How do I clean my humongous cutting board?
June 14, 2017 6:52 PM   Subscribe

I wish this question was more nuanced, but it isn't! We received a gorgeous, large wooden cutting board as a wedding gift. It is too big to really clean in my kitchen sink (which is an average size). It's also insanely heavy, I had to carry it home from my office today and it was an ordeal. But plenty of people have big, nice cutting boards. Do you have one? How do you keep it clean?
posted by cakelite to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My friend, you want Howard block. It is the bomb.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:29 PM on June 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

You probably want to read about cleaning problems with wooden cutting boards in general -- even with one small enough to fit in your sink it is difficult to properly clean a wooden board enough to eliminate all common food risks.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:29 PM on June 14, 2017

I have a huge cutting board as well, and I have decided that I only use it to cut bread. Maybe this is unsanitary of me, but I generally assume that bread crumbs/dust is a low risk for bacteria and I can just wipe it down with a wet cloth, then occasionally I rub some butcher block conditioner on it. It stays on the counter at all times. I have smaller cutting boards that I use for vegetables, meat, cheese, and other things that leave more than crumbs behind.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:37 PM on June 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

Big wooden cutting boards are awesome, so don't let the logistical issues deter you. Here's my practical advice - I'm no expert on these matters, but here's what I've experienced and I'm still very much alive to tell the tale.

Don't use your big beautiful cutting board for raw meats. Period. For raw meat and other icky things, use a cutting board you can put in the dishwasher. But definitely use your big beautiful cutting board for vegetables and carving cooked meats and other purposes. Clean it off after use with a damp sponge. Use a tiny bit of dish soap on the sponge if the board is a bit greasy. Wipe off any wetness when you're done; a bit damp in spots is okay as long as you store it upright so little of the board is in contact with your counter or other solid surface. This allows the board to dry completely.

Every so often, when it starts looking a bit dull or shows knife marks, rub on some butcher block oil and let it soak in. I often repeat the treatment a few or more times until the board really looks new again.

Yes, wooden cutting boards take a bit of extra care to keep looking nice, but they are a natural surface and are much kinder to your knives than any other cutting surface I can think of.
posted by DrGail at 7:41 PM on June 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

My aunt has one like this, she is a bit of a germaphobe these days after spending a long time (a couple decades) immunocompromised so I trust her when it comes to this kind of stuff. She wipes it down between different meals with plain vinegar and water, and then at the end of the day or if raw meat got on it she does a very diluted bleach solution all over, including the underneath (she just lifts it up on the side and plunks it back down when done) and lets it dry completely. If it gets greasy she uses a little bit of dish soap but not much, and apparently she does oil it once in a while. Raw meat isn't supposed to be on it but it ends up getting near it anyway, enough for her to whip out the bleach solution anyway. Mostly she uses it for bread and washed veggies.
posted by Mizu at 7:45 PM on June 14, 2017

Final comment!!!! This is meant to replace a wooden cutting board that I've had for eight years. I massaged the old one in mineral oil for years. I know how to keep a wooden cutting board from splitting or getting gross, I know that they aren't for raw meat, etc etc. The one I previously had was small enough to clean normally and stick in the drying rack, so this one is just presenting me with logistical problems.
posted by cakelite at 8:03 PM on June 14, 2017

You can absolutely use a wooden cutting board to cut meat, assuming you're not cutting something else on it directly after. You don't need to get it to the sink-- that's probably actively bad for the wood. Wood surfaces are naturally antimicrobial; they just don't harbor bacteria.

We soon found that disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present.

Wipe it down with a dish sponge and a little soap to get the grease off, then towel dry. No grease? Just brush off crumbs or other residue. As with most things, I defer to Kenji.
posted by supercres at 8:04 PM on June 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

Ok, on rereading the comments on that article, Kenji recommends hot water and soap after cutting raw meat. I missed that the first time around and was going by the science.

You can cut meat on it so long as you are willing to scrub it in soapy water after each use. That will definitely shorten the a mount of time between reseasoning. I have one big butcher block that I use for meat for all my recipe testing, and a separate end-grain board that I use for photos and such that I tryu and keep as fresh and clean as possible. I also have a small wooden board that I use for personal use if I have only a smll amount of fish or meat to prepare and don't need the really huge one.

But everything else can be cut on it too, assuming you're going to cook it all; you just don't want to eat anything uncooked off of a board that's been used for raw chicken (I'm personally not too concerned about raw beef or pork --unless it's ground -- but I'm not food risk averse.)
posted by supercres at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2017

Wooden cutting boards are not supposed to look nice. They're supposed to be all rough and hacked about with knife marks.

Wood is naturally anti-microbial; surface finishes, not so much.
posted by flabdablet at 11:05 PM on June 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

just case anyone else reads this, I'm just looking for ideas on how to clean something that is too big to fit in the sink, my question isn't about whether or not you can cut raw meat on a wooden cutting board.
posted by cakelite at 5:40 AM on June 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

You'll just have to learn how to maneuver the board around the edges of your sink to clean it. The entire thing won't fit in the sink at once, right? No problem! Get your sponge wettish, put some dish soap on it if you need to, put the board over your sink, and clean. It's okay if water/suds get on the counter or on the floor; you can wipe those up later. If you have to, put the board aside to rinse out the sponge and then wipe the board down until it is no longer sudsy. Dry it off as best you can and then prop it up against the wall behind your counter until you feel it's good and dry.

Does that make sense? I do this with my cutting board in my small sink if my big sink is full or otherwise occupied. I could take pictures if that would help! :)
posted by cooker girl at 5:51 AM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if my big cutting board is as big as your big cutting board, but here's how I handle it-- as long as the width of the board can fit in the sink, even diagonally, then I kind of stand it up, spray both sides with hot water, then scrub either side while it is standing up. Then I use my hands to cup water and pour it over both sides to rinse the soap off.

I have no knowledge about wooden cutting boards or whether this is good for them, but logistically it is the best way I have found for washing my big board (mine is plastic).
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:03 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

how to clean something that is too big to fit in the sink

Wet soapy washcloth, scrubbing brush, wrung-out soapy washcloth, wet non-soapy washcloth, tea towel.
posted by flabdablet at 6:06 AM on June 15, 2017 [5 favorites]

Wooden cutting boards really shouldn't be submerged in water anyway. For my large wooden cutting board, I treat it much like my cast iron -- I use a board scraper to scrape off all the food and chunky bits, often right into the trash can. Then wipe it down with a damp paper towel, wipe dry with a tea towel, and follow up with some mineral oil. If something drippy spilled, then I'll scrub it with a tiny bit of soap and a sponge, before doing the damp paper towel routine.
posted by PearlRose at 6:13 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just take it to your bathtub and scrub it when necessary.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 6:57 AM on June 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

Does half your cutting board fit in the sink? A quarter (corner)??

We've got one plank that's too wide for the sink, and I just do it half by half, detergent in the middle, using really hot water and a stiff brush, massage the detergent into the water while gradually directing the stream closer to the center line. Then flip, repeat.

IF you have been cutting meats, brush down the outer edges too and the back of the board, because stuff may have leaked around the edge. Let it dry properly before putting it wherever it lives, so it doesn't develop black stains and other unpleasantnesses.

If you want to treat the board with oil, use olive oil. You can also use flax seed oil (from the health-food store, not the paint shop!), but be careful to let it soak in completely and wipe off the excess several times, otherwise your food will taste like linseed oil for weeks. The good thing about flax/linseed oil is that what's drawn into the board will harden over time, protecting the wood. I would never use mineral oil around foodstuff.
posted by Namlit at 7:56 AM on June 15, 2017

I spray mine down with a 30% vinegar solution and wipe it dry. If there are drips (or dough-blobbies), I'll scrape it down pretty hard with a board scraper first, then the vinegar.
posted by janell at 10:09 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Vinegar solution for every surface in the kitchen.

Also, cut whatever you want on it as long as you clean it in between. There is plenty of research that's shown that there is little to no difference between the surface bacteria of a wooden vs. a plastic cutting board.
posted by cmoj at 2:10 PM on June 15, 2017

Be careful about where you leave it to dry. I had been leaving my wooden cutting board to dry leaning against a wall, with one end resting on the counter. Then I discovered that the end that usually rests on the counter was black with mold because of the water pooling there.

For a very large cutting board, it might be worth opening the dishwasher, pulling the bottom rack out a bit, and leaving the board on it to dry (with the dishwasher open, and the top of the board resting against the countertop.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:51 PM on June 15, 2017

As an alternative to all of the above suggestions, I use plastic roll-up cutting surfaces on top of our wooden cutting board. All of the ease of cleanup with none of the blade damage.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:59 PM on June 15, 2017

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