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. 

67 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:

    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.


  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,

  20. Barb says:

    Can I use this method on my wooden salad bowls?
    p.s LOVE your blog, books and drawings!

  21. Margaret Murtagh says:

    I love this post! My mom passed away a year ago and my mother-in-law just went into assisted living and we have been cleaning out their homes and I’m drawn to the kitchen pieces. Each of those pieces holds a special memory…of family dinners and get-togethers of our parents hard work to provide us with the best they could give….it’s nice to have those things around us…

  22. Joann says:

    Lovely post- sweetly sentimental, pragmatically precious! Love you lots and I’m missing you!! (I know—super busy gal you are!)

    Me, too…

    Joann in CO

  23. Carol C says:

    So glad to read this. We had a butcher block kitchen table and I oiled it twice a year–usually before we left on a trip so it could sit for the days we were gone to soak in. Now I use it in my fabric/quilting studio so no more oiling for it! I’m especially glad to read about oiling utensils as I have never done that. My dad was a wood carver (today would have been his 90th birthday) and I have many things he carved–including lots of spoons. I have a set of soup spoons as well as utensils for cooking, letter opener, many animals, birds, etc. I’ll be adding mineral oil to my shopping list and giving them a treatment.

  24. Cyndi in NC says:

    I have a hand carved rolling pin the my husbands great grandfather made for his great grandmother. It’s been passed down and my mother in law gave it to me. I love wooden pieces and I felt honored that she gave it to me. I’ll pass it to my oldest daughter someday. I also have my first rolling pin that came in a box at an auction. It’s rolled out many batches of cookies in the 41 years I’ve had it. Now to get all of my wooden things done. *L*

  25. Mary Lawrence says:

    I live my wooden cooking implements.Like you I never ever place them in the dishwasher.I have a wonderful wooden spoon from my great grandmother.It is so beautiful,I feel her hands,and my grandmother ever time I use it.It is the little things like a simple wooden spoon that ads sparkle to life and cooking.Mary Elizabeth

  26. Christne says:

    I always look forward to your blogs; they are delightful and very informative too! Loving the kitchen & cooking utensils, etc. as you do, I am pleased to see that my mother-in-law’s instructions re. caring for wooden utensils and boards are exactly like yours! The “handed-down” advice is so often the best! I also have many spoons of various sizes and shapes and the history in each is as much fun to think about as the use of them in my cooking!

    As an aside, it is fun to note that my brother’s birthday was yesterday and our new great grandson was born today only a few hours ago, and my granddaughter’s birthday is tomorrow!!!! I think the thing to do in celebration would be to find some special wooden spoons to share!! >Corky

  27. Vicki Panzarino says:

    I treasure my wooden spoons and bowls, handed down through the generations. Whenever I am using a wooden spoon that my Mom, aunt, grandma used (especially if I am duplicating an old family recipe) I feel a beautiful connection and am comforted by memories from times long ago. Thank you Susan for bringing this back for me to nestle into for a while!

  28. Linda Hull says:

    I have always loved wood, but wasn’t sure what to use and never bothered to find out. Your pieces look very nice!

    It’s so nice to redo the house! I can’t wait to see the finished room. We recently took down the old wallpaper in a small bedroom that had been here when we moved in. What a mess! You are so fortunate yours came right off. I scraped and scraped and used my fingernails. Thankfully the finished room made it all worthwhile.

    Thanks for sharing! – Linda Hull

  29. DeLores Johnson says:

    Dear Susan,

    I have a rolling pin my Dad made for me when I was 8 years old. I am now 80 years old. I have never used it for cooking, but I do display it. I have never done anything with it, but I am going to get Mineral Oil and oil it to preserve it.

    I have a lot of trouble trying to send my letters to you. My info I submitted (Name, EMail & Website is not shown anymore. Is tDhere a reason I have been taken off? I will try to enter the info but last time it wouldn’t let me)

  30. Cindy Huk says:

    I have my grandmothers wooden rolling she brought to this country as a War Bride from England during WW1. I use it all the time & I’m 65. Thanks for the reminder to give our wooden workers some TLC once and a while!

  31. Carol Kennedy says:

    Love the rant and totally agree!!! And I can see a container of mineral oil in my very near future!! And what an excellent selection of quotes this time. They are always so good, but this time they are outstanding!! Thank you for all you say and do. I’m inspired to go clean, oil, and decorate!!

  32. Suzette Shoulders says:

    I over-indulged myself with a large myrtlewood salad bowl for my ‘special’ birthday this summer, because the man at the shop said there aren’t going to be any more… the older guys who made these pieces of art are all retiring, and he ( the shop man) cannot order any big salad bowls! But he didn’t know what type of oil I should use to keep it looking good… and now I know, thanks to you! Dear Susan, thank you! Suzette in Oregon

    • sbranch says:

      Perfect Suzette, yes it works wonderfully because a. of course, it’s not poisonous, but b. it won’t go rancid, very important.

  33. Jenny says:

    I’ve been saying for months now that I need to take care of my wooden cutting boards and spoons. Thanks for the reminder and the good wood oil recipe!

  34. Joan Row says:

    Fantastic your Dad made the SUE spoon for you.
    It was great your Dad and my Mom were neighbor friends in SLO.
    My moms condo there sits empty there still till this day despite the fact sadly she died 27 yrs ago.
    God bless them both.
    From Auckland New Zealand.
    Barbara Doran’s daughter Joan

  35. Barbara Biddle says:

    What a wonderful way to keep beloved wooden spoons looking their best. I have several plus some treasured bread boards that I”ll show my granddaughter how to “clean up” using mineral oil this weekend. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never put wooden utensils, etc. into my dishwasher or even soaked them in soapy water but this will be excellent to spruce them up.

  36. Erika says:

    We have butcher block counter tops and I swear by Boos Block Mystery Oil- it’s made specifically for wood that comes in contact with food. They also sell a cream that has beeswax and oil combined, gives a lovely soft finish that protects for a bit longer than oil alone. Thanks for great reminder- I’ll do my counters this weekend so that they are ready for all the holiday cooking!

  37. Gail Sergewich says:

    Never thought to do my spoons.

  38. Kathy Miller says:

    Please please tell me the brand of your kitchen table or perhaps where you purchased it. I had one and a hutch similar years ago I found at Fred Meyer of all places but i’m looking for a table for my little kitchen and adore you and your table. 🙂

  39. Kathi says:

    Thank you for describing your process for us. I did oil my kitchen woods once, and they seemed to try out right away. I will try again and try the lemon & salt first. I am living in Oregon now and have had a problem with my wood cutting boards MOLDING!! I’ve never had that issue before, but I guess it’s so damp here? I read if you spray them with hydrogen peroxide and let them sit about 10-15 min, it will kill the mold spores. So maybe I’ll start with that, and then the lemon, and then the mineral oil. I see your mineral oil is sold out. I was going to try yours and see if I had better luck with it! I’m also glad you mentioned using a plastic board for raw meats and fish. I was doing the same and then his cutting board vendor said never use plastic. You end up with micro plastics in your food! So I threw my plastic ones away. I think maybe I’ll risk it for my raw meats! Thanks again!

    • sbranch says:

      I’ve never had mold on my cutting boards and I live in moldville where even sometimes the WALLS get mold on them ~ because of the humidity. We stopped all of that craziness when we installed air conditioners. Kellee is getting more mineral oil in soon, but you can find it at your drug store. You want it to be “food quality” mineral oil. It doesn’t go rancid like most other oils do. There are also glass cutting boards for meat … the only drawback for them is they can be slippery … try these, people seem to like them … click HERE …💝

Leave a Reply to Linda Hull Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *