8 Steps For Maintaining Like-New End-Grain Cutting Boards
7 MINUTE READ
BY: DAVID OLKOVETSKY
Taking great care of your end-grain cutting board may seem a bit intimidating at first, but it’s not much harder than keeping any other kitchen tool in great condition. As long as the construction of the cutting board was done with meticulous attention to QA/QC, including 1. Wood choice, 2. Joinery, 3. Frequent re-inspections during construction, an understanding and implementation of basic care should ensure that your end-grain cutting board will never warp or crack. Let’s dive into the 8 steps you need to follow to ensure your wooden cutting boards last a lifetime.
Here’s What You Need To Know To Keep Your Cutting Boards In Mint Condition:
Avoid Putting Any Wood Product In The dishwasher, Unless You Want To Throw It Out.
This one is simple and by far our most important rule. It voids the warranty. If you put wood into a dishwasher, it will warp, bow, or crack. Why does this happen? Your cutting board used to be a tree and that tree needed to transport water, nutrients, and minerals all the way from the roots to the leaves. These capillaries, or fibers are aligned in your end-grain cutting board to absorb moisture.
There are two incredible benefits that result from this internal structure:
Your knife edge slides between the fibers and stays sharp for much longer,
The intracellular space between the fibers captures and kills bacteria, making your end-grain cutting board much safer for you and your family than any other material, including cutting boards made from plastic, face-grain wood, synthetic rubber, and those boards sold by Epicurean which use composite materials.
Despite these major benefits (knives stay sharper longer and safer for your family), there is one potential downside with an end-grain cutting board: wood does not like prolonged exposure to moisture. The reason is that it soaks up moisture and then can swell, potentially causing warping and bowing. Please keep reading, because a bit further down the page we explain how to make sure this never happens. Furthermore, wood does not like high temperatures combined with moisture because it soaks it up even faster. Finally, wood really hates detergent, mixed with high temperatures and moisture because the wood will soak up the detergent, and then completely strip the wood of its natural oils, thereby drying it out.
And you know what we just described? The inside of a dishwasher! So, please never ever place wood products, especially those that are constructed of multiple parts, like a cutting board, into a dishwasher.
There’s one more reason to avoid the dishwasher with multi-part wood products like an end-grain cutting board. That cutting board has many individual piece that are held together with a type 3 cross-linked polymer glue. Even though that glue is highly moisture resistant, it will still be severely degraded, if not completely eliminated by the dishwasher.
Now that you know the reasons to avoid the moisture, this downside is pretty easy to avoid—just don’t put your wood products in the dishwasher.
It’s Best Not To Store Your End-Grain Board In A Sink Or In Water In General.
After what we just explained in the last paragraph, we can keep this one nice and short. Don’t leave your board to soak in the sink and don’t leave it out wet. At Artisan Revere, we like to say, “moisture is the enemy of steel and wood”. Water can rust steel and cause cutting boards to warp, so make sure you get rid of the water from both sooner rather than later.
After Use, Clean The Cutting Board With Water, Dish Soap, And A Sponge.
Let’s go ahead and jump into cleaning. First, it’s okay to leave your board out after you’ve finished cooking. Leave it for a few minutes or a few hours. It doesn’t make much of a difference so long as the board isn’t soaking up liquid. To quickly clean it, grab a metal or rigid plastic bench scraper, and scrape the food/juices off into the sink or into a paper towel in your support hand. You can use the same towel, to quickly dry off most of the moisture.
If you are prepping something that easily stains (beets, pomegranate and berries come to mind), or something that’s highly acidic (think fruits such as lemons, limes, plums, grapefruit, pineapple), you may want to wash it offer sooner than later. The actual cleaning process for day-to-day use is very simple.
1. Once you are ready to clean the board, wet the entire board with warm water.
a. Important: Wash all 6 sides to minimize the chance of bowing & warping. Why? Water swells the wood’s capillaries. Get all the sides, and they will contract and expand evenly.
2. Take a soapy sponge and scrub. First, use the rough side to scrape off all the gunk. Then use the soft side.
3. When all food has been scrubbed away, wash off the soap and water.
a. If food is crusted on, use a metal food scraper to remove.
4. Confirm all soap has been washed away with your hand. Your fingers are your best gauge of the cleanliness of the board. Go ahead and use them.
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Now, Dry Your Board
This may seem self-explanatory, but there are some nuances, so please give this sections a read. Your wooden board doesn’t like moisture. So, after washing, dry all 6 sides of your board thoroughly with a towel.
Store your board on its side/edge.
You don’t want to store the board on its rubber feet because any moisture/wetness that didn’t come off during the drying process will naturally want to get soaked up by the fibers. Storing your board on its edge will speed up the drying process and ensures that the top and bottom dry at the same speed, further decreasing the likelihood of bowing and warping.
Every few weeks, generously apply food-grade mineral oil with a paper towel.
Food-grade mineral oil is an absolute must. Notice how shiny and smooth your board, or really any piece of quality wood furniture is when it’s brand new, assuming you purchased it from a reputable shop. The reason it looks so lustrous is because it’s undergone at least one bath or coating of food-grade mineral oil (FGMO or mineral oil for short).
Tip: It’s a good idea to apply FGMO to all wood products in your kitchen, including wooden spoons and bowls, knife handles (including A-Rs, made of Richlite = 65% FSC certified wood).
When to apply food-grade mineral oil? You know it’s time to reapply if water absorbs into your board instead of beading. If your board looks dry, it most certainly is. Go ahead and apply some FGMO.
How do you actually apply the oil? First, it’s worth noting that you’ll want to use lots of food-grade (sometimes called USP or pharmaceutical grade) mineral oil on the board. Use more than you think you should: 2 - 4 oz. is plenty, but the board can hold as much as 8 oz. We recommend starting with about 2 oz. Spread evenly across all 6 surfacesof the board with a paper towel or dish towel. If you go the dish towel route, we recommend keeping that towel just for mineral oil. Let the FGMO soak in. 15-30 minutes later, if all of the oil has been soaked up, add another 2 oz. At that point, you can let it soak in for several hours or overnight. Remember, apply the mineral oil to all 6 sides of your board.
Sidebar: Artisan Revere end-grain cutting boards come very well seasoned, having been soaked in our mineral oil bath twice, followed by an application of our conditioning paste.
Apply conditioning paste the following day with included Applicator Pad.
Now that your board’s fibers have been infused with food-grade mineral oil, it is time to lock it in by applying conditioning paste. Each Artisan Revere cutting board comes with a 4 oz. tin of conditioning paste + two applicator pads. In the last step, applied FGMO and let it soak into the board overnight. Now that the board is saturated with mineral oil, grab one of the included white applicator pads, get some of our Conditioning Paste on it, and scrub it into your board. You may apply to all sides if you choose, but applying to just the cutting surface side is sufficient. Your board is ready to go!
Serrated knives will scar your board. Cleavers can damage it. Avoid both.
One of the reasons we’re not generally fans of fully serrated steak knives is that they tear your meat to pieces and cause massive cellular damage, releasing all the juices. If you’d like your cutting board to avoid the same fate, use your bread knife or steak knives elsewhere.
Chinese and German cleavers, and really any very heavy knife, mallet etc, that you’d use to smash bones should be used only with plastic cutting boards. Never use one of these knives on an end-grain cutting board.
As we explained in our Definitive Guide to Cutting Boards, we recommend butchering and preparing uncooked proteins on a plastic board or another board that can go through a dishwasher. Once you finish working with uncooked animal protein we recommend running the plastic, rubber, or dishwasher-safe board (to reiterate, end-grain wood is not dishwasher safe) through the dishwasher to eliminate the bacteria and avoid the risk of cross contamination.
The bigger problem with heavy cleavers is that you can split a board if applying large amounts of force.
Remember Newton’s second law: Force = Mass x Acceleration.
A heavy knife being smashed into your board generates significantly more force than the basic rock-chopping, slicing, or push-cutting motions seen with chef’s knives, santokus, nakiris, etc.
Bonus: Do’s, Don’ts, & Tips
Heat: Don’t use your cutting board as a trivet, aka hot pad. You are much better off using a silicone or cork-based trivet. Your cutting board can withstand the heat, but there is no reason to risk marring the finish. Instead, invest a few dollars into a heat-resistant trivet (avoid glass).
Olive, canola, avocado oil: If you don’t have any food-grade mineral oil at home, please don’t use a cooking oil instead. Cooking oils go rancid quickly when exposed to oxygen. Instead, pick up some mineral oil at your local pharmacy or supermarket. Make sure the label includes one of the following: “USP”, “Food-grade”, or “Pharmaceutical”. If your board is extremely dry, and you don’t have any food-grade mineral oil, you can also use the included conditioning paste, however, this will not penetrate as deep into the wood grain. This is why we recommend first using FMGO, and then applying conditioning paste.
Desert & High-Altitude: If you live in a desert or high-altitude, it is extremely important to re-apply FGMO with a higher frequency. Your environment is one that dries out wood quickly, and, as such, pulls moisture from cutting boards.
MAKE YOUR CUTTING BOARD LAST FOREVER.
And there you have it. Eight easy steps to take care of your cutting board—brought to you by Artisan Revere.
Pro-tip: Invest in a quality cutting board designed to keep your knives sharper, longer, is easy to maneuver, and is built to last a lifetime with minimal care. Check out the Artisan Revere End-Grain Cutting Boards, made with rescued end-grain American hardwoods and meticulous attention to the details—for boards that are safer for you and your family, and a joy to work with.
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