Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Dec 12, 2011 08:16 AM

Butcher block countertop. Pros Cons

I'm considering making the island in my kitchen a butcher block. And wanted some advice on pros and cons.

This is only partially aesthetic and mostly a functional decision, as I'd like a nice big surface to cut on that I don't have to wash in the sink, which usually turns out messy with me splashing water everywhere. Also, even large cutting boards don't quite offer the space I would like for cutting. I'll be using it alot for cutting vegetables and rarely to never for cutting meat.

My main hesitation is the cleaning / maintenance of the board. In other words if I go over it with a sponge and mild detergent afterwards, do I need to dry it with a towel, air dry, is it prone to warping?

Should I use a spray bottle mix so that I put less water directly onto the surface? Will soap scum potentially develop? I've considered using a "natural" mix of water and vinegar spray on it.

Any other glaring cons?

Thanks for any help or advice!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you are going to build a butcher block into a counter, it should be thick enough that warping won't be an issue. I wouldn't use soap on it, merely hot water. I would dry it with paper towels after washing it. And I wouldn't cut meat on it unless it is to be used only for meat. It's better to cut meat on something which can be put in the dishwasher, in my opinion.

    1. Here's a link to an article on cutting board maintenance, from a manufacturer of maple cutting boards:

      They recommend soap, but this is on an oiled board. Once the board is properly seasoned with oil, a little soap shouldn't be a problem.

      1. My entire island is butcher block. It's about 2 inches thick, and I have undermounted a prep sink w/ garbage disposal at one edge. This island is the best thing that every happened to me. You just chop veggies right next to the sink, and then scrape the detritus directly into the sink, no cleaning a rim, no dumping into a garbage pail, no cleaning and storing a cutting board. Because the whole island is butcher block, I can cut piles of veggies in various places on the board and leave them there until I'm ready to use them. If I need to cut raw meat, chicken especially, i either do it on the paper the meat came in, or I have a few little plastic mats just to keep the potentially germy chix juice off the board. I'm not OCD about it though. If I feel like putting meat directly on the board, I'm just careful to wash w/ hot water and soap later.

        I clean the block with whatever I feel like, generally soap and water, sometimes an orange-type kitchen cleanser. Once in a blue moon I get a piece of fine sand paper and sand it down and oil it. (maybe every 2-3 years) I've had it 12 years now and I have realized that I can set hot things on it straight out of the oven or stove. who knew?

        The only downside is you can stain it. Sometimes I cut a beet or pomegranite or the like, and I have a little pink stain for a few days 'til it just kinda wears off. I am not a clean freak, so this does not disturb me at all.

        People tried to tell me this would be a disaster, particularly they tried to tell me the undermounted sink would rot where the wood edge lined the sink. That was BS, as I suspected. It still looks brand new after a quickie w/ the sandpaper. I cannot recommend this set-up more highly.

        6 Replies
        1. re: danna

          Is there anyway I could ask for you to send me a picture of your kitchen counters? I REALLY want to have butcher block but everyone is telling me how hard it would be by the oven or sink....

          1. re: hlmartin

            We have wooden countertops in our rental, if you are still interested in pictures and first hand experience. Just let me know.

            1. re: hlmartin

              Here you go...I've had it since 1997. Ditto everything I said above, except now it's been a few more years. I currently have a couple of blueberry stains on it that will wear off in another week or two. As long as you can deal with that, you're good.

              1. re: danna

                by the way, those aren't stains in the pic. it was still damp from use when I took the pic. The dampness around the faucet was from a leak in the faucet which we have since replaced. Even that didn't cause a problem for the board.

                1. re: danna

                  This is not end grain butchers block, but horizontal grain planks correct?

            2. As an island, I think it's a great idea, as a full counter top, not so much. The most important thing in my opinion is to keep it oiled. Several coats of mineral oil followed by frequent oiling with a mixture of mineral oil and bees wax will hlep maintain the good looks of your island top. The bees wax helps repel water and it will also help repel stains. As long as you don't let water sit on it, you should be fine, just wipe it dry and air will do the rest, assuming you keep it oiled. You should be able to clean it with just about any of the things on your list without issue.

              Although I wouldn't want to have butcher block next to my main sink, just too much water exposure in my opinion, I don't think there would be issues around a prep sink, although, again, I would make every effort to keep it as dry as possible and well oiled.

              1. I strongly recommend beeswax for a butcher block countertop since you cannot wash it in a sink.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  My parents had a large island in their kitchen with a really thick butcher block top. My mom is a total clean freak and I don't doubt she scrubbed it down regularly with bleach. My dad would use beeswax on it once in a while. It looked brand new 16 years later when the house was sold.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    As in beeswax over mineral oil, or just very frequent "beeswaxing." Does beeswax create a stronger protectant coating than mineral oil?

                    1. re: rores28

                      After you installed your butcher block, you certainly need to apply beeswax (with or without mineral oil). As the beeswax wears off, you will need to apply it again. I won't say very frequent. Maybe once a year... it could be once every six months or once every two years. You just apply a thin layer when you notice it starts to wear off. You can tell.

                      I think beeswax is great. I don't even have to oil my butcher block anymore -- not since the first time. The beeswax alone blocks the water from getting in. It is pointless for me to apply mineral oil because the oil won't get it. By applying beeswax, I don't have to oil my chopping block every week or every month....

                      Just get nature unaltered beeswax, not beeswax with fragrance...etc.

                      Yes, beeswax create a stronger protection than mineral oil. For one, beeswax is a soft solid than liquid (mineral oil).

                      1. re: rores28

                        I am fairly certain Dad just used plain beeswax once a year or so. He did wood working as a hobby (he made the top himself) and was really into finishing certain woods certain ways. I know he used oil finishes on furniture pieces he made but I am 99% sure he did not use mineral oil on that top. My mom was nutty about her kitchen and I suspect beeswax alone pushed the boundaries of her comfort zone.