Often when moving into a new home or improving an old kitchen, we tend to focus on new tools and appliances as well as quick aesthetic punch-ups. Of course that sleek new fridge, a no-mess garlic mincer, or a stand mixer to replace grandma's will all help bring new life and enjoyment into your cooking experience. These improvements are really nothing, however, without the tried and true kitchen essentials.
Kitchen Building Blocks: The Butcher Block
There are a number of building blocks essential to a truly functional kitchen: a solid cutting board, a quality set of knives, or a microplane, for example. One of the most overlooked essentials, however, is the butcher block. Sporting size, durability, and versatility, no serious home cook is truly prepared without the addition of a butcher block to their kitchen arsenal.
Why Butcher Block?
Most home kitchens have a cutting board or two lying around, so why butcher block?
Beyond the obvious aesthetic appeal, there are a number of significant differences between a wooden cutting board and a butcher block. One of the most obvious differences being how the two are used.
Typically, a wooden or even plastic cutting board will be able to handle cutting and preparing most fruits and vegetables for a period of time, all the while damaging your knives and generally degrading. For general durability and use in larger or more rigorous tasks such as cutting or deboning meat however, a butcher block is essential.
A standard butcher block is at least 1.5" thick and has a surface area of at least 12"x12". This ensures that the cutting surface is large enough for preparing meat (and other large prep tasks), doesn't move during use, and can handle the pressure and wear of rigorous knife-work.
Unsurprisingly, the thickness and wood grain used for butcher blocks ensures they will endure the rigor of any and all prep tasks. Many cutting boards, however, will suffer deep cuts and gouges, structural cracks, and will often damage your knives. This is owed to the grain used in producing butcher block.
End Grain Vs Edge Grain
Wood cutting boards are made with edge grain (thin strips of wood) while butcher blocks are made with end grain (thick blocks of wood). While edge grain is economic, end grain is also affordable and offers a variety of benefits.
For instance, cutting on butcher block is easier on knives because with end grain, the blade cuts between fibers instead of having to cut through them. In addition, this thicker, denser wood endures less deep cuts and gouges, making it easier to clean and hence a more sanitary prep surface.
Speaking of cuts and gouges, much end grain wood has been described as "self healing", meaning over time the wood may close over cuts a bit. Regardless, a light abrasion and refinish with Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C or similar will bring any butcher block back to life.
Finally the high resin content of most butcher blocks can also have antibacterial benefits, lending further to ease of cleanliness and sanitation.
Where to Buy Butcher Block
While butcher block is available online and in person at nearly all home improvement retailers, the quality and value vary. It may or may not be a surprise that Sweedish retailer IKEA offers one of the best options on the market.
The IKEA Möllekulla countertop offers not only quality for value, but also offers do-it-yourself flexibility. This thick, prefinished oak veneer surface is sold in 98"-by-1 1/2"-by-25 ⅝-" plank or 74"-by-1 1/2"-by-25 ⅝-" plank and is easily cut to size to fit any application.
This IKEA butcher block is not only stylish and functional, it is also at the top of its class in value. The IKEA Möllekulla and all other butcher blocks can easily be cared for with Rubio Monocoat's sytem.
How to Care for Butcher Block
- Pair(s) of Gloves
- Rubio Monocoat Applicator Set
- Terrycloth Towels
- Oil Plus 2C (original color)
- General Purpose Hand Pad (ex: Scotch-Brite Style Maroon Pad)
- Painter's Tape
- Mixing Cup
- Mixing Stick
How to Maintain Butcher Block
1. Prepare surface
Clear surface of any debris. Wipe using a damp cloth.
2. Abrade surface
Use maroon pad to abrade surface along the length of the grain. When pad is filled with dust, shake/clean and keep using it. While 320 grit sandpaper is available, a maroon pad is ideal because of its softness. Because sandpaper is paper thin, the pressure from fingers will possibly transfer to the surface being treated and hinder the restoration process.
Perform a visual check after vacuuming the area to make sure you haven't missed a post or over-abraded areas. An even abrasion is essential.
Clean with a damp cloth and let dry completely.
4. Tape Area
Any area not being finished should be taped off
5. Use Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C
Mix Oil Plus 2C is mixed with a 3:1 ratio (3 parts oil "A" to 1 part accelerator "B). Measure by weight or volume, using a scale, spoons, syringe, etc. Product is usable for 6 hours after it is mixed. When maintaining, accelerator is not needed. Apply Oil Pour a small amount of 2C Oil on the surface (be conservative, a little goes a long way). Use applicator set and spread oil in a circular motion on countertop or butcher block.
6. Remove excess
This is one of the most critcal steps. Use a clean terry cloth towel and remove excess using substantial pressure. Remember: you can leave too much on, but you can't take too much off. It is vital that no excess is left on the countertop or butcher block. Remove excess until a section of clean terry cloth doesn't pick up any excess oil.
It's crucial that the application and removal process be completed within 15 minutes from start to finish. If you believe you are unable to complete this process, simply work in smaller sections. For instance, work in half sections, applying and removing from half sections until the process is complete.
Oil Plus 2C will only bond to raw wood, meaning you will not see a lap line. Within 2-3 minutes, the oil will bond to wood surface, so plan projects accordingly.
7. Let Cure
After only 24 hrs, surface will be cured and ready for light use. After 5 days, the oil will fully cured. In this process no liquids should be spilled/used on the surface. When properly cared for, a Rubio Monocoat treated surface should last a lifetime.
Rags and cloths saturated in oil are combustible and require disposal in accordance with local regulations.
Here are some guidelines