Is It Safe to Cook With Wooden Spoons?

Wooden spoons really are a workhorse in the kitchen — but are they safe to use?

wooden spoons
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When it comes to choosing a cooking utensil, there are almost too many options out there. Do you want plastic, nylon, stainless steel, silicone, or wooden? Truthfully, if we were to choose just one utensil to have in our kitchen, it would be a wooden spoon.

Wooden spoons are popular in kitchens today — and for good reason — but are they actually safe to cook with? Here's everything you need to know about why cooking with wooden spoons should be your first choice.

Why Should You Cook With Wooden Spoons?

Most people love using wooden spoons because they don't scratch your cookware. No matter what type of pot or pan you're using, wooden spoons are safe to use without the risk of scratches or other blemishes, which keeps your cookware around for longer.

Not only are wooden spoons soft enough that they keep cookware safe, but they're also sturdy enough to use in almost every recipe. They're durable enough for stirring thick stews or scraping hard-to-clean pieces off the bottom of your pan — all while feeling comfortable in your hand.

Yet another reason to stock up on wooden spoons is that they are heat resistant. Unlike your plastic utensils, wooden spoons won't melt in high temperatures. Nor will they get super hot like your stainless steel utensils do, so you don't have to worry about burning your hands.

Because they don't conduct heat and are insulated, wooden spoons are considered "warm," which means that you can drop them into a dish that needs to be cooked at a particular temperature, and the spoon won't change the temperature at all.

Finally, using wooden spoons will never impact your recipe. If you've ever made a recipe with a metal spoon and then thought the food tasted metallic afterward, that's because it probably did. Some materials react with foods, especially acidic foods, and can change the taste of your recipe. Not wooden spoons, though; they will never affect your food — and they don't typically absorb food's flavor either.

What Are The Drawbacks of Cooking With Wooden Spoons?

After all the benefits of using wooden spoons, the drawbacks seem non-existent. However, the main drawback of using wooden spoons is staining.

Some people like to use wooden spoons for the aesthetic, which also means displaying the spoons in their kitchen. But, because wooden spoons are porous, they can absorb colors — especially from dishes with tomatoes, beets, or other pigmented ingredients.

The good news is, the stains will come out with the proper cleaning techniques, so that shouldn't be a large concern. Or, if you're going to whip up a colorful dish, maybe opt for a different utensil.

Is It Safe to Cook With Wooden Spoons?

Simply put, yes, it is safe to cook with wooden spoons.

Wooden spoons have been used in kitchens for years — centuries, really. They took a back seat to plastic and stainless steel utensils in the 1990s when people started to become a little grossed out by them. However, studies have proven that wooden spoons are perfectly safe to use.

Their porousness, which some people think is a drawback, actually works in their favor when it comes to bacteria. A study showed that even though wooden spoons may soak up liquids and oils from food, those liquids, and any bacteria, will not resurface once they're in the wood pores. The bacteria will naturally die within a few hours without spreading to anything else.

To make sure your wooden spoons are safe and clean, be sure to thoroughly wash them with soap and hot water and allow them to dry completely in order for all the bacteria to die off. If you're really concerned about bacteria, you can also sanitize the spoons with hydrogen peroxide or a diluted bleach solution.

So yes, they are safe to use, but every rule has its exception. Wooden spoons are durable, but they can crack due to wear and tear or if you wash them repeatedly in your dishwasher. If your spoon cracks, food can get stuck in the crevices and cause bacterial growth that isn't as easy to clean away.

If you notice your wooden spoons are starting to look a little worse for wear, it might be time to toss them and get a new set.

How to Care For Wooden Spoons

Wooden spoons were built to last, and they will if you care for them properly.

The number one rule is to never put your wooden spoons in the dishwasher. It may seem like a quick way to clean up after dinner, but repetitive exposure to those high temperatures can cause your spoons to crack.

Always let your spoons air dry completely before use, which takes at least 24 hours. Don't try to use a hand towel to dry them as this can cause bacteria to transfer from the spoon to the towel.

Look for wooden spoons made of maple, like this set from Chef Craft; olive, like this one from The Pioneer Woman; acacia, like this set from Kilne; or beech, like this one from OXO. They may be more expensive than say pine spoons, but they are also more durable and will last much longer.

If your wooden spoons need some extra TLC, after you clean them, you can treat them with mineral oil to liven them back up. Or soak them in a 1:1 white vinegar and water solution to remove buildup and scrub them with lemon juice or baking soda to remove odors.

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