A good butcher's block, whether a cutting board or full counter, is an attractive and practical addition to any kitchen. The surface is kinder to knives and will last a lifetime with proper care. A butcher's block requires careful maintenance, and, like cast iron, regular seasoning. Even stains can be removed with a little effort and the right tools.
It's best to clean a butcher block immediately after use, before foods have had the chance to dry on or soak into the wood. Remove any food residue with a scraper or spatula; then scrub the block with hot water, mild soap and a brush or sponge. Rinse thoroughly in hot water. If you've cut raw meats, spray the block with plain white vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping the board dry with a clean towel. Ensure the board is completely dry before storing.
Removing Stains and Odors
Wood is porous, and some foods, such as strawberries or fish, can leave stains or lingering odors. If basic cleaning doesn't work, sprinkle your board with coarse salt; then cut a lemon in half and use the cut side to scrub the board. Let the salt and lemon juice sit for several hours, up to overnight, to help remove the stain. A paste of baking soda and water is another tool that can help remove stains; just scrub it in and wash it off.
Stubborn Stains and Burns
A scorched board can usually be saved with a little more effort. The same techniques work for water and deeper food stains as well. Scrape the board with a metal spatula or even a paint scraper, which may be enough to remove shallow burn damage or stains. If that fails, grab some sandpaper or steel wool. Start with a coarse grade sandpaper and scrub the board until the stains are removed. Concentrate on the damaged area, but avoid creating a divot by only sanding in one spot. Finish with finer grit to restore the smooth surface of the board.
Seasoning Your Board
A butcher block needs regular oiling to prevent drying out and cracking. Use a food-grade oil such as mineral, pure tung, raw linseed, walnut, almond or coconut oil. Vegetable oils are not recommended for boards because they can go rancid more easily than others. For a more durable finish, apply a product that mixes a food-grade oil with wax. To apply oil, wait for the board to be completely dry; then use your hands or a soft cloth to apply a thin layer of oil to the entire board in the direction of the grain. Allow the oil to sink in; then apply another coat. Keep applying until the oil will no longer soak into the wood; then allow the board to sit for several hours before wiping off any excess oil and buffing with a soft cloth.
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