Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Golden: Beautiful Bamboo

While I was in graduate school I had some of those handy dandy cutting board sheets, each labeled with the name of the food you should cut upon it. When I was in the store they seemed so clever and practical...but they certainly have their downsides...especially when you set them on the floor and have your strong brothers-in-law take turns cleaving open pumpkins. Additionally, the flexibility of the boards makes them less easy to clean, and causes them to stick together should you accumulate more than one in the sink (or all four, which I would never do of course...only most weeks). And, as with other plastic cutting boards, thick or thin, the places where the knife marks the surface eventually becomes rough and not so fun to run your hand or dishrag across, while wood or bamboo stay smooth.


So, after chopping a few of those flex boards in half and accidentally melting a very nice coil design into a thick plastic cutting board (it's a long story, but don't worry, we were attending the stove at the time), I  began to think about how many discarded cutting boards there would be after just my life... five in five years is not so great. In addition to cutting boards, plastic cooking utensils not only have the problem of being disposable, but also gradually melt into your food, leaching who knows what, and slowly disappearing. Or if you are making caramels, not so slowly (again, sad but true).

Plastic spoons melt in your food                               Bamboo coated with a finish eventually looks ragged           

Somewhere in there, I started using a bamboo cutting board, and I just love cutting on it! If you want one reason to choose bamboo (or wood) over plastic, the one I give you is that chopping on a natural surface is just more fun. (And by the way, don't bring glass cutting boards into this. Though glass is awesome for most purposes, as a cutting surface it quickly dulls your knives, and also cause them to slip.)

If you have already made the switch to bamboo or other wood for your boards and utensils, you have probably encountered the same conundrum I did, "What on earth am I supposed to oil this with?"
Here's the problem: the commonly accepted oil for wooden cutting surfaces (and spoons) is mineral oil, but if you're trying to keep it natural, petroleum by products aren't really the way to go. But, most cooking oils will either turn the wood sticky, not be absorbed, or go rancid. But, after searching high and low, I have found a few solutions...they may not be easy to find in your area, or dirt cheep, but you won't be using them very quickly, so the effort can be divided over a long period of time. You have two basic options, either specialty oils, or natural waxes.

 Left to right, bamboo, pine, coconut palm. All unfinished, coated with flax seed oil.

My oil of choice is filtered flax seed oil, but filtered coconut oil can also be used (and is even more fragrant). Both oils can be found at Whole Foods and some other grocery stores, or your local health food stores. I think I spent about $8 on my bottle. Waxes are a little harder to come by in stores, but can be easily located online. Different beeswax combinations are the most popular options, such as All-Natural Beeswax Polish and Jonathan's Spoon Wax on Amazon.

And incase you're worried, as long as you wash your cutting board (or spoon) and allow it to dry, there is very little danger of bacterial contamination, and possibly even less than there would be on a plastic board.

So what do you think?
Are you up for biodegradable cookware?
Do you have any wooden spoons that have been in your family so long that they're smooth?


  1. Wow..thanks for that blog post. I currently use the plastic cutting boards and I have no problems as of yet. They are fairly new. I'll have to look into bamboo once I destroy mine.

  2. @A. Alexandra
    Good to hear you have no problems, I think the new-fangled ultra thin ones are the biggest culprits of being disposable, but yeah, definitely keep what you have until the time comes to replace!

  3. I've been using a lot more bamboo lately too. I recently bought a laser engraver...so I'm having fun engraving images into all my bamboo items :)

  4. You've reminded me how I need a new cutting board. I am slowly lessening my use of plastic. It's hard when many items in the store come in plastic, but at least the cooking part is plastic-free.

  5. @ MemoriesforLife
    Doing your own bamboo engraving sounds really fun!

    @ Gallery Juana
    It is SO hard to avoid plastic food packaging...let me know if you have any tips!

  6. @harmless

    I wish I had tips:) I think the only way I'd be able to avoid plastic is to buy only fresh vegetables or to grow/raise everything I want to eat. Someday that might be possible:)

  7. I am going to polish my wooden salad spoons right now! I had wondered what would work on wood cutting boards and never thought of beeswax and coconut oil.

  8. Thanks for the interesting post. I have some new wooden spoons and I had no idea what to oil them with.

  9. I wouldn't part with my wooden spoons for the world. Bamboo cutting boards? Absolutely no love.
    Every one I've had slips, warps or breaks apart inside of a year.
    I think I'm going back to old fashioned butcher block.

  10. I use wooden or metal spoons, but I have had the same thick plastic cutting board for years. It hasn't caused me any problems, but whenever it seems too old to use anymore, I'll definitely look into getting a wood cutting board.

  11. I have to agree that bamboo is on the top of list for kitchen material too. I just invested in a giant bamboo platter that I use for serving at my sushi parties. Looks elegant I think. I'll be picking up some of that oil for some of my worn down bamboo spoons. Thanks


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