleach solution to sit for a few minutes and then hand wash the tool with soap and water. Note: Bleach can discolor darker woods (like walnut) over time.
"For unwanted stains from chopped vegetables and fruits—think beets, purple carrots, and berries—a simple paste made from one tablespoon baking soda, one tablespoon kosher salt, and a tablespoon of water can be applied to the wooden cutting board using a sponge to gently scrub out stains; adding the juice of a lemon to the mix supports removal of any unwanted scents (garlic and onions, we're looking at you)," the expert adds. "Lemon juice is a citric acid that aids in removing unwanted smells and stains." To clean a synthetic cutting board, use one teaspoon of bleach and two quarts water. You'll then add this solution to the board with a sponge and let it set for approximately two minutes before you rinse. Stand the tool upright to allow it to dry thoroughly before you store it. If it is dishwasher safe, then Kellar advises to use the "sanitize" setting to ensure it's completely clean after the cycle.
Keeping your cutting boards in the best shape possible requires some routine maintenance. For a wooden cutting board, Kellar notes that you should apply a food-grade mineral, such as Thirteen Chefs Food Grade Mineral Oil ($14, amazon.com) or Howard Products Cutting Board Oil ($9, amazon.com), oil once or twice a month (depending on frequency of use of the cutting board) to season it. (Avoid using other types of oil, like olive, avocado, or coconut, since these can become rancid.) "To apply, pour a small amount onto your board and, using a clean paper towel, distribute the oil across the surface of the entire board moving in a circular motion," he says. "Allow to sit for 30 minutes and then wipe off any excess." For even more protection, Kellar suggests using a layer of board conditioner, like the Pino Grande Woodworking Cutting Board Conditioner ($10, shoppgw.com), to maintain the mineral oil and keep away excess moisture.
Retain the condition of a synthetic cutting board by cleaning stains with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. Kellar says to mix three tablespoons baking soda to one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide to create a paste. Coat the paste over the stained area and let it sit on the cutting board for an hour before rinsing. Then handwash with warm soapy water and dry.
Consider keeping several cutting boards in your kitchen for meal prep, such as a board to cut raw meat and one to cut vegetables. Wooden varieties are most gentle on knife blades, while synthetic boards can more quickly dull the edge of a knife.