In addition to convenience, built-in butcher blocks add an aesthetically pleasing warmth to your kitchen. They feel professional but still homey. Plus, with different grains and shades of wood, there is no shortage of beautiful butcher blocks to choose from. It’s no surprise this trend continues to grow in popularity.
However, it’s important to note that owning a butcher block or having built-in butcher block countertops isn’t as straightforward as it may look in home design magazines. Here are a few (very doable) things you’ll need to know before the upgrade.
Butcher blocks require maintenance
Even butcher blocks that aren’t built-in require a degree of care to remain functional and safe places for cutting meat and preparing food. Unlike marble or stone countertops — or plastic or silicon cutting boards — wooden butcher blocks need treatment to protect the surface from nicks, scratches, and general wear and tear.
In general, it’s recommended to treat your butcher block with mineral oil at least once per year. Additionally, sanding down scratches can help preserve the life of your butcher block and limit the development of crevices, which can be dangerous places for bacteria to harbor.
Butcher blocks need to be cleaned very carefully
Wood is porous, so it soaks up residues and moisture from the surface. This means germs and bacteria can settle inside your butcher block, compromising the safety of it as a food prep surface. Because of this, you should make sure to quickly clean your butcher block with soap and water or vinegar after every single use.
Avoid letting food residue sit too long on the surface without wiping up — especially when it comes to raw meat.
Butcher blocks need protection from the elements
Spilled liquid can seep into the wood and cause mold if it isn’t cleaned properly. Because of this, putting butcher block countertops next to your kitchen sink can be risky. The same goes for storing a detached butcher block near your sink. Splashed water from dishwashing could also collect under the butcher block and lead to mold growth, compromising the wood. Beyond water, other spilled liquids — like coffee — pose a danger for staining the porous wood.
Hot surfaces pose similar risks, so cooks with butcher block countertops should resist the urge to place hot pans and dishes directly onto the wood. While it might seem durable, the heat can lead to cracks, bubbles, or even burns.
While these maintenance issues are important to know, don’t let them discourage you. When properly cared for, butcher blocks are a great addition to any home chef’s kitchen. And, with a little love, they can last for a long time.
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