We use wooden spoons all the time in our kitchen. But are they sanitary, and is this even a safe and hygienic thing to do?
Wooden spoons are perfectly sanitary to cook with because wood is naturally antibacterial. They are also coated with mineral oil which acts as a barrier against bacteria too. So cooking with wooden spoons is completely hygienic.
Let’s explore the topic of cooking with wooden spoons in greater depth, and find out everything you ever wanted to know about the hygiene implications of cooking with these popular kitchen utensils…
Are Wooden Spoons Sanitary for Cooking?
Yes, wooden spoons are perfectly sanitary to cook with. Simply wash it in warm water and dish soap after use, and it will remain clean and hygienic.
The idea that wooden spoons aren’t sanitary came with the rise of plastic utensils, which of course aren’t porous like wood and certainly give the impression of being easier to clean. However, most wooden cooking utensils are coated with mineral oil which creates a shield.
Do Wooden Spoons Harbor Bacteria?
Despite being porous, wooden utensils like spoons don’t tend to harbor bacteria. This is in part due to their coating of mineral oil which acts as a barrier, and also because wood is naturally antibacterial. Simply keep them clean by washing and drying them after use.
Are Wooden Spoons Toxic?
No, wooden spoons are not toxic. They’re made from a natural material and treated with oil, not chemicals. If you’re trying to keep your kitchen as eco friendly as possible, wooden utensils are an excellent choice.
Why Do Chefs Not Use Wooden Spoons?
If wooden spoons are so clean and easy to care for, why don’t chefs use them? The answer is because wood will eventually dry out.
A spoon in a pro kitchen has to work extra hard, and will undergo a lot of washing at high temperatures. This will eventually cause the wood to dry out and spilt.
How Do You Disinfect Wooden Spoons?
You don’t generally need to disinfect your wooden spoons, but should you wish to, there are a few simple ways you can do this without damaging the wood.
The easiest is using baking powder. Wash and dry your wooden spoon as usual, then cover it with baking powder. Make the powder into a paste with a few drops of fresh lemon juice. Add salt if you think you need an abrasive. Now simply rub it in, and rinse.
You can also use another old store cupboard favorite, vinegar. Make a solution of white vinegar and hot water, and leave the spoon to soak for a while. Don’t like the smell of vinegar? Splash in a few zesty drops of fresh lemon juice.
Wooden spoons are known for not picking up flavors or scents which is one of the many reasons that home cooks swear by them. However, should your spoon have a hint of cajun spices or curry sauce clinging to it, these simple measures should have it smelling nice and neutral again.
When Should You Throw Away Wooden Spoons?
Eventually, your spoon will become old and tired, and you’ll need to replace it. How can you tell when it’s time to retire your trusty wooden spoon?
Replace your spoon if it has started cracking, or if the wood has become soft. Also, if the wood has become darker and doesn’t improve after a good clean.
However, don’t throw away a good piece of wood! After a good clean, you can reuse it as anything from a garden marker to a paint stirrer. Keep it in your “box of random handy things” in the shed or garage (we all have one…).
Give the (washed) old spoon to your kids, along with some paint, fabric scraps, and a pair of googly eyes, and they’ll soon have a new spoon character to play with. These two young puppet makers have some brilliant ideas about what to do with old wooden spoons!
Are Bamboo Spoons Antibacterial?
Like wooden spoons, bamboo spoons are antibacterial. They are made from natural materials and not treated with any chemicals, making them non-toxic and safe to use.
Like your wooden spoon, a bamboo spoon is easy to clean and care for, and won’t harbor smells, flavors, or bacteria. They’re a good green choice for your kitchen.
Can You Use Wooden Spoons With Raw Meat?
There are two schools of thought with this one: yes and no! Yes, because as we’ve already discussed, wooden spoons have a coating that stops the porous material harboring bacteria, and they can be washed as well as any other kitchen utensil.
So why do some people think that we shouldn’t use wooden spoons for meat? The cook worries about meat bacteria more than most germs in the kitchen, and there’s a fear that any minute cracks in the wood could cause contamination.
You can guard against this by making sure your spoon retains its non-porous coating (and we’ll look into re-seasoning wooden spoons in a moment) and keeping an eye out for cracks.
As with any utensil, thorough washing and hygienic storage are essential. However, if you’re happier avoiding wooden utensils for raw meat, switch over to metal tools for meat handling.
Can You Use a Wooden Spoon in Boiling Water?
Yes, you can use a wooden spoon in boiling water. It’s actually far better for the cook, as wood doesn’t conduct, so you won’t end up burning your fingers!
Many cooks like using wooden spoons because the handles are cool and comfortable to hold, as well as pleasingly ergonomic.
Can You Use Olive Oil on Wooden Spoons?
While you can use a wooden spoon to stir your frying onions and garlic in olive oil, it’s not the best oil for seasoning the spoon itself.
This is because it’s an edible oil, so could go bad after a time. The same goes for any other edible cooking oil like vegetable, sunflower, or peanut oils.
Instead, use a mineral oil (this is what most spoons are treated with commercially) or something like a beeswax compound.
You can easily buy something called “Food grade mineral oil” from a variety of places, including Amazon. This means that although it’s not an edible oil, it’s odorless and safe to use in a kitchen environment.
You can also buy a beeswax compound that’s specially made for kitchen utensils. Again, it’s easy to find online. Both these products are great to use on your chopping boards as well.
Do You Need to Oil Wooden Spoons?
You don’t absolutely have to; however, if you want to prolong the life of your favorite wooden spoon or spatula, treat it to a coating of oil occasionally.
This is a really simple process. Wash the spoon in warm water and dish soap If it’s a bit stained or has lingering aroma of cajun spices or whatever, you can use the baking powder or vinegar treatments we mentioned earlier.
Rinse it well, and make sure it’s extra dry (in fact, you may want to wash and dry it the day before you oil it, just to make sure it’s really dry).
Then, gently rub the spoon all over with a non-edible oil like mineral oil or a special beeswax compound, using a soft cloth, making sure you cover it completely. Give the oil a chance to sink in before you use the spoon again.
By treating the spoon with a food-grade oil like mineral oil, you’re maintaining that antibacterial layer, as well as taking care of the wood. Wooden utensils can dry out and start to crack or split with time, so by oiling it, you’re helping to prolong the spoon’s working life.
Are Wooden Spoons Dishwasher Safe?
While a wooden spoon can survive in a dishwasher it’s not a good idea. Exposure to prolonged high temperatures inside the dishwasher will eventually cause the wood to dry out and crack, effectively ending the useful cooking life of the spoon. Stick to warm water and dish soap for everyday washing.
If you feel that the spoon needs an extra-thorough clean, use the baking soda or vinegar cleaning methods we outlined above. Those will sanitize the spoon without the need for a too-vigorous dishwasher clean.
The wood in wooden spoons is naturally antibacterial, so they are completely hygienic to cook with.
Add to that the fact that they’re treated with mineral oil – which creates an added barrier against bacteria – and you really have nothing to worry about when using your wooden spoon in the kitchen.
And now our kids have seen the video above, we’ll definitely get them to make some funny characters with all our old wooden spoons in the future! 🙂