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Mar 1, 2011 12:20 PM

Wooden Spoons and Mineral Oil

(Note: This thread was split from -- The Chowhound Team)

Ah Aggie Cat, please tell me more about the wood spoons and mineral oil. I use it on my wood spoons too, but have to do it almost everytime I use them, which is all the time! Do you have a special way of doing it so that a nice patina STAYS on it.. Id really love to know how to do that.

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  1. trying drying oil if that is your concern or beeswax...

    49 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Yep, chemicalkinetics has it dead on. I use mine often and am not really concerned about a lovely patina but that they don't absorb water, tastes or get splintery. I lightly wipe with mineral oil about once a month. But about every six months I take a fine grit sandpaper to them and then rub mineral oil all over. After the sanding I put the liberally oiled spoons in plasic wrap and let the oil really really soak in, then wipe and use. For polishing up I use a scrap of blue jean material. It's very finely abrasive, absorbs excess oil and can be used for final knife honing as well.

      1. re: aggiecat

        Now why is it people oil wooden spoons? I probably have a couple of dozen wood spoons and spatulas (the straight-edge thingy). I wash them with everything else that I hand wash, I put them in the dish drainer. When dry I put them back in the crocks I store them in. They are all really old and nothing's wrong with them. What am I missing here?

        1. re: c oliver

          I would like to know too. I put mine in the dishwasher. I have been doing that for many, many years. No problem. I never thought of oiling them!

          1. re: sedimental

            I don't put anything wood in the DW but obviously it's not a problem if you do it. I wonder if oiling is just for cosmetics. Like people who want their LeCreuset not to have any stains. Nothing wrong with them, just not for me.

            1. re: c oliver

              I think it is a precaution, much like oiling wood cutting boards. For people who have inexpensive wood cutting board or wooden utensils, it is probably unnecessary to oil them because they are so affordable. My cheapest wood spoon costs $1. It has lasted so far and I can just replace it when it dies. That said, I know many people have nicer and more expensive wooden spoons in the range of $15-30.



              For expensive wooden spoons, it makes more sense to prolong their lives.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                I've never had a wooden utensil 'fail' and I'm 64 and haven't bought a single item in longer than I can remember. So I believe it's cosmetic.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I had one of the really, really cheap ones (got it with a bunch of other stuff as a wedding gift) absolutely split clean in half, right down the middle. Fortunately no slivers, but I've never seen that happen before or since. (I have one that has a small split in it, but it's not spreading).

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    If the wood used is not properly dried before making the spoon, splits will occur.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    coliver: Then you've had good luck.

                    The very thin, steam-formed olivewood spatulas ($$) will split if allowed to dry out under repeated DW-ings. Also, unless the woodgrain is straight and on-axis with the utensil, it happens with other wooden utensils, too.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      *I*'ve not put anything wooden in the DW. I respect the fact that others do but I don't.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        c oliver: LOL, *I* don't either, but that doesn't mean my wood utensils are not often in the DW.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          Putting wooden utensils in the dish washer will really dry them out and possibly split them. I guess if you use a dish washer, then you would treat them with oil.

                        2. re: kaleokahu

                          The dish washer is the worst thing you could put anything that has wood into.

                        3. re: c oliver

                          I have one of my great grandmother's cooking wooden spoons, That thing is like Iron, I also have one of her little bread cutting boards. That also has some serious weight and solidness. They are over 100 years old, surely and are used as standard kitchen items. Somethings just aren't made a s well anymore.

                          1. re: Quine

                            And that spoon is a fine thing and should be passed down to a family member who will cherish it as you do.

                            1. re: Quine

                              I bet your grand mother never oiled any. I inherited a cutting board which is almost 75 years and made of Lignum Vitae wood. It is very heavy and dense.. It have never been oiled and still in great shape.

                            2. re: c oliver

                              Right on.. It's usually trying to keep that artisan utensil looking like new. I have Laguiole steak knives with olive wood handle and they have never seen any oil treatment. Wash, dry, put away. Never let them sit in water. I have Japanese knives with magnolia wooden handles.. They gave me oil to use with it.. But guess where the oil is to be used? The blade!

                            3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Yes, I have a really nice collection of wood spoons made from woods like katalox, rosewood, bloodwood, etc. that I keep oiled. These all get regular use too.

                                1. re: Mikecq

                                  :) I believe I have seen some real expensive ones (wood spoon) even on Amazon.

                                  1. re: Mikecq

                                    Wow! That's a lot of money. I didn't pay any more than $30 for my most expensive ones & I still considered them a major splurge. But they're gorgeous, I love them, they make me happy when I use them and they look great in the utensil crock on my counter. So I figure money well spent.

                                    1. re: flourgirl

                                      If they make you happy, better for you.. At least you are getting enjoyment from it.
                                      I consider $30 to be expensive and you probably bought that from a craft store or fair. I started using bamboo utensils and found them to be very durable and absorb very little moisture.
                                      Cook with it, wash it and store it. Don't be obsessed with the tools.

                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    For all the people that are mentioning wood utensils they've had for decades without oiling them, it's the natural oils from hands and food itself which has "cured" them over time.

                                    Just sprinkle a bit of water on them and notice how it beads up. This natural absorbing of oils is what gives wood utensils that "well-loved" patina.

                                    Much like seasoning cast iron skillets, oiling may be of great value in prepping a newly purchased item, but it is ultimately just giving a head start on what will happen naturally with time and use. (provided it escapes damage early on)

                                2. re: sedimental

                                  I put mine in the dishwasher too. I oil cutting boards once in awhile but never spoons. It takes years to dry them out and then I just buy a new one.

                                3. re: c oliver

                                  Gosh I have never oiled one of my wooden spoons. I never thought about it. I just rinse them or maybe wash in some light soapy water and then let them air dry, then put them back in my drawer. I have some spoons that are years old now. LOL, old enough that I am beginning to replace them. And they were some cheap ones.
                                  Cheap ones are all I intend to have. I would rather just buy some more when the ones I am using gets worn. I don't buy wooden spoons to hand down to the kids. LOL I consider them disposable after a time.

                                  Though I did buy a bamboo flat paddle/spatula looking one for about 5.00. I consider that rather expensive. LOL I just baught it to use in my LC dutch oven, to stir with.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    I would have to agree with you.. I have never heard or seen anyone do this to wooden utensils.. Maybe if you bought an Artisan spoon for $80 you would treat it like this. This reminds me of the CI threads where people got really obsessed with the "seasoning". Wooden utensils have been around for ages (a few hundred years) and I doubt anyone took care of them like this. I'm about to embark on making my own design wooden spoon out of some cherry and I will not be oiling it.. It will be washed and used.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      I've always been told that you oil wooden utensils to prevent bacteria from invading the open pores. Ditto cutting boards. It's a protective coating. I am with the majority of the contributors, I also never put my wooden items in the DW. It removes the seasoning and can cause them to split. I also don't soak them, just rinse and give them a scrub with or without soap depending on what they've touched. They dry in the dish rack, and get oiled if I think they're looking dry. My two favorites are probably 35+ years old with a beautiful patina.

                                    2. re: aggiecat

                                      I oil mine occasionally to keep them from drying out too much, but only because I can't put a price tag on them. My Dad made them for my Mom (may they RIP) when she broke one too many store bought spoons making his Rice Krispies Treats. Good memory... :-)

                                    3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                      Im not sure what drying oil is, but will give the beeswax a try. I only oil them to keep them looking nice, but have to do it often. Most of mine are all different kinds of wood and from around the world. Many yrs ago I bought them from a lady who had collected them all in her travels. They were never used, just collected. I must say some have developed a patina, but most of them just dry out after use, so Id like to keep them looking nice, but thats the only reason I do it. thanks for the heads up on the beeswax.

                                      1. re: artist1

                                        Drying oils are oils which dry out at room temperature and become solid. Because they are not liquid, you almost do not have to reapply oil again -- almost.


                                        Google more.

                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                          Thanks for the link.. I have lots of linseed oil, so Ill give it a try and let you know how it works when I get around to cooking again... Ok this is really off topic, but I came to this list to ask a question and still cant figure out how to start a new thread. I got side tracked with this original post.. so how do I start a new question..

                                          1. re: artist1

                                            If you want to start a thread on Cookware, scroll to the top of this thread and click on the Cookware heading.. On the left, you'll see a 'button' for 'start a new post' or something like that.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Thank you, Ill give it a try, but may have already found my answer.

                                            2. re: artist1

                                              My belief is if you can't cook with the oil don't use it on anything to do with food.. Linseed oil, mineral oil whatever.. Why not just use olive oil if you have to oil the utensils? Every time you cook a little will enter the food. We got enough other chemicals in our food chain already.

                                              1. re: Mikecq

                                                Olive oil goes rancid eventually. Mineral oil does not. It's food safe (if it's food grade), though it acts as a laxative if you ingest enough of it - a good deal more than you'll get from a treated wooden spoon. Food grade mineral oil has been used for decades as an additive and medication without any demonstrable negative effects.

                                                Everything you ingest is made of chemicles. Everything.

                                                All that said, I don't bother oiling my wooden utensils. But mine are cheap.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  If you are using your utensils and washing them, there should be no problem.. It takes a long time for olive oil to go bad.. If you put nothing on the spoon, even better...

                                                  1. re: Mikecq

                                                    The point of treating a utensil with oil is to let it soak deep in and stay inside the wood. Like I said, I don't treat my wooden spoons - it's possible that they just don't retain enough oil or retain it long enough for rancidity to be an issue - I couldn't personally say for sure. Oil is likely to stay in the spoon longer if you also treat it with beeswax, BTW. I do treat my wooden cutting boards and have heard some pretty credible stories of some foul odors coming from cutting boards treated with cooking oils.

                                                    In either case, I see no compelling reason to think food grade mineral oil is at all dangerous in the trace amounts that might transfer from treated kitchenware to your food.

                                                2. re: Mikecq

                                                  Vegetable oils go rancid and are sticky. You should not use them on wood boards, knife blocks or utensils. Mineral oil is perfectly safe.

                                                  1. re: C. Hamster

                                                    Why do people think mineral oil is not safe. It was prescribed to my mom 2tbs a day with orange juice after her surgery to help with well you know, and it only kept her regular. Mineral oil is very safe and people have been oiling wood bowls, spoons and boards with it for years. Cooking oils and yes even olive oil are not recommended for this as they do go rancid eventually.

                                                3. re: artist1

                                                  artist1: I have lots of linseed oil, so Ill give it a try
                                                  Is linseed oil what we're smelling when we smell oil paint?

                                                  1. re: Jay F

                                                    Depending on what you mean by "linseed oil," I would be very careful what I use for food prep. Raw linseed oil is actually flax seed oil, which is food safe. "Standard" linseed oil is actually boiled and has metallic additives to aid drying. I wouldn't rub that on anything that touches food.

                                                    The "best" recipe I've heard of for wood bowls, cutting boards, etc. is a mixture of warm mineral oil and beeswax. I don't currently have any pure beeswax on hand so I make do with just the mineral oil rub, or regular cooking oil when I get lazy.

                                                    1. re: hardline_42

                                                      I use this stuff for my butcher block. This particular brand is available at lee valley but I'm sure there's tons of other brands on the market.I don't have any wooden spoons but I'm sure this would work.

                                                      p.s It's also great for natural handles on your favorite knives.

                                                      1. re: petek

                                                        I'll have to take a look at that. I've only ever seen mineral oil from places like JK Adams and other wood utensil makers, though now that I think of it, I have seen "Butcher Block Conditioner" which is probably a similar product to what you use.

                                                        1. re: hardline_42

                                                          Yup Butcher block conditioner is probably the same thing,a mixture of bees wax and mineral oil. I still use pure mineral oil once in a while to really condition my board,but I'm a little OCD....:-D

                                                          1. re: hardline_42

                                                            You can buy mineral oil in just about any pharmacy. Look for food grade mineral oil sold as a laxative. It's everywhere and it's cheap.

                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    Hey just wanted to say thanks for the heads up on the drying oils. I used linseed oil and they really look nice I have used one and it did quite well, but will wait till the others dry a while longer and reapply.. Ive been wanting to know this for years..

                                                    1. re: artist1

                                                      Your welcome. Just make sure you give it some time to dry up. Good luck

                                                      1. re: artist1

                                                        I use linseed oil on my long-handled garden tools, but not on my cooking utensils, which I've never oiled; they don't seem to need it.

                                                4. Unless you buy expensive wooden utensils, I would not worry about them. These are meant to be used and not normally show pieces.
                                                  Some people are too obsessed with keeping them looking new. They are just utensils to cook with.

                                                  23 Replies
                                                  1. re: Mikecq

                                                    I don't understand why everyone considers oiling wood utensils to be some form of OCD or utensil-snobbery. Wood that is not sealed and comes into contact with water will absorb water and swell. Constant swelling and shrinking will cause the wood to warp and eventually split. That is why knife handles on knives like Opinels need to be either oiled or sealed. Same goes for butcher block counters and cutting boards.

                                                    1. re: hardline_42

                                                      "I don't understand why everyone considers oiling wood utensils to be some form of OCD or utensil-snobbery"

                                                      Are you sure it is "Everyone"?

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Of course not, Chem. Just everyone who disagrees with us, LOL!

                                                      2. re: hardline_42

                                                        Technically you are correct about wood swelling and contracting.
                                                        Reality is how often does this happen to wooden utensils if you don't oil them? How about wooden utensils that are handed down from your grand mother? Are they still good? These wooden utensils are so thin that they dry out evenly which reduces any chance of warping or splitting. In over 40 years I believe I have only seen 2 spoons split. Utensils are usually cheap unless you are buying an artisan spoon for $60 (if I paid that I would not use it).
                                                        Let's have a survey about the price of the utensils that people are worried enough to oil. I would venture to say they are expensive pieces, hence snobbery.

                                                        1. re: Mikecq

                                                          I learned to oil wood utensils because my grandmother, who lived with us growing up, did it. She was an immigrant who, were she still alive, would most likely laugh at the thought of buying a $60 wood spoon. Nevertheless, she took care of her "cheap" utensils as best she could. To date, my favorite kitchen knife is a carbon steel boning knife that resides in my mother's kitchen drawer and has been sharpened down to about half it's size. I'm told my grandmother bought it at a flea market for less than a buck. The handle was oiled regularly and the rivets are still tight with no evidence of cracking.

                                                          My point is, not taking care of something just because it's inexpensive is more snobbish than taking the the extra 30 seconds to help it last.

                                                          1. re: hardline_42

                                                            "My point is, not taking care of something just because it's inexpensive is more snobbish than taking the the extra 30 seconds to help it last."

                                                            Funny but I'm always puzzled by complaints here about over-heated, smoking KAs herniated from overwork on bread dough a Hobart might strain over. Another pricey bit of gear killed by inanity is always cast as the manufacturer's fault.

                                                            Efficiency and effectiveness likewise doesn't back up babying a 2 buck spoon.Sorry!

                                                            1. re: Kagemusha

                                                              I have no idea how the Kitchenaid example ties into the wood spoons. In any case, I suppose it's just a difference of attitude with regards to the items we use and how we spend our money.

                                                              I do find it ironic that there are multiple huge threads devoted to the best method to season and care for a ten dollar cast iron pan where posters recommend everything short of singing it to sleep at night, but taking a little extra time to wipe down a spoon with a little oil is preposterous.

                                                              1. re: hardline_42

                                                                Jeesh. People buy pricey kitchen gear, abuse it, and howl when it breaks. People buy a wooden spoon, obsessively maintain it, and consider it a moral victory when it's still in the drawer 10 years later. Go figure...

                                                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                                                  Are you sure they're the same people? My "pricey" kitchen gear gets just as much maintenance as my "disposable" gear, if not more.

                                                                  1. re: hardline_42

                                                                    I agree, hardline.

                                                                    Kagemusha, I don't find your observation to have much validity. I take care of all my things, not just my spoons. The point is that I like to have nice things, but I also don't have endless piles of money to replace them all if I treat them badly. And that's just an obnoxious way to live anyway, to treat everything as if it's disposable. If I choose to spend $30 on a wooden spoon made from a gorgeous piece of wood, but I still love it and use it 10 yrs later, than to me, that was $30 well spent.

                                                            2. re: hardline_42

                                                              Your grand mother did it thinking she would make it last.. Which is fine.. If you don't leave wooden utensils sitting in liquid for a long time, no worry. If you do, the go ahead and oil them. Some people just thrown all the dirty things (including wooden utensils) in a sink of water and let them soak. This is bad for wood.

                                                              1. re: Mikecq

                                                                I definitely agree that the likelihood of a spoon or similarly simple wood utensil splitting or warping is slim when used normally and not abused. Especially when tolerances are not critical. I've had the blades of Opinel knives get stuck in the unoiled wood handles just from normal swelling due to humidity in the air. I've also seen knife handles crack right between the handle rivets due to the swelling/shrinking of the wood vs. the expansion of the metal. I think what drew me into this was reading about people putting wood utensils into the dishwasher and it struck me as a bit careless. Given that I use my cast iron pans almost daily, it's second nature for me to use the same oily paper towel to wipe the wood utensils that sit in a jar on my counter. I realize now that it might be more than most are willing to do if it's not already a habit.

                                                            3. re: Mikecq

                                                              "I would venture to say they are expensive pieces, hence snobbery."

                                                              Maybe. But isn't CHOWHOUND kind of snobby anyway? :)

                                                              People talking about expensive trips to taste expensive meals. People talking about $500-700 meals. People argue about who know what is the best wine on our planet.

                                                              Is spending $60 for a spoon the most crazy thing I heard on CHOWHOUND? Absolutely not. Not even close.

                                                              What about the $400 spoon I posted about?


                                                              1. re: Mikecq

                                                                I cant imagine why oiling wood spoons would make someone a snob or what one pays for something has anything to do with that. I take care of all my things. It means that I can keep and use them for a much longer period of time. I also love old stuff, so why not keep a cheap spoon for 20 years as long as you take care of it. Taking care of your stuff does not mean you are a snob... dont get it, I guess.

                                                                1. re: Mikecq

                                                                  I just happen to love wood, it's such a neat tactile experience to oil my cutting board, knife handles and wood utensils. I like the way they look when they're done, and I like knowing that I have tools that are well-cared for. It's five seconds out of your life to oil a wooden spoon, and it will give you many years of service as a result. I also appreciate my inherited cast iron pans, also cared for. What's the big deal?

                                                                  1. re: blaireso

                                                                    I have no objection whatsoever to your (or my) taking good care of your (or my) things. That's not the issue. For me, there's more than a bit of an ick factor to putting oil on either my wooden spoons or my butcher block cutting board. I think they would seem unclean to me ever after.

                                                                    And I've been using them for well more than 25 years without oiling, without any incidents of foodborne illness.

                                                                    Cooties, not snobbery.

                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                      You must not be a fan of cast iron...

                                                                      1. re: hardline_42

                                                                        I love Le Creuset.

                                                                        I got in too late for cast iron skillets. I was never really able to get it seasoned, and eventually I had perfectly good stainless steel skillets and saute pans. I don't miss my bare cast iron experience at all.

                                                                        I never found using it icky, though. Sticky, yes. But never icky.

                                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                                          That's interesting. Obviously, I made the comment because bare cast iron also needs to be stored with a thin layer of oil wiped over the surface and might trigger someone's ick factor.

                                                                          1. re: hardline_42

                                                                            I used olive oil, IIRC (it's at least 12 years since I used bare cast iron). Mineral oil sounds so chemical to me, so unfoodlike. I bought a bottle of it a year ago and I just can't bring myself to use it on my cutting board (I never heard of using it on wooden spoons before).

                                                                            I have no objection to anyone else's oiling their boards or spoons, though. It's your stuff. Knock yourself out.

                                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                                              even though it's been consumed for hundreds of years?
                                                                              and is still prescribed by doctors for medical purposes?
                                                                              and doesn't go rancid, so it won't make your spoons/skillets/cutting boards smell funky?
                                                                              Do you use bicarbonate of soda?

                                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                                "Mineral oil sounds so chemical to me, so unfoodlike."


                                                                                Mineral oil has been safely consumed as a laxative for a zillion years.

                                                                                Vegetable-based oils are sticky and go rancid. Not what I would want on something I'm eating from.

                                                              2. Oiling wooden kitchen ware is maintaince, simple as that. Because of the nature of wood, it requires some sort of "finish" to maintain its integrety. Mineral oil is the proper "finish" for wooden items subjected to kitchen conditions (wet, hot, abrasive). Look at it like waxing your car ( a protective coating to preserve the exterior finish), or polishing your shoes (another internal and external protective coating to both condition and protect the leather), or painting your house (a finish to protect the wood or whatever from the elements). You wouldn't drive your car with no oil would you? (a protective film in this case to protect and preserve engine components as well as provide lubrication)

                                                                I for one am not chemophobic (I may have jsut invented a word), everything we touch and breath is made up of chemicals, some good, some not so good, and some really bad. If mineral oil is prescribed to be taken orally, I don't see the pending danger of using it as part of the maintaince of wooden kitchen utensils. With that said, I believe proper maintaince of ones possessions is an honorable atribute.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: mikie

                                                                  "...I believe proper maintaince of ones possessions is an honorable atribute."

                                                                  Yes, so do I.