Recommended finishes for cutting boards
Food-safe finishes for restaurant butcher blocks. December 6, 2000
We are building a few rolling food prep carts with hard maple butcher block tops. Has anyone had experience with a food grade finish for such an application? I was thinking a hand rubbed oil (vegetable based) finish.
I would recommend flax seed oil, which is an edible version of linseed oil. You can buy it at any health food store. This oil will actually dry unlike mineral oil, which never dries. I use it on cutting boards and other kitchen utensils. You simply renew it after it mechanically wears off with cleaning and use.
Do not use any vegetable-based oil. They get rancid. The traditional finish is either nothing at all or mineral oil, which you can get at your local pharmacy. Heat it slightly, flood it on, let it set 30 minutes and wipe dry. Do it a second time. The finish will need to be renewed whenever it dries out, which varies based on how often it is used and washed.
If you are doing these carts for a restaurant, you may want to look into acrylic finishes. The NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) may have guidelines along with the FDA that will not allow you to leave the tops porous in certain food handling and prep situations. This can lead to a call back from your customer who has failed a health inspection. This is why many states don't allow butcher blocks in commercial kitchens any longer.