Wooden-chopping-board-with-bread-cheese-and-grapes

HOW TO CLEAN AND CARE FOR A WOODEN CHOPPING BOARD

The wooden chopping board is the unsung hero of kitchenware. Solid, dependable, faithfully helping to shape the evening meal every day before being put back in the corner. But don’t take it for granted. Food boards need love too, you know. Read our guide to caring for your cutting board and, in turn, it will reward you with years of loyal service.

It’s fair to say that, here at Hyrst, our excitement for lumps of solid wood goes beyond anything that could be called reasonable. From the woodland to the workshop, tree to table, we care deeply about how best to harvest, shape and sustain British-grown timber, be it sycamore, ash, oak or elm.

In the simplest way, this reverence shines through in our love for a good chopping board. The humble wooden cutting board has been a staple feature of the kitchen landscape for centuries. From Butcher’s blocks to meze boards, they can be functional and beautiful, gently weathering with each use.

A food board made from a single piece of wood will last for decades, generations even, if cleaned and cared for in the right way. The maintenance routine can be broken down into two distinct categories: firstly, regular cleaning to ensure the chopping board remains hygienic; and secondly, periodic oiling to prevent the wood from drying out.

How to clean your chopping board

Before we talk about how to clean your chopping board, an important note on how not to clean it. Conjure a mental list of the things you wouldn’t put in a dishwasher – car keys, iPad, pets and so on. Now, add wooden chopping board to that list. Soaking a food board in water will swell the timber which, when dried (particularly in the heat of a dishwasher), will warp and crack. Similarly, don’t submerge a cutting board in a bowl of washing-up water.

Daily cleaning for your chopping board

The regularity with which you clean a food board will depend on what you’re using it for. If it’s for chopping bread, simply brush off the crumbs; no real need to reach for a cloth. However, in most other instances – from cucumber to chorizo to cheese – it’s important to clean after every use. Wipe with a damp cloth, moistened with warm water and washing up liquid, straight after use. Be sure to dry the damp board immediately, so that water doesn’t sit on the surface.

Woodedn-chopping-board-being-cleaned-with-damp-cloth-over-sink

Over time, particularly if you’re using the board for chopping meats or colourful veg, the surface can become stained and grooved. A more intensive clean may therefore be required.

Deep cleaning for your chopping board

We don’t recommend using harsh chemicals or detergents for any deep clean of a food board. There are effective, natural ways to remove bacteria and stains from the wooden surface. Similarly, at Hyrst we avoid using anything that could leave a lingering tang on the board, such as vinegar, impairing the taste of any prepared food.

We deep clean the boards that we use in our own kitchen using rock salt and lemon juice. First, use the chopping board to slice a lemon in half. Then take some chunky salt (such as sea salt) and sprinkle it on the dry board, rubbing it into the surface, working into any cuts and grooves. Squeeze the lemon (one half or both, depending on board size) onto the cutting board and then rub the lemon and salt mix well into the surface.

Leave the salty-lemon mix on the board for ten minutes, allowing the citric acid to work on stains and bacteria, and then wipe clean with a damp cloth.

Wooden-chopping-board-with-sea-salt-and-half-a-lemon

There is an important caveat to the lemon juice cleaning method. At Hyrst, we make a number of ebonised food boards. These boards are made from oak, blackened using a natural process that works with the tannins in the timber. Do not use the lemon juice and salt method on ebonised boards such as these – the citric acid will discolour the black timber. Fortunately, the darkened timber is far less likely to become visibly stained by food stuffs during the course of its life. To deep clean ebonised chopping boards, pass under hot water and scrub with a soft brush.

How to care for your chopping board so that it lasts for several years

Whilst cleaning a chopping board after each use will help to keep bacteria away, over time this regular wetting and drying will remove the protective oil that will most likely have been added to the board when it was made. The surface will become more porous and more likely to stain. So, prepare to refresh and revive!

Keeping your chopping board oiled

We find that our food boards, whether we used as cheese board, charcuterie board or bread board, need a top up of oil every six to twelve months. No more than that. At Hyrst, every board we make is finished in with a wax oil product made by Brandon Bespoke []. It took us a long time to find a vegan-friendly product, made in the UK from natural oils and waxes. And so, this is the oil we use to refresh the boards in our kitchen; it’s worth having a tub to hand to help your own board last for years to come. Simply wipe some of the wax oil onto the board using a piece of kitchen towel. Once dry, wipe off any residue with another piece of kitchen towel. Job done.

Be sure to oil both sides of the board and also the edges, creating a consistent waterproof seal on the wood.

Alternatively, you can revive a wooden cutting board with a wipe of olive oil. However, be aware that the surface can start to whiff after a while, as the oil becomes rancid.

Sanding your chopping board

We rather like the patina of an old cutting board; the grooves and scars of several years chopping helping to give the wood an interesting texture and character. However, if you want it looking as fresh as the day it was born, you need to reach for an electric sander. You could do this by hand, but it will take significantly longer. So, if you have an electric orbital sander, give the board a quick buzz on a flat surface – either outside or in a workshop set up for dust extraction. Sand the board twice, using 80 grit sandpaper on the first pass and 120 grit on the second, for a smooth surface. Higher grits are available, for an even smoother surface if so desired, but we find that a 120 grit does the job.

Sanding a solid wooden chopping board will remove the top layer of the wood, leaving virgin timber underneath. Once any groves and stains have been sanding away, give the board a new coat of wax oil and it will look good as new

 

Your wooden chopping board care checklist

  1. Do not soak your wooden chopping board in water or put it through the dishwasher
  2. If at all possible, clean only by wiping with a damp cloth
  3. Dry any excess water on the board as soon as it gets wet
  4. Use a mix of salt and lemon juice to scrub away stains and clean out grooves
  5. If using every day, coat the board with a food-safe oil every 6 to 12 months
  6. Don’t throw old boards away; bring them back to life with a sand
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