After properly sanding a large wooden cutting board or a wooden countertop (aka butcher countertop?), can I use just (virgin) olive oil to seal it? Is there a risk that olive (or sunflower, etc) oil will produce the very unpleasant gummy feel to the board?

I know that the hardware stores sell some kind of oil specifically for this purpose—one that is food-safe, but that is not suitable for cooking. I am wondering why an oil that is meant to be edible in the first place will not do.

  • In a word, rancidity. – Ecnerwal Jul 18 '16 at 1:02
  • We have a 100 year old chopping block (weighs like 500 pounds) that used to be in the meat Dept at a general store. The butcher that sold it to my dad instructed to use peanut oil only, and that's the way it's been cared for longer than I've been alive. It's a great finish, the top gets oiled every few days, the sides much less often but occasionally. – Tyson Jul 18 '16 at 1:32
  • Wallyk is voting for Walnut oil; you're voting for peanut oil. But Ecnerwal's point is very valid. Could wood be preventing nut oils from going rancid? Just as importantly, my experience with time is that the board starts to feel sticky. Do nut oils spare the board this stickiness? – Calaf Jul 18 '16 at 5:07

I have purchased many fine wooden bowls where the craftsmen swear by applying walnut or safflower oil. I prefer walnut because it does not get waxy after a few years. Available in fine grocery and some health food stores.

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  • Walnut oil is a drying oil, (like boiled linseed oil without the chemicals ("Japan drier" - look at an MSDS) typically added instead of actually boiling it - you'd not want BLO on a food surface if you are sensible.) Food grade walnut is fine from that point, and tends not to go rancid because it dries before it would, but you do need to beware of guests with "tree-nut" allergies. – Ecnerwal Jul 18 '16 at 1:00

I think it is best to use mineral oil. Food oils can go bad on wood. I use mineral oil with beeswax and that seems to be a good choice.

  • Is mineral oil a product of petrol? That means that some of it would make its way to your food, no? – Calaf Jul 18 '16 at 1:31
  • 2
    Food Grade Mineral Oil: This is the top choice for butcher blocks, and it’s the primary ingredient in commercial sealing products. Look for food grade mineral oil in your local pharmacy – it’s also sold as a laxative – and it’ll be much cheaper in the pharmacy than in the hardware store. Mineral oil will give your butcher block a light honey color. – lynda Jul 19 '16 at 1:54
  • Short of a serious study discussing the long-term health effects of ingesting trace amounts of a particular composition of "mineral oil" over many years, I'm unable to consider it for wooden cutting boards just because it is the established standard. – Calaf Jul 19 '16 at 13:40

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