sharpening and caring for your kitchen knives

Cutting Board Oil — Wooden Boards Crave It

wooden cutting boardsc
For those of you who love wooden cutting boards (and I’m not sure who doesn’t), if you don’t want them to dry out and warp and start developing deep cracks, you absolutely must oil them. Nothing can take the place of cutting board oil. I have learned this hard way—from years past when I couldn’t be bothered with petty details. Fortunately enough, I ended up mending my ways in time to actually save a board or two. Soooo. . . .there’s still hope, even though you might have already noticed hairline cracks developing in that lovely hardwood carving board you got as a wedding gift.

Here’s the how to:

1) First, and most important of all—use the right type of oil. Mineral oil. Very, very important! Forget all those veggie oils—the overwhelming majority of them will turn rancid. Which can add an unwanted tinge of tartness to whatever you chop on the board and make the surface gummy and mildly disgusting.

Three recommended brands of mineral oil:

2) Apply a modicum of oil to the board, and with a clean cotton rag, spread and rub it into the wood. Repeat; repeat. (It’s better to apply the oil to the wood rather than the cloth because you’ll use less. Cloths tend to be oil hogs.) Make sure to do both sides as well as the edges, even if you only chop on one side of the board. Wood needs to absorb liquids evenly—otherwise it tends to warp.

3) Don’t over oil! Better to do a second session if need be. (If you ignore this advice, you’re going to keep wondering where all those oil smears on your countertop and clothes are coming from.)

John Boos Cutting Board, Maple, 12″ x 18″

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4) After you’ve covered the entire surface, let it sit for a minute or two. Then, using a fresh dry cloth, wipe the entire board taking away any excess oil. Prop the board up with nothing touching it, so it can get as much air as possible. Allow the wood to do its absorption thing. My favorite airing-out spot is on top of the stove grills. (I do this after dinner and usually flip the board at least once.)

5) If after 4 or 5 hours the board is still moist with oil, you’ve applied too much. Take a clean cloth and rub it down again and continue to leave it out to dry. All you can do is wait—eventually the wood will soak it up. (And if you need to use the board in the meantime, go ahead. Mineral oil is virtually tasteless and won’t hurt your food.)

Enjoy the mellow shiny glow of an oil-freshened board! For more details on the world of wooden cutting boards, including cleaning them and how they compare to plastic, please see my in-depth articles Cutting Boards — What’s Better, Wood or Plastic? and Cutting Board Cleanliness. . . on the KitchenKnifeGuru website.

P.S. If your wooden cutting board had begun to develop some minor cracking, this should help—but it can’t do miracles. It can also help with preventing warpage.

5 Comments
  1. Hi – Me again,

    1. How often do you recommend doing this oiling process?
    2. What do you think about the John Boos wax? DO you need to use this as well – if so how often?
    3. How is William Sonoma mineral oil?

    Thanks,

    Zac

    • Hi Zac,

      1) It totally depends on how much you use your cutting board and, more importantly, how much you wash it. You can tell when the wood starts getting paler and drying out. Most new cutting boards have been oiled some, but if yours looks dry, it can’t hurt to oil it. Just make sure to wipe off the excess. And with a new board, I would definitely recommend being generous with how often you oil it because it will only help with the curing process. Always do BOTH sides. And when you wash do BOTH sides and rough dry BOTH sides with a paper towel. Do NOT let the board drip-dry soaking wet or you are asking for warpage issues on a new board! (I’m going to do a post on this, on breaking in a new board, in January.)

      2) I haven’t used the Boos, but it looks great. Heck, it may even last longer and resist water more than regular mineral oil. (BTW, it has mineral oil in it.) On the other hand, you pay a premium for it, and it’s not necessary to spend that premium. Regular mineral oil will work fine.

      3) William-Sonoma’s mineral oil would be fine. I think I used to use it :)

      Best, KKG

      • Wow – OK, amazing:

        A Wusthof Classic santoku, a big Boos board, a Messermeister ceramic hone, and some good oil! Nice Hannukah present if you ask me!

        Thanks for your help. Hopefully, I’ll be back soon once the knife collection starts to grow!

        Zac

  2. You can buy food-grade mineral at some drug stores, namely CVS, in my area. I dissolve 6% (by volume) beeswax in it over a hot water bath. More beeswax and it tends to separate. The beeswax is carried into the board by the mineral oil and builds up with repeated use. As the board gets saturated with wax, you will have to oil it less frequently.

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