Stop Worrying About Cooking With A Wooden Spoon

Wooden spoons are a kitchen staple thanks to their durability, versatility, and environmentally friendly nature. They're a great all-purpose utensil that is safe to use with cast-iron or non-stick surfaces, and fare well with most types of foods. However, their porous surface might give hygiene concerns to some folks.

According to MyRecipes, wood surfaces have a habit of absorbing oils and liquids from whatever foods they come in contact with due to their porous nature. They say that this is one of the reasons that wooden spoons felt out of vogue during the 1990s and were replaced with utensils made of plastics and stainless steels due to bacterial concerns. However, more research into different cooking surfaces found that wooden utensils and cutting boards were actually more hygienic than their plastic counterparts.

A study conducted by the UC Davis Food Safety Lab concluded that bacteria does penetrate the surface of wood cutting boards, but that bacteria is not harmful because of wood's natural anti-microbial properties. The bacteria tends to stay embedded in the surface until it eventually dies rather than return to the surface to contaminate other foods.

How to properly clean wooden spoons

Wooden spoons are safe to use, but like anything else they still require proper care to stay that way. Wooden spoons should never be washed in a dishwasher. Executive chef of Tre Rivali and The Outsider, Heather Terhune, told Eat This, Not That! to never put wooden spoons into the dishwasher, and to never let them soak in water either. The high heat and powerful dish detergent in most dishwashers can strip away the wood's natural oils (via The Kitchn). The intense heat of the drying cycles can also cause damage to the wood's surface (via Food Network). MyRecipes recommends simply washing the surface of wooden spoons with hot water and soap immediately after using them to give them a proper cleaning.

It is also important that they are dried well. North Carolina State food safety researcher and professor Dr. Ben Chapman told Martha Stewart that wooden surfaces fight bacteria by "choking [them] out." This is what occurs when the bacteria is trapped beneath the surface. Chapman says that this takes place best when the wooden utensils are allowed to dry in a space with good air flow for up to 24 hours. During that time the bacteria should be choked out and the utensil will be safe to use again.