Butcher Block Care

As a child, I enjoyed watching numerous television shows, withone of my favorites being The Brady Bunch. One of my favorite characters from the show, although he was not often seen, was Sam the Butcher. Sam was a decent man who worked hard for a living, and did so by providing the community with meat from his butcher shop. This leads to the actual reason for this blog, the butcher block. Sam could often be seen cutting various types of meat on his butcher block, which was simply a thick wooden block.

The butcher block has a rich history that is often overlooked. The modern version of the butcher block was developed in the 1880s and marketed as "The Sanitary Meat Block." This block was developed to address the need for a more stable and sanitary cutting surface in butcher shops.

These special blocks were developed to replace the common "tree rounds" that were often being used. Tree rounds were simply a section of tree truck set on legs and were extremely susceptible to cracking and unsanitary conditions. The invention of the butcher block created a more stable and sanitary area for meat cutting, which we now know is much more important than was known at that time.

Modern butcher blocks are typically very thick, solid pieces of wood that are capable of holding large pieces of meat. The thickness of the actual butcher block is important to the longevity of the block and the stability it provides. Butchers often purchase a butcher block at the beginning of their career and use it throughout, or have the same block in the business they work in for years. Proper care is an essential tool for expanding longevity of your butcher block.

The following care instructions should, on average, extend the life of your block by 5-10 years.

1. Around once every several weeks (depending on the amount of use and environmental conditions), apply an even coat of mineral oil or Boos Mystery Oil to the butcher block surface with a rag.2. NEVER allow moisture of any kind to stand on the block for extended periods of time. NEVER let fresh, wet meat lay on the block longer than necessary, as this will allow blood, brine, and / or water to soak into the wood, expanding the block and causing it to soften.When the wood softens, the strength of the unit is compromised.3. Keep the cutting surface clean and sanitary by using a steel scraper or spatula to scrap the area several times a day (if used frequently). NEVER use a steel brush on the cutting surface.4. DO NOT cut fish or poultry on the block surface unless the instructions in step #1 have been thoroughly followed. Step #1 must be followed to ensure that a moisture barrier is intact prior to cutting fish, seafood, or poultry on the surface. Always clean the block thoroughly after cutting fish or poultry on the work surface.5. ALWAYS distribute cutting over the entire block surface area in order to avoid excessive wearing. Meat should never be cut in the same place as this will create soft spots on your butcher block. When you do cut, make sure that your cleaver is not razor-edged. This edge will chip or splinter the wood. For best results, use a dull sharpened edge cleaver.6. Harsh detergents should never be used on a butcher block. These will damage the surface are of the block. Tools should not be washed on the block surface either.7. At the end of the day, scrap the surface with the steel scraper as described in step # 3 to remove around 75% of moisture. After scraping, immediately dry the surface with an absorbent towel. This process will ensure a clean, odorless cutting surface for the next day and prevent premature deterioration of the work surface area.8. ALWAYS maintain the same bevel on the block as when it was originally purchased. This protects against splitting or chipping.9. Periodically turn the block over to allow even usage on both sides of the block cutting surface.10. NEVER place a butcher block in the dishwasher.

When cared for properly, a butcher block can be much more than just a piece of equipment found in a butcher shop or a home. These cutting blocks can last for many years, and can be passed down through generations as a treasured heirloom.