Can You Stain a Charcuterie Board?

Disclaimer: Obsessed Woodworking is reader-supported. I may receive a small commission if you purchase anything through my site.

Wood kitchen countertops have become somewhat popular of late, and it’s an excellent choice for the home cook.  We live near a sawmill and have access to slabs of a variety of woods at custom lengths.  With a kitchen remodel in the plans for the winter, our sights are set on a 2” slab for a 10’ span of countertop with a farmhouse sink in the middle of it.

One of the factors we’ve had to consider is the finish.  Since it’s in the kitchen, food-safe finishes were looked into, and we’ve some ideas about how to proceed.  There will be cutting boards, too, as we won’t be doing any cutting on the countertop itself.

In addition to wood cutting boards, we’ll also be making a charcuterie board.  These have also become popular and in style now for home entertaining.  The same considerations for finishing the countertop will also apply to the charcuterie board since food will be sitting on the board for our guests to consume while we sit for dinner.

What is Charcuterie?

Charcuterie is a French term that refers to a variety of prepared meats.  Among those prepared meats, you will find:

  • Bacon
  • Hams
  • Sausages (salami, prosciutto, even peperoni, among others)
  • Terrines (French, a loaf of forcemeat or aspic, cooked in a pottery mold in a bain marie)
  • Pates
  • Galantines (loaf of boned, stuffed meat, poached)
  • Ballotines (de-boned thigh of fowl, stuffed with forcemeat and roasted, braised, or poached)
  • Confit (meat cooked and preserved in its own fat like goose, duck, or pork)

In professional kitchens, especially in France, but all over the United States as well, the responsibility for preparing and serving charcuterie would be with the garde manger chef.  Charcuterie is usually an early course to a formal meal.

Meats are cured with salt and spices, at least by the purists who follow the old ways, rather than use the nitrate-laden prepared meats of today.  

These various meats would be sliced into bite-sized pieces and presented on charcuterie boards, along with an assortment of cheeses, as well as nuts and fruits, in artful and colorful presentations.   

Additionally, you might even find an assortment of olives as well as dark chocolates for a wider variety of flavor profiles and textures.  Garnishes might also include sprigs of fresh herbs and even edible flowers like nasturtiums or violets for a burst of color.

Finally, you might find small slices of crusty bread for that slice of Iberian ham or sausage.  The bread might even be raisin bread to be unique and different.

Restaurants that prepare their own charcuterie will often have a board prepared, garnished, and decorated on view in the dining room.  Some restaurants will offer their dining guests to serve themselves from the charcuterie table a la buffet style on small plates that allow them to sample from the board – meats, forcemeats, cheeses, fruits, etc.

What Are Charcuterie Boards?

Charcuterie Board

Now that you know what charcuterie is, you can figure out with a charcuterie board is, certainly.  

A high-quality, fine piece of wood, suitably finished, often with a handle or handles for easy carrying from kitchen to table, will hold all of those wonderful foods.  Because the boards will carry food, and the food will be eaten directly from it, a food-safe finish is required.

While some charcuterie boards have little imagination and are no more than a simple butcher block cutting board, others can be quite fancy and fanciful, with ornate carvings on the edges or a fence guard around the perimeter to keep the foods on the board.  We haven’t decided on the wood or the style yet, but ours will be much more than a square or rectangular board.

What Are Food Safe Finishes For Charcuterie Boards?

We’ve written in many past articles about food-safe finishes for use in the kitchen.  Among them are:

There are more, of course, and we’ll expand upon them now.

What Sealant Options Are There For a Stained Charcuterie Board?

Wood sealers are important when considering the finish for your board.  Among the good choices for their wood sealing properties are:

  • Shellac
  • Polyurethane
  • Polycrylic
  • Oil finishes like tung oil, mineral oil, and linseed oil
  • Edible oils like olive oil and walnut oil

The first three are film finishes in that they form a coating or film on the surface of the wood; the latter two penetrate and soak into the wood.

All of them are food safe and thus suitable for your charcuterie board.

Watco Danish oil.  Watco is a wood finish that includes both a penetrating oil and a varnish. The penetrating oil might be linseed oil, or tung oil, or both.  The oil will give the wood a great appearance and show off its grain beautifully.

Watco offers a butcher block oil and stain product specially formulated for wood projects like cutting boards, salad bowls, charcuterie boards, and other wood applications that will come in contact with food and require a food-safe rating.  

It’s easy to apply and maintain, is non-toxic, and comes in a few stain colors.  Apply it with a clean cloth, allow it to penetrate, and then wipe off any excess.  The varnish will provide that film finish that will keep water and food juices from penetrating into the wood.

On Sale
Watco A65741 Danish Oil Wood Finish, Quart, Natural
  • Ideal for use on a variety of indoor wood surfaces including bare, stripped or sanded; not…
  • Oil-based formula of blended oil & varnish penetrates deeply into wood pores for ultimate protection
  • Dries to the touch in as little as 6 hours and covers up to 170 sq ft

Rubio Monocoat.  We’ve written often of Rubio Monocoat, and we like the product.  It is a hard-wax and linseed oil finish for any wood project, and it also works in the kitchen where food might come in contact with it.  The linseed oil, which itself is food safe as it is made from the flax plant, penetrates the wood deeply and provides a beautiful appearance, while the hard wax provides that film finish that protects the wood from water and food juices.

Since the oil does not penetrate deep enough into the wood such that a knife couldn’t cut deeper, Rubio Monocoat is not an especially good choice for cutting boards.  If a knife penetrates deeply enough, food may become lodged in the cut, and bacteria could form.

However, if the meats, cheeses, and other charcuterie items are cut on a suitable cutting board and then placed on a charcuterie board, a Rubio Monocoat finish for the board would work well and be fine.

Polyurethane.  FDA regulations consider a clear wood finish that dries to a hard finish, a file of plastic over the wood, to be food safe.  Accordingly, a charcuterie board can have a polyurethane finish for its safety rating, allowing food to come in contact with it.  This means the board could be stained, and when ready for a film finish, polyurethane could be that choice.

Shellac.  From the resin secreted by the lac beetle, shellac is an excellent wood finish.  It enhances the natural beauty of wood and adds a smoothness to the wood surface.  It acts as a sealant and moisture barrier, and it doesn’t have the plastic look and feel of polyurethane.  It’s especially good on walnut and mahogany.

Shellac is also food safe.  In fact, it is often consumed, and perhaps unknowingly so.  It is used in cosmetics and as a coating for tablets, chocolates, raisins, nutritional supplements, and even coffee beans.

As such, it will work well as a top coat on a stained charcuterie board.

We found a video that shows the finishing of a charcuterie board.  The woodworking even chose one of the products we suggested earlier – Watco Butcher Block Oil.  

It isn’t necessary to make your own charcuterie, as all of the mentions earlier are available commercially, and probably even at your local supermarket.  Use your homemade charcuterie board to serve a variety of meats, cheeses, fruits, olives, and chocolates the next time you are entertaining at home.

Give your board an interesting shape and size, a fancy handle, and perhaps some carving around the edges, too.  Have fun with it, and show off your skills to your friends.

Last update on 2024-03-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Please leave a comment to join the discussion