Wood has been an impeccable choice as a surface to cut food on since the beginning of time. It is found everywhere, easy to get and soft enough for cooking tools.
Cutting boards, charcuterie boards and serving trays come in many shapes and sizes as well as different materials such as plastic, glass, steel and marble, all
of which are very easy to clean. However, unlike wood cutting boards that tend to be softer on your knives resulting in less wear and tear, other non-wood chopping boards can highly demolish your cutting tools due to their hardness. Wood boards can accumulate some knife and wear marks, but when properly maintained they can effectively repair themselves so that you don’t notice big cutting marks on the façade of the board.
Wood cutting and charcuterie boards are usually made from leftovers of large furniture pieces which helps to reduce waste. They can not only come as stunning serving boards for desserts, salad, wine, meat etc, but they keep your work areas clean and countertops scratch-free. So, if you consider your countertops and kitchen knife set as an investment themselves, then investing in the proper wood chopping board that won't stain or discolour the way plastic boards do is a must-have.
Hardwood Or Softwood Cutting Boards?
There are many types of wood, some of them can be an ideal option to cut on and others don't make for the right choice. So choosing the proper wood is very crucial for several reasons, including preserving your tools and keeping your kitchen mess-free.
Softwoods and hardwoods both have their practical value depending on the application, but as a cooking feature hardwood is superior to softwood due to its durability and stronger resistance to indentation, scratching and mold, etc.
Several hardwoods such as Maple, Walnut, cherry, Beech, and Ash, can serve as a great choice for cutting boards. Sugar Maple is the most popular choice due to its closed-grain structure and its anti-bacterial characteristics(1). Beech is also a good choice for chopping and charcuterie boards as it has the right amount of hardness… not too hard to dull your knives(2). And tends to be cheaper than some other hardwoods.
End Grain vs. Edge Grain Boards
Woodworking generates a large quantity of scrap wood that is often too small to use for large projects such as furniture making. But instead of discarding the cut-offs, they can be used in making a good wood cutting board, charcuterie boards and serving trays. End grain cutting boards are based on bringing the ends of wood pieces together which requires a specific type of adhesive(3). This process not only highlights the innate charm of the wood but gives the boards higher resistance to cuts and warping as well. End grain boards are higher priced but still in large demand due to their beautiful designs.
Edge grain chopping boards, where the wood in them is cut lengthwise and therefore less expensive, are more commonly found in kitchens due to their simpler design and easier production(4). With proper care and maintenance both types of boards can be a great kitchen companion.
Butterflies Joints Are Making A Great Comeback!
Have you seen the trend of custom joints woodworkers are making in the shape of a butterfly? You may know them as bow ties, dovetail keys, Dutchman joints or even Nakashima joints(5); all describing the same looking joint. Well, those types of traditional joints are not only used for aesthetic purposes but they can tie two or more pieces of wood together and prevent splitting into damaged pieces of wood, picture frames, doors, tables etc (6).
If you’re ever on social media you might have noticed these butterfly joints taking over the woodworking industry and being offered everywhere from local shops to online stores. Custom wood cutting boards are being made with these beautiful joints as well, resulting in one-of-a-kind cutting/serving pieces.
How to clean a wooden cutting board?
Wood cutting boards are very practical and highly durable. Even though wood is susceptible to cracking and warping, with the right care and maintenance these boards can last a lifetime.
The first thing to avoid is putting your cutting board in the dishwasher as the heat and water will cause the wood to splint and warp. Instead you need to wash your board with mild dish soap and warm water then scrub and be careful of using bleach as it will stain and/or dry the wood (7). The amount of water and mechanical scrubbing is more important than the soap itself to get rid of bacteria on the board surface (8).
After washing, you should immediately dry the cutting board with a towel and not let it soak in the water. Then you should leave the board to air-dry on both sides standing up.
Applying some vinegar or lemon juice directly to the area can help you neutralize organic materials or fats if your board still has stains or smells after washing it (9).
Another crucial part of wood cutting boards maintenance is oiling. Appropriate care demands conditioning your board a few times a year with a mineral cutting board oil (10). Do not use standard mineral oil that is meant for lubricating machines and not for food contact (11). Wood cutting board oil is made to penetrate the wood and fill its fibres to block other liquids and moisture from getting into the board (12). Make sure to use a tiny bar towel or a new paintbrush to cover the board with oil without using your hands as this may cause accidental splinters (13) CAUTION! Avoid oiling your cutting board with natural oils like vegetable oil or olive oil as they are rich in fat which will likely cause your board to have an unpleasant odor (14). Most warped cutting boards are the result of the shrinking that occurs from poor maintenance.
Whether for yourself, a friend or someone in your family, charcuterie boards, cutting boards and serving trays make for great gifts. So with the holiday season upon us and many other items stuck at the ports of entry, consider buying a locally made wood board and enjoy food with those you love.
(1) (2) (3) (4) Elliot Bell, "How To Choose the Best for Your Cutting Board", Misen, August 04, 2019, https://misen.com/blogs/news/best-wood-for-your-cutting-board
(5) (6) "Butterfly Joint", Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia, 13 February 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_joint
(7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) "How to Oil and Maintain a Cutting Board", CuttingBoard.Com, https://www.cuttingboard.com/how-to-oil-and-maintain-a-cutting-board/