April 8, 2023

The Benefits and Best Practices of Using Oil on Cutting Boards

Wood cutting boards are maintained with food-grade oil to prevent cracking and dirt. Regular oiling of your board is critical. Oiling your wooden cutting board helps keep moisture in the board to prevent cracking and splitting. This maintenance may take a little extra time.

Oiling your wood board will help close the cracks and crevices that develop over time. It keeps water and other liquids from penetrating, giving the wood a much longer life. Oiling the wood protects it from liquid and prevents harmful bacteria from entering. With less room to penetrate, germs are less likely to get far into your wooden board, contributing to overall hygiene.

Once you have oiled your wooden board, you will notice the rejuvenating power of this process. Your board will look new again, and the scratches and scars covering its surface will disappear. Do not mistakenly use other organic oils on your wooden boards because the fats they contain can quickly deteriorate and damage the wood. Once the oil becomes rancid, it will develop an odor that can not be removed, and you will have to replace your board.

Cutting board finished with teak oil

Types of Oil for Cutting Boards

Food-grade mineral oil 

Food-grade mineral oil is transparent, has no odor or taste, and is the best cutting board oil. Just be sure to buy mineral oil that’s FDA food-grade or USP-grade with the classification listed on the label. What makes it ideal for kitchen use is its oxidation resistance. Mineral oil can resist oxidation, even if exposed to oxygen or moisture (Kemin.com).

Pros

  • Transparent 
  • No odor 
  • No taste 
  • Affordable 
  • Resistance to oxidation

Cons

  • It can generate friction. 
  • It forms sludge at high temperatures

Vegetable oil

Avoid any cooking oil on your board, such as olive, vegetable, or regular coconut oil, because they will go rancid. Excess moisture is bad for wood. Never soak your cutting board or let it sit in water for extended periods.

Pros

  • Eco-friendly
  • Fend off odors and stains
  • It keeps it from cracking. 
  • Easier to wash
  • Easy to maintain 

Cons

  • It goes rancid
  • It cannot handle more moisture

Linseed Oil 

This oil comes from pressing the flax plant. Raw linseed oil is safe for human consumption, but oiled linseed oil is heated and treated with chemicals that make it toxic for humans. Linseed oil is popular due to its water-repelling properties and luster after application. However, as an organic oil, rancidification is a drawback. Linseed oil does not go rancid as quickly as other oils. That could be a case of using linseed oil only if you know the source and quality.

linseed oil next to a bowl of Linseeds

Pros

  • Safe
  • Easy to apply
  • Water-resistant 
  • Eco-friendly
  • Elasticity 

Cons

  • Rancidification 
  • Boiled linseed is toxic

Best type of oil to use: Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a non-toxic, non-drying product from petroleum that is colorless, odorless, and flavorless. It prevents water absorption, making food-grade mineral oil a popular choice for wooden kitchen items such as wooden spoons, bowls, cutting boards and butcher blocks. 

When selecting mineral oil, the product labeled as white mineral oil is food safe, as it is refined to a certain degree past other oils. Carefully read the product’s labeling if unsure about its proper use. Buy mineral oil blended in cutting boards such as Howard’s Cutting Board Oil or Food Grade Mineral Oil. Regular application of mineral oil will prevent cutting boards from becoming dry and brittle and prevent liquids from penetrating the board, the source of germs and bacteria.

Pros

  • Safe for human consumption 
  • Transparent
  • No odor 
  • Easy to apply 
  • No taste

Cons

  • Inability to protect against scratches
  • Need for frequent reapplication.

How to Oil a Cutting Board

Step-by-step instructions for oiling a cutting board

  1. Before you begin applying oil, clean and dry the cutting board. Use warm soapy water and a soft sponge, rinse well, and air dry. Never run a wooden cutting board through a dishwasher. 
  2. Pour a healthy dose of mineral oil evenly over one side of the wood-cutting board. Continue adding oil as you work around the board. Use a clean, soft dish cloth or paper towel, and rub the oil into the wood in the grain direction or in a circular motion. 
  3. Continue adding oil and rubbing it into the surface until the side has a shine and will not absorb any more oil. Flip the board over and repeat the process. Get all the sides.
  4. Let the cutting board soak up as much oil as possible. Leave the board standing, on its side or propped up against a vertical surface. 
  5. Wipe away any excess oil after 5-10 minutes before leaving the board overnight.

Tips for ensuring the cutting board is properly oiled

There are a few tips to keep in mind to oil a cutting board properly. Firstly, using the right type of oil, such as food-grade mineral oil, walnut oil, or beeswax, is important. Avoid using vegetable, olive, or other cooking oils, which can go rancid over time.

Only wood cutting boards should be oiled, as plastic and other materials do not require oiling. Before oiling, wash the wooden cutting board by hand using mild soap and warm water, then allow it to dry completely before applying oil.

When applying oil, use a clean cloth or paper towel to apply a generous amount to the board’s surface. Rub the oil into the wood, covering the entire surface evenly. Allow the oil to sit for several hours or overnight to penetrate the surface fully.

Finally, avoid bleaching your wood cutting boards, damaging the surface, and reducing the oil’s effectiveness. Following these tips can help ensure your cutting board is properly oiled and maintained for safe and hygienic use.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh0Ysgq8F20
  • Use the right type of oil
  • Only oil wood boards
  • Wash wooden cutting boards by hand
  • Avoid bleaching your wood-cutting boards

How often do oil a cutting board?

Apply oil once or twice a year for a smooth, durable surface.

Maintenance and Care of Oiled Cutting Boards

How to clean an oiled cutting board

Remove any stuck-on bits of food using a bench scraper or metal spatula. If there are any stubborn stains, create a slurry of baking soda and water and rub the mixture onto the board using a sponge.

How to repair and restore an oiled cutting board

  1. Sand off the scratches and rest the board on a towel on a solid surface. 
  2. Now use a finer grade of paper to sand.
  3. Raise the grain. Run your final sanding after you’ve raised the grain.
  4. Oil your board.

How to store an oiled cutting board

  • Keep them inside a decorative basket or wooden crate on a counter or shelf.
  • Use your wood cutting board as home décor by placing it on a display stand.
  • Lean them against a wall.
  • Store your cutting boards flat on the countertop.
  • Keep them inside a decorative basket or wooden crate on a counter or shelf.
  • Use your wood cutting board as home décor by placing it on a display stand.
  • Make a cutting board rack for quick and easy access.
  • Organize them in drawers.
  • Display them on walls using hooks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are vast oil options for cutting boards. Depending on your preference, match each oil’s pros and cons with your needs for the best option. The oil has to be safe for human consumption. For better maintenance, know how to apply the oil, keep the board away from moisture and scratches, and how to clean the board. Learn how to maintain the wood cutting board from blogs such as Earlywood Designs and The Spruce Eats

FAQs

How often should you oil a cutting board?

Once or twice a year.

Can you use vegetable oil on a cutting board?

Avoid any cooking oil on your board, such as olive, vegetable, or regular coconut oil, because they will go rancid.

How do you clean an oiled cutting board?

Scrub an oiled cutting board with a sponge and mild soap, using warm water to remove any dirt or debris. Be sure to avoid using harsh chemicals, which can damage the board’s surface.

If any tough stains or food residue won’t come off with soap and water alone, consider using a specialized board scraper to scrape the surface gently. After cleaning, it’s a good idea to disinfect and deodorize the board by mixing equal parts white vinegar and water, then wiping the solution over the board’s surface with a clean cloth.

Allow the board to air dry completely before applying oil or other maintenance products. By following these steps regularly, you can help keep your oiled cutting board clean and hygienic for longer.

Can you use mineral oil on a cutting board?

Yes, it is the best as it repels water and prevents absorption. 

How do you restore a dried-out cutting board?

To fully restore a dried-out cutting board, wash it with mild soap and warm water to remove dirt or debris. Then, use fine-grit sandpaper to gently sand the board’s surface, removing rough spots or splinters. Be sure to sand in the direction of the grain to avoid damaging the surface.

After sanding, oil the board with food-safe oil, such as mineral or walnut oil, which is important. Apply a generous amount of oil to the board’s surface and use a clean cloth to rub it in, ensuring the entire surface is covered. Allow the board to sit for several hours or overnight to let the oil penetrate the surface fully.

Finally, wipe away excess oil with a clean cloth and let the board dry completely before using it. Following these steps can effectively restore a dried-out cutting board and extend its lifespan.

What is the best type of oil for cutting boards?

Food Grade mineral oil is the best. It prevents the board from drying out and absorbing bacteria. Additionally, mineral oil is odorless and tasteless, making it a popular choice for maintaining the surface of cutting boards.

How can I tell if my cutting board needs to be oiled?

When a wooden cutting board feels dry or quickly soaks up any liquid on the surface, it is a sign that it requires oiling. These are common indications that the board has lost its natural oils and requires additional maintenance to keep it in good condition.

Can you use olive oil on a cutting board?

You should not use olive oil on a cutting board, as it can experience rancidification and become unsafe.

How do you store a cutting board?

There are a few things to remember to store a cutting board properly. First, finding a cool, dry place to store the board is important to prevent warping or cracking over time. Avoid storing cutting boards in damp or humid areas, such as near the sink or dishwasher.

Once you’ve found a suitable storage location, several options exist for organizing your cutting boards. You can keep them on a shelf, store them in drawers, or display them on walls using hooks or other mounting hardware. Choose a storage method that works best for your space and allows easy access when using your cutting board.

By following these tips for proper cutting board storage, you can help prolong the lifespan of your board and ensure it remains in good condition for years to come.

Can you use coconut oil on a cutting board?

Coconut oil can be used on a cutting board and can fill the wood’s pores and keep it moist. However, coconut oil can become rancid over time, so it may not be the best choice for cutting board maintenance. This is because coconut oil has a lower smoke point than other oils and can leave residue on the board’s surface. Therefore, it is generally recommended to use food-grade mineral oil or other oils specifically designed for cutting board care.

David D. Hughes

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