Why use bamboo in the kitchen?
First of all, quality materials will only remain in good condition if you care for them properly. If have a cutting board of a different material, such as plastic or glass, you are needlessly dulling your knives. The use of wood cutting board keeps knives sharper longer and in some cases reduce strain on the user.
Bamboo utensils are stronger than wood and plastic, unlikely to scratch non-stick surfaces, and are made of natural, easily renewable materials, that are very light and attractive. Bamboo will not radiate heat up the handle like metal utensils. Plastic utensils can contain carcinogens, such as perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts (PFOA). Another healthy alternative to plastics is silicone. Use of bamboo, rather than metal can reduce strain on hands.
Should I keep separate cutting boards for meat and other things?
Many people keep separate kitchen items for meat, dairy or vegetables. Keeping a separate cutting boards is not necessary, but it can cut down on bacteria carried in meat that can grow on the cutting board and infect other things. It can be handy in general if nothing else to have more than one cutting board.
The following instructions are the same for just about anything made of wood you may use to cook, whether it be cutting boards or utensils.
After use, soap and a soft brush can be used for basic cleaning purposes. Avoid soaking anything made of wood in water for prolonged amounts of time. Hand washing is best, while you can use the dishwasher, it takes a serious toll on your bamboo and can remove the finish. It also increases how often you will need to season your bamboo.
For stains, you have two food safe options. Kosher or sea salt can be used with water (or lemon) as a scrub. Use a soft brush or towel to rub the scrub into a stain. I sometimes cut a lemon in half and use it to scrub my cutting board with sea salt. For tougher stains apply a damp salt mixture to the board and leave overnight. Again, scrub and rinse the salt off the next day and the stain should be gone.
While you should avoid soaking wood utensils in water for prolonged periods of time, if you have a genuine concern over something your wood has come into contact with, you can soak it in a mixture of a teaspoon of bleach to a quart of water. An hour is a good amount of time to soak. After the soak, wash the item with dish soap. If you soak the utensil for too long, you may need to use a fine grit sand paper to renew the smoothness. This of course will remove any finish. Do not soak cutting boards for any reason as it can cause cracks to form. Wiping cutting boards with half strength bleach water or full strength vinegar works well.
One of the most important parts of care for wood kitchen items is seasoning them or oiling. Just as your non-stick cookware needs oil to season the surface and keep its non-stick qualities, wood does as well. The oil repels bacteria and water from soaking into the wood. Remember, never use cooking oils to season anything that will remain unwashed for a long amount of time. All cooking oils will go rancid. The only exception to this is coconut oil, which has a longer lifespan as long as it is not kept in extremely hot climates. Almond oil and walnut oil have a slightly longer lifespan than vegetable oil, but is not recommended for this use as it still will go rancid eventually. Mineral oil is an inexpensive option that is food safe and has no risk of going rancid. You can find it in the pharmacy section. Mineral oil is also useful for softening skin, so feel free to use bare hands to apply it. If you’ve ever seen a product marked as bamboo seasoning oil in the store, read the label, it is almost always 100% mineral oil at 3-5 times the cost of regular mineral oil.
To season your cutting board, begin by washing/scrubbing it with dish soap. Allow to dry. Do not season the board after using lemon juice or any acid on it, it can cause damage to the wood. For a quick, easy seasoning, apply mineral oil to the item, wait at least an hour and wipe off excess with a towel. This can be done in several coats to better protect.
A more durable, water resistant method would be to add approximately 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of beeswax in a cup of mineral oil. Heat the oil until the wax melts and apply as normal. Again, additional coats are beneficial. A topcoat of pure beeswax is also beneficial.