Wooden Things

“My kitchen is a mystical place, a kind of temple for me.  It is a place where the surfaces seem to have significance, where the sounds and odors carry meaning that transfers from the past and bridges to the future.”  Pearl Bailey

That’s how I feel too; it makes me want to take care of my kitchen things, wash them, fix them, love them; give them some TLC.  This is the “before” picture of my most-used and very dried-out cutting board.

 Keeping wooden bowls, cutting boards, wooden spoons, any unfinished wooden thing (including my wooden kitchen tabletop) beautiful, is part of the care and feeding of a warm and glowy kitchen.  So I want to show you how easy it is to do.

We’ll do the cutting board first, because it’s basically the same method for everything . . . what solves the problem, and puts the depth back into your wood, is Mineral Oil.  Because, unlike other kinds of oil, it will not go rancid.  You can get it at the supermarket, or at the drug store, or here, and keep it under your kitchen sink.

You can already see how much better the wood looks under the puddle of oil!

I use a pastry brush to paint the oil on.  And since it has a wooden handle too, I soak the brush part in a bowl of hot water and dish soap when I’m done . . . no dishwasher for wooden things, it dries them out, takes all the color out of them, removes the patina of chicken soup and creamed butter and sugar, all that cookie-dough DNA you worked so hard to instill into these things.  Just a quick hand-washing for them is fine.

The cutting board is done; now here is the “before” picture for one of my favorite spoons  . . . a spoon that knows all my cooking secrets and the inside story of every dinner party I’ve ever given.  Even though this spoon never sees the inside of a dishwasher, sooner or later, hot water, furnace and oven heat will take a toll, and a booster of Mineral Oil is needed to bring back her natural luster.

And now, she is oiled.  We let her sit, absorbing, while we do the others.

This takes no time at all.  After they’re all done, I let everything soak up the oil for a couple of hours; it will all disappear.  See the “Sue” spoon in the middle?  My dad made that with his own two hands. ♥  Sometimes you can find old wooden spoons, even handmade ones, in antique stores or at yard sales, and all they need is a good soapy washing and some mineral oil to bring them back to life, carrying all their cooking history with them, adding more “mystical” to your kitchen.

This pig board is another thing that’s been with me through thick and thin.  I got him when I was in my early twenties and he’s followed me everywhere, from California to Martha’s Vineyard, from small apartment to New England house, through cookbook writing and Joe-meeting too. ♥ 

I never use wooden cutting boards for raw meat or fish, I have a plastic one for that.  But every once in a while I will clean my wooden boards by sprinkling salt on them, rubbing them with lemon juice, then drying them well before I oil them.

Deep, dark, and delicious, here’s what they look like when they’re done; like they’re owned by a really good cook.  Ready to return to their spot next to the stove, ready to help bring the past, through favorite old recipes (my grandma’s turkey stuffing, my mom’s peanut butter cookies!), into the future. 

37 Responses to Wooden Things

  1. Susan says:

    Hi Susan, I like your collection of wooden spoons and boards. I have my mother-in-laws board and I treasure it. Sincerely, Susan C.

  2. Cindy Garner says:

    Good Ol’ Wooden kitchen utensil are great, I love the history that is in them….how many times have they stirred or rolled something….what was going on in the world when they were used….
    I have my mothers, my grandmothers and one day my great-grandmothers rolling pins.

  3. Marie Mise says:

    Beautiful spoons, love the history, and great info, too, thank you! But horror of all horrors, my cutting board which I’ve had for ages has little spots of mildew! I am going to try the lemon juice,salt and mineral oil treatment.

    I love and look forward to getting your emails, such a treat.

  4. Marilyn Broggie says:

    I have a new breadboard that I have been wondering how to oil it. Now I know! Thank you for this article!

  5. gail says:

    Sue,
    You can use coarse salt (kosher or sea salt) to scrub your wooden utensils as a first step. It removes the old crud that’s built up over the years as well as sanitizing them too. Follow that with the soap and water washing and then the mineral oil.

    • sbranch says:

      I do that every so often, but not every time . . . maybe I should?

      • Janet says:

        I have several bamboo cutting boards in different sizes as well as bamboo cooking spoons – and bamboo is almost “water-friendly” wood. I never soak my bamboo or put it in the dishwasher of course – but I do wash it with soap and water, rinse it well etc and it has looked great for several years. Very green and “sustainable” product since apparently it goes so fast you can almost see it. I even have a bamboo “place setting’ [knife, fork, spoon and chopsticks] that I use for lunch at my desk in the office. I’m sure at some point I’ll need to restore it with some oil though – so this is really good to know. Thanks.

  6. Suzanne says:

    I love my wooden spoons too, I didn’t no there was a way to clean them so I was so happy to learn this method. I just ordered a really neat wooden spoon on Amazon.com, its heart shaped! So adorable so I thought you might want to check it out as I know how much you love unique items. Happy stirring!

  7. laurie says:

    that piggy cutting board is so cute, I think I remember seeing it in one of your books, great tips too, I think i’m way over due for this,

  8. Annie Dru says:

    Hi Susan,

    Just started reading your blog recently… love it!

    I want to suggest that you consider using your wooden boards for meat and fish also. Apparently, natural wood has antimicrobial properties that make it a better choice than plastic for everything you cut on it. Who knew?

    Also, I ‘season’ my wood with coconut oil which resists rancidity because it’s a saturate. In addition, it’s a much nicer oil to consume than mineral; which of course we do when we eat what’s been cut on the board.

    A.

  9. Shirley says:

    What a difference ! I can see that all my “woodens” are THIRSTY. I’ll get right to that tomorrow.

  10. Lisa Nelson-Jones says:

    I just re-read this post because I made a mental note to remember to get some mineral oil (which tsk, tsk on me b/c I have YET to get any!), and I wanted to “brush up” on the instructions :) I was wondering though, do I wash the wooden objects after letting them soak in the mineral oil before use?

    • sbranch says:

      If they need it, yes, in fact you can really give them a good soapy scrub first if you want, but then you should let them dry completely before you put the oil on.

  11. matty says:

    wow i love my old spoons and chopboards, i always clean and let them dry , but i didnt know that mineral oil could fix them. thanks a lot the tip. tomorrow i will oil every wood i have, i love to use them in my kitchen. here where i live they make beautiful salad bowls and spoons from good woods. huges matty.

  12. matty says:

    ups i forgot to tell you a funny story … when i went to mexico to visit my family i love to go al mercado, the markets towns, then i buyed a big, huge spoon for el mole, this spoon was made from orange wood, thats the lady said, but the problem was to travel with this huge spoon. so i decided to put inside my carriage, when i went to the airport and scanner the carriage,the man surprised to look that huge spoon and said what are you think you will do it with that… i said mole jaja. know im proud to have here two of them.they are beautiful. huges matty

  13. Dawn says:

    That’s the same way I think about my bowl collection. I started collecting
    Roseville blue bowls in the 80′s, then my mom gave me Gramma’s brown shingled set. I branched out collecting spongeware, McCoy,USA and plain old pottery bowls. Who knows how old some of them are. If they have a crack,
    I buy them and take them to my “Old Bowl Retirement Home”. I probably have too many, but each one called to me in some way.
    I wish they could all tell me their story….were they a premium in a grocery store or somebody’s beloved wedding present? Did a child save all their
    egg money to buy their mom a gift from the hardware store?
    How many times did this bowl go to the garden to collect fruit? How much batches of gingerbread were made in it? I know they can’t tell me, so I just give them a good place to rest.

  14. Lori H from WA State says:

    I know you’ll appreciate this, Susan, because I think we are Sisters-of-the-heart: found a nicely used wooden spoon with beveled edges at our local thrift store for .49 cents :) Washed it up and now I’m gonna give it the old mineral oil treatment. Last year I found a hand carved wooden spoon with a swan head for a handle! That was at an antique store for a couple bucks. Isn’t it fun!
    Not to mention my ever-growing pie bird collection (I’m a bit of a pie baker) that is flocking together in my cabinet…heads up, singing away :)
    Sending Christmas love and blessings to you.

  15. Pat Stansel says:

    Kellee, there are some strange posts on this sight Punte-Affrone and the two above.
    Could they be phishing or hackers?

    • sbranch says:

      This is the reason I have to “approve” all the comments — it’s just spam but somehow these guys slipped through; I just deleted them. Thank you Pat!

  16. Elaine says:

    You have given me such a wonderful idea of how to keep the “pig” cutting
    board my daughter made in 7th grade. She is now 26. Thank you so much.

  17. Sandra M. says:

    I have a wonderful collection of round bread boards that just got slathered in mineral oil. Thank you for the great tip. My boards thank you also.
    Love your blog, paintings, books etc… Just finished A Fine Romance and will read it again.
    My husband and I will be in The Cotswalds in May for our 50th. Can’t wait. Thank you for all the great tips. I took notes!
    Happy New Year. 2014

  18. Sweet Sue says:

    Wooden Things! What an informative and useful blog. I also use oil on my wooden bowls, cutting boards, etc yet hadn’t thought to use it on my wooden spoons. And I had not heard of cleaning them with salt and lemon juice yet will do that next time they need cleaning. I also try to use a separate board just for meats and fish yet think your idea of a plastic board would be better and safer germ wise. And I just love the hand made “Sue” spoon…..think your Dad could make one for me…..I would pay him whatever he thought was reasonable ? Just a thought. How about it Jack?
    I’ve been gradually reading all the blogs on your website and especially like the ones in the “Home Sweet Home” section. I don’t personally know of any writer/artists who have such welcoming and informative websites as you do so hats off to you!
    Oh and by the way I went into do my “birthday shopping” and after perusing the online store choose the Mark Twain book, the chocolate bunny bank for my “honey bunny” :-), the sea glass and the set of 6 little vases. I am going to enjoy the book as I also adore Mark Twain and his writings and would like to read more about him and boy I am sure going to get creative with the sea glass and vases and put them to use as soon as I receive them. :-) :-)
    I was going to get the charms yet have decided to wait and see if the Martha’s Vineyard one is going to be available again. Your gals in SLO informed me this might be a possibility. :-)
    Have a great April day!

    • sbranch says:

      You will LOVE that book Sue, I was both laughing and crying by the second page!

      • Sweet Sue says:

        Just got the Mark Twain autobiography book yesterday and will start reading it this weekend! Can hardly wait. Also got the chocolate bunny bank and gave it to my “honey bunny” from his “sunny honey”! He really liked it and immeadiately found a place for it and put all the change he had in it with a few bills he said were for “good measure”! Delightful gifts one for me and one for Dusty! Be blessed knowing that your unique and special gifts are a blessing to so many!
        Have a fun day! :-)

  19. Maureen MacKenzie says:

    Hi Susan,
    Thank you so much for this post. I finally oiled my wooden spoons and cutting board. They look amazing and you could tell they needed it. One spoon looked like it could snap in half any minute. Next, I’m sanding down my kitchen table because it has polyurethane on it…what was I thinking?! It’s funny how your thoughts change over time about using thing like chemicals and additives in your food…even makeup. You could go crazy, but it’s best to go a little at a time and certain things you just can’t give up, right? :)
    Enjoy your Sunday,
    Maureen

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