There is so much information about which oils and substances are recommended to safely maintain cutting boards or butcher blocks. We put together a list that will help identify which products you should use to both sanitize and keep your board looking beautiful for years to come.
Safe Oils for Your Bamboo Cutting Board
Mineral oil (sometimes called liquid paraffin) is a non-toxic, non-drying product. It is colorless, odorless, and flavorless. This oil has wonderful properties. It can prevent water absorption, which makes food-grade mineral oil a popular choice for wooden kitchen items such as wooden spoons, bowls, and, of course, cutting boards and butcher blocks.
The important key word here is food-safe, as there are types of mineral oils that are not safe for human consumption. How to select the right mineral oil? It is not as hard as you may think. Products labeled as “white mineral oil” are considered food safe. Why? These are refined more than other types of mineral oil. Always make sure to carefully read the product’s labeling if you are unsure about its proper use.
Beeswax is also a popular choice for cutting board maintenance. Its a natural wax produced in the bee hives of honey bees and has a variety of applications. Use beeswax to hydrate, shine, and waterproof a cutting board.
You can buy ready to use conditioners in bottles. But to make your own, you can melt 1 part beeswax and combine with 4 parts mineral oil in a pot to make your own blend.
Sometimes this is called Brazil wax. This wax is derived from the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil. ‘The queen of waxes’, carnauba is water resistant and creates a really glossy finish.
Interesting fact: this oil is often used in automobile waxes, polishes, cosmetics, and even dental floss.
Like beeswax, commercially available cutting board creams and oils often contain a mixture of carnauba, beeswax, and mineral oil.
Coconut Oil (Fractionated)
Coconut oil has recently become highly popular for a variety of purposes. Especially for beautybecause it is rich in saturated fats that are good for skin and hair health. Unfortunately, all fats exposed to air eventually go rancid and coconut oil is not immune.
On the other hand, a select group of coconut oils are refined using a fractionation process. It helps remove long-chain triglycerides (LCT) and only the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are left. As a result, we get an almost pure oil that will NOT go rancid. This type of coconut oil is great for treating not just cutting boards, but your kitchen utensils, salad bowls, countertops… you get the idea.
Has your board begun to smell bad? One of the easiest tricks is to cut a lemon in half and rub it across the entire surface.
The natural lemon oil also forces any soluble materials to be removed as well.
Use with Caution
Walnut oil has a few drawbacks and benefits. First, it comes from a nut, so be cautious for allergic family members or guests.
It is also quite expensive and will eventually go rancid. The one benefit is that walnut oil smells great!
Coconut Oil (Refined, Virgin or Non-Processed)
As we have mentioned, coconut oil is an increasingly popular substance used to maintain cutting boards and butcher blocks. Because of its high saturated fat content, it is slow to oxidize. Therefore, it is resistant to rancidification.
That said, there are reports of boards that have been treated with coconut oil beginning to smell bad after a long period of time. Coconut oil has a plethora of uses: as a skin moisturizer, soap, for cooking and frying, and even burning for candle light. It is also nut-free despite its name!
Olive oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, should never be used to maintain a cutting board or butcher block. These oils will go rancid. It is very dangerous, as it is a process that yields a rank smell and unpleasant taste. As a cutting board touches your food, substances that can turn rancid should be avoided. Food should always be tasty!
Varnish is also called a shellac or lacquer. These products are inappropriate for maintaining a cutting board. But, shellac and lacquer protect wood and provide a beautiful finish. Most varnishes are made from a solvent. It preserves the liquid in the container and evaporates as the finish dries. As a result, it leaves a binder or resin that protects the wood’s surface. This residual resin will chip and peel off when exposed to sharp objects like knives. This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, the substances in the varnish can be toxic to humans. Secondly, varnish can ruin the taste and aesthetic appeal of food.