How to take care of your wooden cooking utensils

Properly oiled dark wooden bowl with matching chopsticks
Photo by Juan Encalada on Unsplash

Do you cringe when you look at your raggedy wooden spoons? How long has it been since you’ve shown some love to your fuzzy cutting board?

Don’t worry. As long as the wood isn’t cracked, you can still preserve it with simple routine maintenance.

Why use wooden cooking utensils?

Wooden cooking utensils have been with us for millions of years, and we still love them. And why not? They’re easy to use, clean, and maintain. They stir, toss, beat, mix, and scrape. Without snapping in half like some plastic utensils or scratching nonstick coatings like metal ones.

Some wonder if wooden utensils are sanitary to use with food because wood is porous. If you’ve wondered the same, you’ll be happy to know trees have cells that bacteria and mold won’t grow on. They’re naturally resistant.

And even though your salad bowls are just wood now instead of a living tree, they still have the same cellular properties that prevent bacteria and mold growth.

So, stir with bravado. (But not too much bravado because it’s hard to get marinara stains out of paint.)

What not to do to your wooden utensils

The first thing you need to know about how to take care of your wooden kitchen utensils and dishes is that heat and water are the natural nemeses of wood. Wood absorbs water and expands. Heat makes both expand. A cycle of expanding and contracting weakens almost any material.

Never put wood in the dishwasher. The water temperature is too high, and detergent is too caustic for wood. The long cycle of hot water and harsh detergent can really mess it up over time.

The right way to care for wooden utensils

Always wash wooden tools by hand with warm water and mild dish soap. If they’re fuzzy, roughened, or stained, you can sand them with fine-grit sandpaper. 

So what kind of soap should you use? Well, since this whole blog is for all you DIYers, I have found links to some well-researched recipes.

These articles have all the information you need about the ingredients and how they interact.

How to treat wooden utensils after washing

You don’t want to let the wood get too dry. About once a month, treat the wood with oil. Or wood butter (AKA spoon butter) – a mixture of beeswax and oil. But what kind of oil should you use, considering you’ll also be putting it in your mouth?

Some people swear that you need to use food-grade mineral oil because it’s safe and plant-based oils go rancid. Others say it’s not really good to ingest petroleum byproducts and that there’s a plant-based alternative in extra virgin coconut oil because it has a long shelf life.

So, pick your poison:

And don’t forget your wooden cutting boards, bowls, knife handles, etc.

How do you get bad odors out of wood?

Some foods leave pungent smells in the wood that transfer to other foods. And there’s a reason produce companies don’t genetically engineer strawberries that smell like garlic.

If you’re cutting garlic or onions for a dish that also uses tomatoes, cut the tomatoes last. Set the cutting board aside to soak up the tomato juice for 20-30 minutes. The acid cuts the oils and odors and lets them rinse away. 

If you’re not cutting tomatoes, you can use a wedge of fresh lemon or other citrus fruit.

Stains come from many foods like dark fruits and marinara sauce. Those should fade over time. But if you don’t want to wait, there are a few easy ways to remove them.

Wooden kitchen utensils are inexpensive, beautiful, and sturdy enough for heavy-handed cooks. Caring for them properly is ridiculously easy and can keep them in great shape for decades.

Are you in love with your oak cutting board or teak chopsticks? Show them how much they mean to you.

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