“What is the best oil to treat wooden utensils and cutting boards with?”
It’s a question we get every time we are out selling Earlywood products and it’s easy to see where the confusion comes from. There are old-fashioned treatments and modern oil blends that all claim to be the best way to preserve wood used in the kitchen. So let’s take a look at your options for treating wood, and clear up the confusion.
There are essentially two kinds of oil used for treating wood, oils that harden, and oils that don’t harden.
Oils that harden, including polyurethane and varnish are basically what you’ve got on your furniture. Based on smell alone, it should be obvious why they are not good for anything that comes into contact with food, yet we do occasionally see people use it. It creates a shell around the utensil that, with use, will eventually crack and chip off in your food. Not good, friends. Not recommended.
Oils that don’t harden, include food-based oils, linseed oil, tung oil, and petroleum-based oils. These all offer safer protection, but they’re not all equal.
Food based oils like olive, corn, vegetable, and canola oils will never dry and chip off into your food like hardening oils, but they can discolor your utensils, thicken, and go rancid, giving your spoons and cutting boards a rotten smell. Have you ever see an old cutting board that someone is selling at a garage sale that is yellow and sticky on the surface? It is that way because they most likely treated the board for years with one of these food-based oils. These oils are especially troublesome when used on counter top cutting boards that don’t get a thorough washing very often.
An exception to the typical food-based oils, is walnut oil. It’s widely recommended because it doesn’t go rancid. It dries, unlike the other oils in your kitchen. However, it can still get a tacky feel. If you’re a believer in walnut oil, be sure to apply it only to utensils you use – and wash – often. That should help keep it from developing a thick, sticky coating.
Another option is tung oil. It does a good job. It will dry, which will keep it from going rancid, and it shouldn’t create a sticky buildup, but to get a proper coating you’ll need to spend 7-10 days coating and drying.
We should also mention beeswax. It’s a safe option. It will give you a shiny smooth surface and be essentially waterproof. This sounds like a good thing, but the problem is that it is hard at room temperature, and as soon as you dip that treated spoon into a hot dish, the wax immediately melts into your food, thus losing most of its protection. Beeswax is often blended with mineral or other oils and is dubbed as “spoon oil”. We have found that the addition of wax to mineral oil only thickens the oil, makes it harder to apply and restricts the depth to which it can soak in. Therefore, we’re not huge fans.
So, we’re down to petroleum based oils, and within that category is our recommendation for treating your utensils, mineral oil. Mineral oil gets a bad rap from time to time because it is petroleum based. If you are anti petroleum products, that’s your thing and that’s just fine. We’re not here to convince you otherwise, we’re just here to tell you what works best for oiling wooden spoons!
Mineral oil has a lot of great qualities when it comes to treating wood that will be in contact with food. Here are a few of its benefits:
It’s 100% food safe
It quickly penetrates the tight grain of the hardest hardwoods
It will never go rancid like food-based oils
It never dries or leaves a sticky residue
It is odorless
It has a decades-long shelf life
It enhances but does not change the natural color of the wood
It can be used for utensils, cutting boards, knife handles (even if they are plastic)!
We specifically recommend a low-viscosity mineral oil for the task. Viscosity refers to the thickness of a liquid. On one end of the spectrum you have high viscosity liquids like hydraulic fluid and the other end of the spectrum you have very low viscosity oils like WD-40. The mineral oil that we use and sell on our website is lighter than water and penetrates deeper into the wood than thicker oils. We add a little lemon peel oil, which has antimicrobial properties and you get to enjoy the refreshing lemon scent while you oil your spoons.We hope that clears things up for you a bit. Now, go oil your utensils and cook something great!
Did your Earlywood utensils see some heavy use this holiday season? Or maybe you received them as a Christmas gift and you’ve used them every day since? Either way, we hope you have been putting them to good use. If so, they could probably use a little TLC by now. Here’s what we suggest:
The first thing to remember is that water is not a friend of wood. It can cause your utensils to swell, warp, fade, and crack. To prevent this, hand wash your utensils with hot soapy water and dry in a rack. The wash cycles in a dishwasher are too long and those hi-temp drying cycles don’t help either. They soak up water, then dry out but don’t get scrubbed. This will make sure that your utensils turn gray, fuzzy and live a short life.
After the first few times you used your utensils, you may have noticed your spoons looking or feeling a little fuzzy. That’s to be expected as the grain of the wood is raised by exposure to water. If that hasn’t worn off by now, rub your utensils with a Scotch-Brite pad. Use the little purple one you got with your purchase or the scratchy green side of your dish sponge. A one-time scrub will remove the fuzz for life. Keep the pad; it can be used again and again on your other wooden items.
Every once in awhile, give your utensils a good coat of oil. We prefer mineral oil, because it is food safe, has no scent, never goes rancid and soaks in quickly. The oil will repel water and thus reduce the number of times your utensils go through the wet/dry cycle. This will prevent warping, fading and cracking that can be caused by repeated exposure to water. Give them every bit of oil they will soak up. It’s a good idea to put on as much as you can, then let them sit overnight before drying extra off with a towel to make sure they soak up every last drop.
In our opinion, oiling wooden spoons is one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s akin to waterproofing a good pair of hiking boots or a good pair of leather gloves. Take your time and enjoy it! If you want to keep your Earlywood utensils in like-new condition, oil them every 5-6 uses, but if you’re a fan of that well-used look (like we are), then you can oil them every 3-6 months.
If you are still left with unanswered questions, please ask us in a comment.
We’re excited to announce a sweet, new gift set for your sweetheart in plenty of time for Valentine’s Day. This set comes with a flirty kitchen towel and our bestselling trifecta, which includes a flat sauté, a scraper, and a spreader.
With a choice between two double-entendres you can drop a hint without implying that your sweetheart should be spending more time in the kitchen. (the photo shows both sayings)
See the product page HERE.
The towel measures 20X28 inches and comes with a twill tape loop for hanging. It’s thick, all cotton, and sewn to withstand washing after washing. The towel comes in your choice of a pink micro dot pattern or a light gray stripe, which match the pink or gray appliquéd hearts. The flirty sayings are screen printed on the fabric, which is machine stitched to the towel.
You choose the saying:
Spoon this chick
I want to get crème fraîche with you
Choices, choices! The trifecta, which comes with the towel, also comes in a choice of wood combinations:
Ebony, jatoba, bloodwood
Jatoba, ebony, maple
Bloodwood, maple, ebony
This fun Valentine’s Day gift pairing is the first in a series of seasonal and exclusive collaborations between Earlywood and our friends at Geo. Nici, owner and designer at Geo, and I met in Red Lodge in the mid 90s and spent many a day together fishing, running and skiing in the Beartooth Mountains. Nici now lives in Missoula with her family, and it’s been fun to see how our lives as independent, creative professionals seem to mirror each other. You can get to know Nici through her blog, digthischick.net, and find more of her work at shopgeo.net.
Now, go to the website and pick up this Valentine’s Day gift set before you find yourself buying a stale box of chocolates at the last minute!
One step in the design process here at Earlywood is to define how and why traditional wooden spoons fall short when it comes to many common cooking tasks. Once the downfall is identified, the next step is to design a tool that will excel at that task, while maintaining a form that is pleasing to the eye and comfortable in the hand. The reasonably priced Trifecta is the result of 3 such iterations of our design process. It scrapes, spreads, and stirs better than any traditional wooden spoon can.
- The L Flat Sauté paddle is perfect for stirring nearly everything we cook. It is 13" long, which allows it to keep the cook's hand far from the heat and provide more projected surface area (pardon the specifics, but I am a mechanical engineer after all) than a regular wooden spoon, so they mix up your dinners quicker and more efficiently. The radius at the front corner of the L Flat Sauté is also smaller than that of a regular bowled wooden spoon, thus allowing you to get into those previously unreachable tight pan corners.
- The Giga Scraper, with a straight front edge is designed to remove the stubborn, yet tasty morsels of food stuck to the bottom of your pan. Ever tried scraping polenta or salmon off the bottom of a cast-iron pan with a regular wooden spoon? What takes 50 scrapes with a spoon, will take 5 with the wide path of the Giga Scraper.
- The third musketeer, the Large Spreader, makes easy work of spreading thick dips, cutting cheeses, and handling all other spreadables from hummus and brie to peanut butter and jelly. All tasks which are pointless to even try with a traditional wooden spoon.
We are told over and over again by customers that these are the first tools they reach for when they begin to cook. You know, they’re our favorites too.
You save $1 each when these 3 are bought as the Trifecta and they were Earlywood’s best seller last year. Even in our enthusiasm to release the ladle and servers last month, we wanted to be sure to remind you about these handy and hardworking utensils. Judging by our success at the Made Fair in Missoula, Montana last weekend, we're wondering if the reminder is even necessary.
Happy Holidays from us!
What is earlywood?
Do you remember the last time you looked at a cross section of a tree and counted the growth rings? What you were really doing is counting how many times the earlywood/latewood cycle has taken place. Each year, every tree adds a ring of earlywood cells and a ring of latewood cells. These rings tell the age of the tree and a lot more. The thickness of the rings tells how favorable growing conditions were that year. You can count your way back through the rings of a tree and pick out the nicest summers and the harshest winters. You can also count the rings across the end of an Earlywood spoon and see how long it took to grow that spoon.
Earlywood develops in the spring when rain and nutrients from the soil are abundant and days are getting long. New growth makes up the better part of the ring, and in many woods, it is lighter in color than latewood, which develops towards the end of summer before the tree goes dormant (in harsh climates). Of course, growth rings can vary drastically in appearance between a tree that was grown in Canada and a tree that grew in Brazil.
Earlywood is porous, and made up of thin walled cells, compared to latewood, which is influenced by colder temperatures and drier conditions. As a result, latewood is made of densely-layered, strong, thick-walled cells. Both earlywood and latewood serve a purpose for the tree. It’s the latewood that gives wood the majority of its strength, and the earlywood keeps the tree growing by delivering water and nutrients.
What is Earlywood?
In that spirit of renewal and growth of spring that gives earlywood the chance to grow, we have created the Earlywood kitchen utensil product line. We've taken the common form – a simple spoon – to an uncommon level of quality in function and beauty. Spoons have been around for thousands of years, but that doesn’t mean anything other than that they have been around for thousands of years. I use my background in design/mechanical engineering to analyze every single aspect of the spoon and its purpose. No detail is too small to change if it makes the utensil better. I often start with a specific task in mind and design a utensil that fulfills the need. It is an iterative process and I commonly reference this Buckminster Fuller quote for inspiration and a reality check.
“When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.”
This is why all Earlywood utensils are both utilitarian and beautiful. So that is Earlywood from a design and product standpoint, but Earlywood means a lot more for us. Earlywood is also a way of life. It’s a way to feel good about using a sustainable resource to create beautiful objects that can be passed on through generations. It’s an excuse to spend time in the shop working with our hands. It’s a way to stay creative. It’s a small business and is a way to connect with and give back to our local community. Earlywood is first in quality, and we will maintain that as long as we are able to wake up and make it to the shop. Also, we’re planning a couple holiday giveaways and money-saving promotions for friends of Earlywood in the next few weeks. Like us on Facebook so you don’t miss out.