Cutting boards

wlg2_2January 22, 2006

What is the best oil to use for cutting boards?

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Mineral oil, because it is non-organic and will not spoil or go rancid.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 12:20PM
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Pure tung oil, because it is organic, non toxic and will not spoil or go rancid and will harden and not wash off as easily as mineral oil.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 8:01AM
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If you are going to use your cutting board for cutting, then I would not recommend tung oil. Tung oil is a varnish, and works well to seal butcherblock countertops or cutting boards used for food prep only, but not for cutting.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 5:30PM
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I agree that tung oil is a beautiful finish, but wouldn't use it on a food preparation surface. It comes from the seeds of the tung tree, which are poisonous. Stick with mineral oil.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 2:00AM
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So far the score is Tung Oil: 2 Mineral Oil: 2

Tung and mineral will give you two different types of finishes. Tung a film finish, oil a non-film, penetrating finish.

100% PURE Tung oil, once FULLY CURED, is indeed foodsafe. Make sure that it is 100% pure tung, though. Advertising and labeling can be deceptive.

For mineral oil, use food safe mineral oil. You can find it in the health/beauty section of most stores.

Back to the question at hand. For a food prep area that will not see any cutting, you can use either a penetrating (mineral) oil or a food-safe lacquer or varnish. The film finish will provide a more durable finish, however, note the curing times required for it to be "food safe".

The best food-safe lacquer is shellac. In flake form, it is free of water, wax and preservatives, and can easily be mixed as needed. It is easy to apply, protects well against moisture, and makes a wonderful shiny surface. Small blemishes can be easily repaired, however heat spots and alcohol spills are damaging and require work to fix.

The best food-safe varnish is natural tung oil. It is easy to apply, protects well against moisture, blemishes can be easily repaired, and lasts much longer than shellac. It takes more coats than shellac, and more work to get a shiny surface, a longer drying time, and is more expensive.

Other products are available, but those are the two leading ones in their most basic forms.

Realize that they are film finishes. Knife edges will damage the integrity of that film. While both can be easily repaired, again, you have the curing time that follows for the product to be considered "food safe".

Mineral oil? Wipe on, wipe off, as needed. It's essentially a non-curing oil. Since it's non-film, knife edges will not damage the finish. It can easily be renewed with a oil-dampened cloth. You can sip it from the bottle and it won;t hurt you. You may spend s bit of time doing the crossword puzzle while sitting on the commode the next morning, but mineral oil is foodsafe right out of the bottle.

From the "health inspector" point-of-view, a damaged film finish can harbor microorganisms more easily.

Laquers and varnishes can add beauty to wood surfaces. But for a cutting board that will see a lot of knife edges and subsequent wipe-downs, my personal preference for a wood cutting board would be for mineral oil.

It's less expensive, less laborious, and less worry.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 11:04AM
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shellacÂIt is easy to apply, protects well against moisture"

Shellac has essentially zero moisture resistance. It blushes white and gets soft very quickly from water.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2006 at 2:03PM
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I agree with most of what you say, but I've had a lot of experience with tung oil in different environments, and have seen it degrade after repeated exposure to moisture. I also think your point is good that a cutting surface that is well-used will not retain its appearance very long (without constant renewal). If it's really a working cutting board, mineral oil is best.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 6:18PM
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"The best food-safe lacquer is shellac"

Umm, shellac is not lacquer, and lacquer is not shellac. They are two very different finishes. I agree that mineral oil is the way to go.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 6:24PM
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brickeye, Freshly dissolved shellac has pretty good resistance to water. Not great, but okay. You certainly don;t want to leave water standing on it overnight, though. Use an old batch od shellac, however, and yes, it's much more prone to blushing.

kudzu, I agree, tung is not my first choice either.

I was trying to give eamples of food-safe sort of easily renewable film finishes. Neither of the above are great.

jon, I don't know what the heck was going through my mind when I wrote that, but you are exactly correct. Shellac and varnish are two different animals. I don't know if I mind-farted and translated "lac" into "lacquer" when typing or what...but again, you are correct. Thanks for catching that.

Still, the best finish? I still come back to Mineral Oil.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 7:27PM
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I'll throw out one more option. I use mineral oil on all my kitchen surfaces. I have soapstone and cherry counters as well as a number of wooden cutting boards. I also make a blend of pure beeswax and mineral oil. I use this blend over an oiled surface. The wax seems to add extra protection and really makes the wood glow. Eventually, both ingredients will wear off and further application is required.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2006 at 5:31AM
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MINERAL OIL if the board is for cutting.

Any film finish could...that is pieces could...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 11:11PM
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i have a just cut 3 inch thick piece of maple(from the trunk) and i want to make a cutting board. how long do i dry it? do i need to cure it? what do i do?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2007 at 11:07PM
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