I love wooden cooking utensils! They're sturdy (unlike plastic utensils, which can soften in heat) but gentle on cast iron and coated cookware (unlike metal utensils).
I'm always surprised when I visit friends' kitchens and see bleached dehydrated utensils. Taking care of your wooden utensils takes only a few minutes and can make you fall in love with them all over again. This Instructable will show you how to bring out the rich tones of the wood grain and get the surface finish glowing. These techniques are not only for well-used or abused dehydrated utensils but work wonders on new unfinished wooden utensils.
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Step 1: Gather Your Wooden Spoons, Spatulas, and Spreaders
Clean, dry wooden utensils
Board Cream or Mineral Oil
Gather your wooden utensils or un-package your new unfinished utensils. If you're on a limited budget, dollar store wooden utensils can be finished to both look and function like much higher priced options! They're much prettier than cheap plastic utensils and don't risk tainting your food with plasticizers if you leave them in boiling water too long or rest them on the edge of a frying pan.
Smell check your spoons- clean, dry wooden utensils should have NO smell unless they've been treated with beeswax or oil. If they have any organic or mildewy smell, wash them with hot water, dish soap and a bristle dish brush. Never leave them soaking in water as the water will work its way into the wood and cause mold or mildew. Lay them on a clean paper towel on a window sill or anywhere else they'll get direct sunlight for a day or so. If they still smell questionable, leave them in the sunlight for a few more days or throw them out. It's not worth risking contaminants in your food!
Step 2: Sand Any Rough Edges
Use a medium grit sandpaper to remove any burs or rough patches from the edges of your utensils. On new utensils a light sanding all over the utensil will remove splinters and leave the handle feeling much smoother in your hand. On used utensils, focus on the working edges- especially the bottom edge which comes in contact with hot surfaces might have developed a fuzzy look or a set of curved fibers rather than a sharp edge. Sand with the wood grain on the handles and any large surfaces (like the inside of a spoon). If the edges are resistant to sanding work at a right angle to the grain. Finish with a light sanding in the direction of the grain. Look for any scratches you might have made and remove them by sanding with a light grit with the grain.
Rinse off the dust from the sanding and let the utensils dry overnight. If you're impatient or didn't need to sand much, brush off the dust with a dry paper towel followed by a lightly dampened paper towel and let the utensil dry for 15 minutes.
Step 3: Condition the Wood
Lay down dry paper towels on a countertop or table where they can rest undisturbed overnight. Your hands will be covered in oil in a few minutes so take advantage of your clean hands to prep your working area now!
Squeeze a pea to a penny sized dollop of board cream onto your wooden utensil. Rub the cream all over the wood. If the cream is absorbed, keep working more in with your hands until the cream is sitting on the surface of the wood.
I love board creams made with beeswax and mineral oil (Boo's Board Cream is a great commercial option). Mineral oil is inert (won't react with anything in your food or in your body) and food safe and acts to condition the dehydrated wood fibers. Mineral oil will offer the wood a small protective layer against future wear and tear but the protection can be greatly prolonged with the addition of beeswax. Have I mentioned the beeswax smells incredible?! I always look forward to conditioning my wooden cookware because it makes the whole kitchen smell good and my hands so soft.
If you prefer to stay away from petroleum based products, you can condition your wood with food grade oils (walnut oil is a good choice). Remember that food grade oils are not inert like mineral oil and beeswax so always check if guests have nut allergies that might be triggered by the walnut oil!
Step 4: Let the Wood Sit Overnight + Enjoy!
Let your utensils rest overnight to allow the dehydrated wood to absorb oil deeper into its fibers. Wipe off the extra cream with a dry paper towel. The wood should look glowing but not slick.
Enjoy cooking with your new (or newly refurbished) utensils! You'll find that water beads up slightly on the conditioned surface and the conditioned utensils are super easy to clean. Tomato sauces or balsamic reductions that would easily stain untreated wood will rise right off thanks to the protective oils.
Step 5: Caring for Your Wooden Utensils
The number one rule of wooden utensils is to never leave them soaking in water.
The water can soak into the wood (causing mildew) and deform the shape. After proper conditioning, the need and temptation to soak your utensils should disappear as they should be much easier to clean with a quick rinse.
Lightly condition your utensils every few weeks if they see heavy use. You can lightly condition your dry utensils by rubbing them with mineral oil. Deeply condition your utensils with board cream overnight every few months. Condition more or less often based on the look and feel of your utensils. If they appear frosted, with a whitish tint, or if they become more difficult to clean you'll know it's time to recondition them.
Step 6: Share Your Tips
If you have any tips on caring for your wooden utensils please share them!