By the way: why and how to oil wooden cutting boards.


(Em português)

It's been quite a while since I've been interested in getting to know how and why to oil wooden cutting boards, considering I have bought two of them for which I fell completely in love.
You know, I wanted to take good care of my babies.
So I found that, by oiling the boards, a protection film is formed, making it easier to clean them and increasing durability.
Humidity is partly stopped from sinking into the wood's fibers, preventing it from absorbing foods that could leave odor, stain, favor bacteria accumulation and form mold.
It should be done before the board's first use, then go on as maintenance.
To learn which oil to use, how and when, keep reading.
First, the frequency:
According to one of the sites where I sought for information, during the first week of using the board, it should be oiled every day; in the first month, once a week; then once a month for the rest of the board's life.
Also, there are people who defend you should oil it after each use, or once a week.
The first version I mentioned is the one which makes more sense to me.
My boards were already in use for about 8 months when I finally went after the information on how to best care for them. And I haven't been cooking that often lately, so I figured that oiling them once a month is fine.

Well, and what kind of oil?
Not the same ones used for cooking, that's for sure.
Because they oxidize and go rancid quickly, interfering in the taste of food that is prepared over the board.
The oils we use to cook (canola, soy, sunflower, olive, butter, etc) are non-polymerizing, which means they will not form a plastic-like film. So besides leaving a bad taste, they would not protect the wood from humidity very much, eventually leaving a slimy texture.
Two good options would be linseed (flaxseed) oil and mineral oil.
The former is a good option because it forms the rigid film I mentioned before, sealing the board and making each application last longer.
However, be cautious with linseed oil, for it is widely used in woodworking and painting, and the kinds you will find to buy are not necessarily safe to be in contact with food. It is common to associate linseed oil to heavy metals in order to accelerate the drying, so read labels carefully before buying and using.
Honestly, I did not find pure linseed oil to buy (not that I searched too much... if you have tips on how to find it, please share in the comments.)

Very well. The second option, mineral oil, can be easily found in any drugstore, and is cheap. For such viability, this is my oil of choice.
(Make sure you get the ingestible kind, that's the only one safe to be in contact with food).
Mineral oil, unlike linseed oil, will not fully polymerize, instead, because it is kept fluid, it can fill little crevices and cuts in the wood in-between applications.
It can be used with a little bit of beeswax to balance this characteristic, but if you don't have beeswax on hand you can use it plain, no problem.

To prepare the mixture of mineral oil and beeswax, I shaved 1/2 teaspoon of the wax into a cup (240ml) oil. I heated it lightly over a water bath, just until the wax was melted, stirred well, then poured the mixture back into the bottle where the oil came. This way I can store the oil nicely and apply whenever I need it.
If you prefer, heat the oil and wax in the microwave, carefully. Wait for it to cool down before using.

To apply the oil, make sure boards are clean and completely dry. The amount of oil used will depend on the size of the board.
The first time, I poured a little, wiped it allover the board with a paper towel and left the board standing for 15 minutes so that the oil could soak in.
I repeated this operation until no more oil could be absorbed. For me, that was twice.
Then I applied oil on the other side and wiped some on the sides too.
After all that, I left the board standing for a couple of hours so that all of the oil would be absorbed.
Before storing, I buffed it with a clean tea towel. 
Then, for maintenance, I just wipe one layer of oil on each side and wait for it to absorb well.

Remember to always wash your board immediately after use, with a soft sponge and mild soap, towel dry well and leave it to finish air drying.
To make sure it doesn't get moldy, store in an airy place.


PS: Re-reading the sites where I have researched, I saw that coconut oil is a good option as well.
For being high in saturated fat, it is way more stable than the other vegetable oils, could take up to 2 years to go rancid, resists oxidizing, and has bacteriostatic and antiseptic properties.

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