Just as knives need sharpening, your wood cutting board requires a just bit of care to keep it in great shape. With just a few minutes of work every few weeks, your cutting board will look as good as the day you got it. You'll also protect it from deep cuts and stains, and keep it free of any harmful bacteria. Except for soap, water, and a cloth, there's just a few things you'll need to keep your wood cutting board looking and performing its best.
Food-Grade Mineral Oil
The mineral oil sinks into the surface of the board, saturating the wood fibers inside. This helps repel any moisture from soaking into the board, keeping it clean and free of harmful bacteria. The saturating of the wood fibers also prevents warping and helps maintain the board's shape.
When properly applied, the beeswax will create a shield on the surface of the board, preventing stains and liquids from getting in. It also acts as a sealant, filling any small cracks or knife marks that would otherwise harbor bacteria.
You can buy both and use both separately, but a blend of the two will work just as well. Once you have these tools, it's time to roll up your sleeves.
Step 1: Wash and Clean Well
First things first: wash your cutting board in the sink with dish soap and warm water, scrubbing to remove any food, dust, or grime. Be sure to get into the edges and the bottom as well—just because you're not prepping food there (we hope not!), doesn't mean they're clean. Dry thoroughly with a cloth or paper towels, and let sit out to dry completely.
Do Not: Soak your cutting board in the water or run it through the dishwasher. This will cause it to warp and crack.
Step 2: Condition
Once your board is clean and completely dry, it's time to condition. Apply a small amount of mineral oil to your clean, dry board with a paper towel, and work it into the board in a circular motion. Allow this to soak in and dry for a few hours.
Once dry, apply the beeswax. Work it into the surface and all sides of the board with your hands, and wipe off any excess. This protective coating will keep the mineral oil in and any moisture out the wood. Allow the board to dry completely (preferably overnight). The next day, use a clean cloth or paper towel to remove any excess conditioner, and buff to a clean, glossy shine.
If you're using a blend of mineral oil and beeswax, simply apply to a dry cutting board with a cloth or paper towel and let dry overnight. The next day, wipe off excess, and buff to clean shine.
Do Not: Use vegetable, canola, olive or nut oils, or any other cooking oil on your cutting board. While it may seem like there isn't a difference, these oils will spoil once exposed to the air over a long period. This makes your board unsafe to use, and give it a a foul odor.
Step 3: Maintain
In between conditioning, all you need to do to keep your cutting board is one thing. Wash it. On all sides, and dry thoroughly after each use. Depending on how often you cook, you only have to condition once every few weeks, to just once a month. When it starts to feel dried out, it's time to condition.
When appropriately applied, this one-two punch of mineral oil and beeswax will keep your board looking and performing like new. Treat it well, and it will be with you for a lifetime of cooking.