Take the 2-minute tour ×
Seasoned Advice is a question and answer site for professional and amateur chefs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been using mineral oil to oil my wooden cutting boards ever since I found out this was a good thing to do. I had a couple of bamboo boards up until I bought a really great John Boos carving board (made of maple).

When I bought the maple board, I noticed they sold something called "mystery oil". A few searches later, I found it appears to be a mix of mineral oil and linseed oil.

Since then, I have been using just mineral oil on the board(s) with no ill effects. However, I have been wondering if there is a benefit to using something other than just straight mineral oil.

Can anyone weigh in on this?

share|improve this question
    
You can use pure linseed - that's what I do - but I have no idea if it is better or not, so not an answer. –  rumtscho Feb 26 '12 at 23:25
    
I added a comment to the answer below about linseed oil. Be careful to get pure linseed oil and not a boiled linseed oil meant for woodworking. The latter will almost definitely contain heavy metal drying agents. –  JoeFish Sep 12 '13 at 17:41

9 Answers 9

"Better" might be a matter of interpretation. The oils will behave a bit differently, however.

Mineral Oil is a non-drying oil, which means that it will not polymerize (form a plastic-like substance) over time. This is good for oiling cutting boards because it will stay a bit liquid in the wood and flow into cracks and scratches. It is also food-safe and won't go rancid or support microorganisms.

Linseed Oil (AKA Flaxseed Oil, or Flax Oil) is also a good choice, for a different reason. Linseed Oil is a drying oil, which means it will fully polymerize and form a harder plastic layer. This is why it is about the best oil for seasoning cast iron pans. It may be more durable than mineral oil, but lacks the ability to "flow".

A blend of the two sounds like a fine idea. My favorite, Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner is a mix of Mineral Oil and natural waxes like Carnauba and Beeswax, which add a bit of that "durability" that Linseed Oil could add.

What would be a bad choice are most food oils like Canola, Olive Oil, Lard, etc. Unsaturated fats will oxidize (go rancid) and affect your food. Even oils high in saturated fats may have too many anti-oxidants (which are bad in this case), which will prevent polymerization and leave a gummy surface. These semi-drying oils are of no use here.

Whatever you use, make sure it is intended for food (Linseed Oil is a common woodworking finish, and not all versions are intended for use with food). Mineral Oil is probably more convenient for quick daily wipe-downs, while some of the blends are probably a bit more suited toward occasional re-finishing. Either way, regular application and keeping the board dry while not in use will make more difference than the exact type of oil.

share|improve this answer
1  
To clarify (the part about cast iron seasoning caught my eye)--Linseed oil, Flax oil and Flaxseed oil are synonymous. +1 for the explanation about drying oils –  Eric Hu Feb 27 '12 at 4:12
    
Indeed! I'll clarify the answer. –  Sam Ley Feb 27 '12 at 4:26
    
Generally BLO (boiled linseed oil) is the one used for woodworking purposes. Linseed oil will polymerize on its own, but it can take weeks. Boiling the oil thickens it and accelerates the polymerization process. That said, every commercial BLO I've researched DOES NOT boil the linseed oil any more, but adds heavy metal driers to it (cobalt for one). I might use it to finish a tabletop, but not for a cutting board that will see constant food contact. –  JoeFish Sep 12 '13 at 17:38

The best solution to use is a mix of mineral oil and a bit of beeswax or paraffin wax. You can melt the wax into the oil in the microwave and then wipe your board down. This solution will protect is quite well and is recommended by many board makers. If you need a couple different options or directions on how to apply the oil head to End Grain Cutting Board

share|improve this answer

I've had good results just cleaning them soon after use and maintaining them in a dry area - don't put them in the dishwasher or leave them submerged in the sink for long periods.

share|improve this answer

Try 100% tung oil. Tung Oil is an all natural finish providing a tough, flexible and highly water-resistant coating. The oil comes from the cold pressing of the seeds or nuts of the Tung tree. The food-safe oil brings out the natural colors and grains of all the woods we use in our products. :)

share|improve this answer
2  
Warning: people with nut allergies may have reactions to tung oil, so it may not be a good idea for everyone to use this. –  Jefromi Sep 12 '13 at 3:07

Knife manufacturer Lamson & Goodnow makes TreeSpirit brand Bee's Oil - a blend of beeswax and mineral oil designed to condition cutting boards and other wooden kitchen tools. It's easier to apply than either pure mineral oil or pure beeswax, as the two blended together has more of a paste-like consistency which can be wiped onto the cutting board with a clean rag.

share|improve this answer

I just got a local artisan here to build me a butcher block. While installing it, I asked him what he recommended for maintaining butcher blocks. In addition to mineral oil, and food-safe waxes, he is trying to bring in a product called (http://www.kerfs.com/store.htm). He has tried it on his own boards, and loves it a lot more. He finds that mineral oil "evaporates" too quickly. He's tried all different types, and that's his favourite product.

share|improve this answer
    
Hmmm… three products there… which one(s) is it? Also they don't say what's in it, just a 'blend' plus some waxes or not... –  NOTjust -- user4304 May 16 '13 at 3:30
    
Oh, when I first linked there there weren't three products. I think it was the Lemon Luster. –  talon8 May 16 '13 at 4:29

There are a lot of finishes out there designed for cutting boards, butcher blocks and salad bowls. I am an avid woodworker myself and am always looking for the next best thing. I have tried everything from the mystery oil, howards, mahoneys, linseed oil and even just plain mineral oil. The best stuff that I have found so far is CLARK'S Cutting Board Finish. I found it on Amazon: and I think there is also another website that sells it called Culinary Woodcraft. The reason why I like this stuff is because it uses mineral oil as a base, which is non toxic and it doesn't darken the wood. Then it also has beeswax, and carnauba wax. But the part that I like best about it is the orange oil and lemon oil. This not only helps fight off some of the bacteria but it leaves your pieces smelling fantastic. I'm glad I found this stuff, I have been using it on everything I have. I recommend it to anyone looking for the best Food-Safe wood finish!

share|improve this answer

I picked up a bottle of this at Crate & Barrel when I first bought a decent cutting board and have only been using it since. So I have no basis for comparison, but I can say it's done a good job of keeping the board looking good.

share|improve this answer
    
"Contains refined seed oil" - sounds like it might be linseed? –  Jefromi Feb 27 '12 at 5:51
    
Yeah, I thought it might too. I thought perhaps the other components to it might be interesting. –  josh Feb 27 '12 at 13:45

Coconut oil works great, doesn't go rancid.

share|improve this answer
3  
How is it that an oil/fat never goes rancid? Can you post some links to support this? –  J.A.I.L. Nov 11 '12 at 20:01
2  
It's not accurate to say that coconut oil "never" goes rancid, but due to its high saturated fat content, it is highly stable compared to other vegetable oils, resistant to oxidation and can last two years without going rancid. –  Scott C Dec 16 '12 at 20:42

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.