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November 20, 2017

Butcher Blocks: Your Questions Answered

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butcher blocksThough most people think of a wooden cutting board when they hear the term “butcher blocks”, the actual term refers to a technique of building the surface as opposed to being the resulting product. The technique use for butcher blocks presses the flat side of wood boards together while subjecting them to a high pressure.  The method has been used since the 1800’s when it was developed in order to create a sanitary surface on which butchers could work. 

Until that time, meat had been cut and sliced on tree slabs, which weren’t stable (causing a safety issue) and weren’t all that sanitary.  There is a great deal of other interesting information available about butcher blocks and  to find out these answers, all you need to do is ask the questions.  With this information, you’ll know everything you need about the product made with this technique and will discover how it can best serve you.

What are the different types of butcher blocks?

There are two main types of butcher blocks.  The first is known as end grain.  It is made by standing the boards upright and gluing their flat sides together.  This method of butcher blocks construction allows the knives to remain sharper, while resisting scratches, nicks, and gouges.  The other type is edge grain, also known as flat grain.  It is constructed by standing the boards on their sides, and gluing the flat sides together.  These are not as expensive as end grain, but they are also not as durable. 

Where can you find butcher blocks?

Butcher blocks can be found as stand-on-their-own cutting boards, but can also be incorporated into tables and countertops.  They may be the surface of kitchen islands, or more mobile kitchen carts.  They are available in these different forms because they have the unique ability to combine style with function.  The cutting board style of butcher blocks is valued above the smaller chopping boards made using other methods because they are thick, durable, stable, and reversible.

Are there disadvantages to using butcher blocks?

As with everything, there are a few negative points connected with using butcher blocks.  The primary disadvantage is that the surface is made out of wood.  While this is a very durable, nontoxic, and practical material, if it is not properly maintained, it can provide a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, which can hide within its crevices and cut marks. Moreover, if the board is not properly maintained, it is also prone to staining and warping.  Warping can cause the wood to split or the glue to let go between the boards.  Proper maintenance involves the use of a treatment such as mineral oil, which needs to be applied regularly.  Make certain that a food-safe oil is used for any butcher blocks that are being used for food prep.

Butcher blocks are a durable, unique construction that allows you to benefit from the strength and beauty of wood but in a tasteful and stylish way that will suit your kitchen d├ęcor.  With a little bit of maintenance, you can keep up this surface for many years.

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