How do I treat a bamboo cutting board before the first use?
When you bring your bamboo cutting board home, before you even make the first knife cut, you need to treat it with oil. I only use food grade mineral oil or beeswax (more on that below). This “finishing” requires minimal effort and contributes significantly to the longevity of your cutting board. Depending on the size of your board, use a few to several tablespoons of oil on each side. Pour the oil directly onto the surface. It should puddle and look like you’ve poured far too much. You can use your fingers, rubber gloves, paper towels, or a cloth to rub the oil into the board; keep in mind if you use paper towels or a cloth, more oil may be required. Once you have saturated both sides of your cutting board, allow the board sufficient time to soak up the oil. To easily cure both sides, I leave mine overnight, sitting up on its side in a dish drainer.
How often do I need to oil my bamboo cutting board?
With daily use, I treat my bamboo board with oil every three weeks. For someone who uses their cutting board less frequently, oiling every month is a good starting schedule. Watch for dullness and fraying of the cutting surface to know when to oil next. You can also test the oil coating by sprinkling a few drops of water over your board. If the board is still sufficiently seasoned, water will bead up on its surface.
What type of oil should I use to treat my bamboo cutting board?
You should use food grade mineral oil and/or beeswax. Board oil penetrates the board. Whereas board cream/wax acts as a physical barrier on the surface of the wood that protects against stains and liquids. The wax also aids in sanitation, as it fills and seals in knife scars and microscopic cracks where bacteria would otherwise gather. I use John Taylor Butcher Block Conditioner that can be found on Amazon relatively inexpensive, because it is a combination of food grade mineral oil and beeswax in one formula. When treating your board, you want to avoid vegetable, fruit, or nut oils, as these contain fat that will soak into the board and eventually become rancid. Also, never use standard mineral oil from a hardware store that is not rated as food safe, as that is meant for machine lubrication and not for contact with food. Our goal is to prevent the fibers of the board from drying out and to retain the natural oils in the board. The oils also maximize the water resistance of the cutting board. Better water resistance means the glue that holds the boards fibers together won’t break down, which also equals a longer life for your board.
Do bamboo cutting boards harbor bacteria?
Typically bamboo does not get knife scars easily, which is where bacteria tends to hide and grow. As long as you wash with hot soapy water after each use, and use lemon or white vinegar for an extra disinfecting kick after you cut meats on your board, it will remain bacteria free. In addition to washing and sanitizing, it’s easy to keep bacteria at bay by oiling the cutting board regularly.
Can I put my bamboo cutting board in the dishwasher?
No. I mentioned above that bamboo cutting boards are water resistant. Even still, they are not dishwasher safe. The high heat and large amount of water on the board can warp it, and cause the breakdown of the glue that holds the fibers together.
How do I wash and sanitize my cutting board?
It is best to use hot soapy water and a quick wipe down after each use. Do not soak your board in water as this will break down your oil barrier, and the board will wick the water, causing warping or the board to fall apart completely. Make sure you dry your cutting board immediately with a towel, then allow it to air dry completely before next use or next oil application. If you use your bamboo cutting board to meat, you can use lemon juice or white vinegar to wipe down the surface of the board. The acid in these liquids will neutralize the organic material or fats causing the problem. Do not be tempted to use bleach or other harsh cleaning products, as this will stain the wood or excessively dry the wood.
What if my bamboo cutting board becomes warped?
If your board becomes warped, you will need to wet it down to make it pliable. It seems counterintuitive to wet your board, but in the case of warping it’s necessary. Place the cutting board on a flat surface and cover the board with a wet towel. Weigh it down with a couple of heavy books or a baking dish on top. Leave it overnight or until the board is flat. Next, remove the towel and place the heavy books or dish back on the cutting board until it dries. When you are once again satisfied with the shape of the cutting board, be sure to repeat the oiling process as you did when you first brought it home.
By following the above guidelines for regular maintenance and care, your bamboo cutting board will last many years as a useful tool in your kitchen.