"Seasoning" a new wooden salad bowl [Moved from Not About Food board]
My husband just came back from visitig his mother in Romania and brought me back a beautiful large wooden salad bowl. I believe it's made from willow wood.
Do I need to "season" it somehow - with almond oil or some other oil - before I use it?
How do I care for it - I mean I know better than to put it in the dishwasher, but what are the basics of washing something like this?
I really like the fact that food grade mineral oil will never go rancid. It is cheap ans easy to find, every pharmacy sells it as a laxative. Any other oil will eventually go bad.
Mineral oil is flavorless and helps to make the salad bowl a little more inert, so that the bowl itself does not lend an off flavor to your salads.
As for cleaning, as long as you DON'T make any raw egg based dressing in the bowl you really never need to do more than wipe out the leftovers. A quick wash and lengthy low temp air drying are fine for bowls that have been coated with mineral oil, just NEVER soak the thing or use water that is too hot --- steam will warp and split the bowl.
Just an additional note: assuming the wood is not varnished, use a bit of vegetable or mineral oil. The trick is to use your bare hand/fingers to rub the oil into the wood. Rub until the oil and wood actually begin to get hot from the friction...and keep rubbing. Do this about once a year. A good, large wooden bowl deserves about an hour per year for such treatment.
Wash with soap and water, dry and put away. Otherwise you risk rancid oil and the flavor of whatever ingredients you put in your dressing. The idea of making salad in a bowl that is never washed is equal to eating off a plate that just gets "wiped down" after each meal--but even worse since most plates aren't porous.
I am reading the recently-published letters between Julia Child and Avis deVoto. They include a discussion of the whole wooden salad bowl thing. Julia said she had switched to ceramic bowls because she could taste rancid oil on the wooden one. Avis gave her instructions for curing the wooden bowl. Can't remember offhand what she said, but could look if anyone is interested in what the foodie community was saying, circa 1953!
There are those in the woodworking community that firmly believe any wood finish, when cured, is food safe, unless it's for a cutting board where there is harsh use. With that said, there is a product specifically referenced as "salid bowl" finish. It's a finish that soaks in and cures, something similar to a very dilute oil based finish. It works for salid bowls as there is little chance it will be abraded like a cutting board, but it's more impervious to salid dressings than mineral oil. On the other hand, if that's a little unnerving, the mineral oil suggestion is an excellent choice and since it's intended to be taken oraly, there should be no issues with regards to safety.