A common question of many home cooks is how to care for wooden kitchen utensils and are they sanitary. Wooden spoons, cutting boards, and other kitchen tools are the workhorses of the kitchen. They can be used for all types of cooking. If well cared for, wooden utensils can last for years.
Antibacterial Properties of Wood
Wood is one of the oldest materials used to make kitchen tools, and for good reason. "Wood is naturally more antibacterial than any man-made object," says Brian Hayes, vice president of sales and marketing for Lamson & Goodnow, which manufactures kitchen cutlery as well as maple kitchen tools and accessories. "Trees naturally fight infection, bacteria, and mold, and even though it's no longer a living organism, the properties of wood are still the same; wood still has cells that don't grow bacteria or mold."
Wooden utensils are also among the best tools to be used on nonstick cookware, as they won't scratch the coating like metal utensils might.
When they're made, most wooden spoons, utensils and cutting boards are treated with mineral oils, which creates an inert, neutral surface that will not allow bacteria to reside.
Caring for Wood Utensils
To keep your wooden spoons and cutting boards in the best shape possible, follow these tips:
- Hand-wash wooden utensils with hot water and mild dish soap. Although wooden utensils and cutting boards could technically be cleaned in the dishwasher, it's not a good idea. The high water temperatures in the dishwasher can dry them out and lead to cracks in the wood. Simple hand washing is best for wooden items.
- Blot freshly washed wooden utensils with a clean dishtowel, then allow them to air-dry completely before putting them away.
- If your wooden spoons or cutting board start to look dry or don't feel super smooth, periodically rub them with mineral oil or a beeswax compound. Don't use food-based oil like vegetable or olive oil, since these types of oils can go rancid.
- Wooden cutting boards and spoons can eventually split as they dry out or are exposed to extreme temperature changes. Dispose of split wooden tools, because food could get trapped in the cracks.
- Highly pigmented foods, such as tomato sauce or berries, will stain wooden utensils and cutting boards. They're still safe to use if they're stained, and the stains will eventually fade.
- Wooden items can absorb odors from strong flavors like garlic or oil and could transfer the odors and flavors to other foods. To reduce the smell, rub the wooden surface with the cut side of a halved lemon or with a paste made of baking soda and water. This will help neutralize the odor. If this is very bothersome, keep a separate cutting board and/or utensil for more flavorful foods to avoid flavor transfer.
- If your wooden utensils develop spotted stains or roughness, these can be rubbed away with a piece of fine sandpaper. Oil the surface afterward with mineral oil or a beeswax compound.
With these tips, your wooden kitchen utensils should last a long, long time.