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How to Take Care of a Wooden Cutting Board

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We love to call our double-sided bamboo cutting board a workhorse.

One side is ready for everything from carving a turkey to slicing up an extra-juicy grapefruit. The other side is totally flat (so you can chop a million onions), save for a phone slot (for reading that recipe that asks you to chop a million onions). Because if we’re in the kitchen, odds are we’re using our cutting board for one thing or eight.

But the thing with workhorses—like, literal workhorses—is that you have to take care of them. You have to feed them and brush their manes and pet their noses. The thing with wooden cutting boards is they’re relatively low-maintenance (no feeding necessary), but they still get tired from time to time and need a little love (who doesn’t?). And because wooden cutting boards are so soft, they’re also among the easiest to damage, as they can suffer from scores from rough cutting instruments, such as serrated knives.

Here are our top tips to help any wooden cutting board feel its very best, so it can keep up with you in the kitchen for many years to come.

1. Hand wash > Machine wash

Wooden cutting boards are happy to hop in the sink for a quick shower. But, unlike plastic boards, they hate the dishwasher. Why? Over-soaking any wood can lead to cracking or warping, which is not what we want. A gentle hand-wash after each use with mild soap and warm water (be sure to refrain from soaking) will do the trick. And that leads us to…

2. Dry the wood thoroughly.

Remember that warping we just talked about? That’s when a board curves or bends. This happens if it isn’t dried properly—say, it’s soaking wet and either left in the sink or set back on the counter or on a wet surface. Instead, dry your board with a towel right after washing. For bonus points, keep it in an upright position until it’s completely dry, so both sides are exposed to air. The more evenly it dries, the happier it will be, and the better, stronger work surface it’ll be for you.

3. Take care of stains…on the spot.

For any stained areas—think residue from blackberries, beets, or even juicy steak—make a coarse paste of salt, water, and baking soda, and then scrub it on the area with a tea towel or brush. To get rid of any odors, you can spray the board with white vinegar. Don’t worry about that vinegar smell—it will evaporate.

After, just rinse your wooden board under hot water, taking care to not let it soak. Wipe it dry with a kitchen towel, and let it air-dry.

4. Take It to the Spa.

Well, tell the board it’s going to the spa, but really it’s just your kitchen. (Maybe play some soothing music—our Five Two board loves Enya.) Every couple of months, give your cutting board a deep clean massage. You’re going to need kosher salt, half of a lemon, some mineral oil, and two tea towels. Start by generously sprinkling your entire board with the salt, like you’re seasoning a steak (don’t be shy about it!). Then, working from one corner, rub the entire board with the cut side of a lemon. Watch in wonder as the board gets cleaner with every swipe. Once you’re done canvassing the board, wipe off any excess salt with a tea towel.

Not only does this exfoliate the wood, but it gives the board a clean, happy scent to boot.

5. Moisturize regularly.

Just like our skin, wood gets a little tired of being washed all the time. That’s where moisturizing comes in. After the board is totally dry, rub it with mineral oil or another food-safe oil (like this). Let the board stand with its oily slick for at least ten minutes, then wipe off any excess oil. Ta da!

Some folks even swear by beeswax. But our favorite trick is as old-school as it gets: After you carve a roast beef or slice marinated mushrooms, massage any excess fat or oil into the board. (I guess what I said about boards not needing to be fed wasn’t totally true after all.) Be sure to moisturize generously on a regular basis, especially in the very beginning, and your board will thank you for years to come.

How do you take care of your wooden cutting boards? Tell us your tricks in the comments.

This article originally appeared on November 6, 2018. We’re re-running it because it’s always a good time to give your kitchen’s workhorse a little TLC.

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