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Quick summary: Clean it with a damp cloth and give it a coat of oil once a month or so, and – for the love of all things good and true, never submerge it in water or put it in the dishwasher.
Wipe it down with a damp cloth, and a soapy one if you think it needs it.
To freshen it up a bit, prepare snapper en papillote, and reserve half a lemon. (Alternatively, you can make some lemonade to secure the lemon.) Sprinkle some kosher salt over the board (just a tablespoon or so…), squeeze on the lemon juice, and use the business side of the lemon rind to scrub the board a bit. Salt, acid, and a bit of pure lemon oil all help.
Every couple of weeks you may want to sanitize the board with some white vinegar. Splash some on the surface or use a spray bottle. Wipe it and let it dry.
Wood is generally safe for meats. With wooden boards, any bacteria are drawn into the top 1mm of the surface where they either die, or remain and are unable to contaminate any food. Knife-scarred plastic cutting boards don’t provide the same benefit – the bacteria can live longer in that environment and can cross-contaminate food.
Oil is very important for cutting boards as less moisture from food prep will soak into a well-oiled board. USP-grade mineral oil is safe and stable and is the base for my finish. Never use olive oil, vegetable oil, or other cooking oils as those will break down and turn rancid. Never use “lemon oil” furniture polish (it has mineral spirits in it to dissolve oils and not food safe) or other furniture products.
In my blend, I also add beeswax to help seal the board, orange oil to make it a bit more lustrous and for its mild antibacterial properties, and the anise oil because I think it smells great when paired with the orange oil.
When you get your board, I’ll have coated it with at least 3 coats of my mineral oil/beeswax/orange oil/anise oil mixture. And it will be smooth as can be. Ready to go.
[Note: It will likely never be as perfectly smooth again once you start using it. So it goes. Wood being wood, as it has contact with moisture from use, the wood fibers shift and it’s no longer perfectly smooth. Wood is never static and it changes over time. But that’s fine – it will make for quieter chopping. If you do want to refresh the board to new-from-the-workshop smoothness, a few passes with 220 grit sandpaper and then a coat of oil and beeswax will bring it back. Or give me a call at 718 GO-CANAL.]
After any serious cleaning, or at least every month, give it a coat of mineral oil (you can get the oil at Walgreens or any other drug store.). Be sure to coat the entire board and let it soak in for a few minutes (I like to coat the bottom first, then stand it on its rubber feet – alternatively you can use 4 upside-down forks to prop up the board), then reapply to any dry areas. After 30min wipe off any excess.
It’s important to coat the entire board – all sides – if only oiling the top, over time it can warp.