Woodware

Wood, glorious wood

The tactile nature of wood is one of the many reasons why websites can in no way replicate the experience of being in a kitchen shop. Beautiful wooden objects have a unique warmth, which for some people (me!) is irresistible, but different woods have different strengths and weaknesses, so be careful that what you’re buying is right for the job it’s meant to do.

In terms of glamorous good-looks olivewood is perhaps the most come-hither. It is a very hard, dense wood with a glossy finish and bold dark patterns in the rich grain. Olivewood makes an impact and is great for spoons, salad servers, bowls, cheese platters and pestle & mortars.

It’s not so good for chopping boards, because it’s hard on your knives, and (as it is necessarily cut from one piece of wood to preserve the glory of the grain) it will tend to warp in larger sizes.

Traditional kitchen woodware in the UK is beech, which is an indigenous hardwood. In the US maple is more prevalent. Our wooden spoons, boards and rolling pins are mainly beech or maple, as these are very adaptable woods to temperature and humidity changes in normal kitchen environments. We also sell some attractive oak boards, mainly for presentation (e.g. cheese boards) rather than everyday chopping, because although oak is incredibly strong when it’s still in tree form, as a chopping board (or floorboard) it’s more likely to split along the grain if it’s not properly seasoned.

Hevea or rubberwood is a tropical hardwood which is similar in colour to beech but is often stained or oiled for different colour effects. Hevea is considered one of the most environmentally friendly woods as new trees are planted every 25-30 years and are only felled when they’ve stopped producing latex (used in the production of rubber). Wooden trays, salad bowls and serving boards can be hevea, but if they are varnished you shouldn’t use knives on them. Acacia is another fast-growing hardwood, with a more varied, darker grain. It’s often used for bowls and salad servers, but increasingly it’s being used in kitchen boards.

If you care about such things (which we do) you should be able to check that your woodware comes from sustainable sources. (This is quite hard in the case of olivewood, as it takes 200 years for an olive tree to grow.)

A word about chopping boards

Some people think wood is unclean and harbours germs (see Cookware Care). They therefore prefer to use plastic (nylon) or glass chopping boards. We hold very different views.

For a start nylon and glass will ruin your knives. Wood is a softer, kinder surface which will not blunt knives. Butchers blocks are traditionally made of wood for this reason. End grain boards (where the board is made up of squares of wood) are kindest to your knives. Edge grain (strips of wood) is next best. Wood also has antibacterial properties which means germs won’t breed on wooden surfaces, whereas they do on nylon ones.

If you truly won’t be convinced about the hygiene safety of wood, then Top Gourmet boards are for you. They are made of compressed hardwood (a bit like MDF, but high density rather than medium density), which is lightweight, tough, durable, rigid and ... yes! ... dishwasherable. What’s more, they come in two gorgeous colours: nutmeg (brown) and slate (er, black). 

Related Blog Entries ...