For Architectural Digest, by Miranda Silva.
Treat them right and they'll last a lifetime
Photo: Chris Gramly/Vetta/Getty Images
There may be no tool in the kitchen that gets as much of a workout as a wood cutting board. It can often serve a decorative function, too, adding warmth and artisanal beauty to the room. Buying a wood cutting board is a worthy investment, but it's also a commitment--they need a little more TLC than other items. "I think the most common mistake is not understanding that maintenance is part of the cost of ownership," says Cliff Spencer, who handcrafts wood cutting boards as well as cabinetry and furniture in Birmingham, Alabama. If you give your boards the care they need, they can last for decades. We turned to Spencer and Grant Yuan, president of the shop CuttingBoard.com, for their tips on keeping wood boards looking (and working) their best.
Keep it dry.
Clean a wood cutting board every time you use it, but using too much water is a bad thing. "If you are cutting bread or something dry, just brush it off," says Spencer. "If it's something juicy that leaves a residue, warm water and a little dish soap is all you need." Be sure the board is completely dry before you put it away; dampness can cause warping, cracking, and mildew. And whatever you do, don't put it in the dishwasher, says Yuan. "The heat and water will often cause the glue joints to separate or weaken, as well as deform the wood."
Oiling the wood isn't a chore you should skip. It will keep the board from warping or cracking, a result of wood contracting and expanding as it's exposed to moisture. Yuan recommends applying a food-safe mineral oil whenever the board is dry to the touch. Just remember that "end-grain butcher blocks tend to be a little more thirsty than edge- or face-grain boards, due to the exposed wood pores," he says.
If you've neglected your cutting board--or worked it too hard--it's not necessarily beyond repair. "Solid wood is pretty magical in that it can always be sanded down, so gouges, cut marks, and even mildew are fixable, by you or your favorite woodworker," says designer Leigh Kivowitz Spencer, Cliff Spencer's wife and a co-owner of his company. Yuan suggests a very fine sandpaper (such as 220 grit) to avoid splinters that could contaminate food. A dry, super-thirsty cutting board can usually be brought back to life with mineral oil--just be sure to do it gradually over a few days so the wood doesn't suddenly expand, Yuan says.
Let it go.
If your board has a crack, it's a lost cause and an "open invitation for bacteria and mold," says Yuan. Replace it and vow to do better by your new one.
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