The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Countertops?

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madzilla's picture
madzilla

Countertops?

I used to want to have a wood countertop, or granite with a Boos insert in a pastry size.  But now I am not so sure. What is the best surface for making bread and baked goods? Marble, Corian, Wood?I saw some of the videos on the site, where the baker is using a black countertop. It looks like it might be granite, but I am not sure. Any advice would be great!


M.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

If I could design the "Perfect" baker's table for myself for use at home (not in a bakery) where the cost was no object, I think it might be something like the following..I am 5' 8.75" tall with a medium build..Although I am currently overweight, the following design is for someone that is fit..I intend to regain my fitness, and lose considerable weight during the next 365 days..


Length = 8' 1" = 97"


Width = 5' 3" = 63"


Height of kneading surface = 28" off of the floor


Height of the shaping-rolling-work surface = 34" off of the floor


The kneading surface would measure 63" x 24"and extend across the full width of one end of the bench..It would be coved with the cove having a 3" radius..Extending upwards from the cove would be a stainless steel backsplash that would reach up to just 1/4" from the underside of the work surface of the bench..The working surface of the main part of the bench would extend out over the backsplash / cove for 1"..The height of the kneading surface is designed to be 1"-2" less than the height from the floor to a baker's palms when the baker is standing upright with good posture, their arms are hanging loosely straight down in front of their body, with their palms at a 90-degree angle to their forearms..In other words, 1"-2" less than the natural position that a baker would assume in order to knead bread in front of their body..The kneading surface would be constructed from 4" thick laminated hard rock maple 1" wide butcher block planks..


The working surface of the table would be constructed from 6" thick laminated hard rock maple 1" wide butcher block planks..It would measure 73" x 63" and consist of two tiers, or levels..The first level would be the regular wood butcher block work surface that would measure 34" off of the floor..It would extend the full 73" of the long side of the bench, and extend 31" across the width of the table..The second level would measure 32" off of the floor with a 1/2" radius in the angle between the two surfaces..A 73" x 31" x 2" stone (granite, soapstone, ??) insert would be fitted onto the second tier so as to create one even work surface--half hard rock maple butcher block, and half stone..Between the two work surfaces would be a T-shaped, replaceable, easily removable, expansion joint filler strip made from either a hard synthetic rubber compound, or perhaps a hard, durable, chip-resistant plastic..The stone insert would have on its underside four 3" diameter, domed, half-round protrusions as an integral part of the insert..These protrusions would be located 6" in from each side of the insert in all four corners..These would fit into four corresponding recesses that would be routed out of the top of the second tier..The domed, half-round protrusions would serve to prevent the stone top from moving around..


The legs would be constructed from laminated hard rock maple..The would measure 8" in diameter at the top where they attached to the table, and taper to 4" in diameter at the bottom..There would be 5" diameter stainless steel ball feet that would screw to the table legs with 1" diameter bolts that would be integral to the feet..There would be corresponding stainless steel threaded inserts installed in the bottoms of the table legs..The tops of the legs would attach to the underside of the table top using a set of wedged stainless steel keys..This would provide for a very secure, tight fit, and allow for relatively easy disassembly should the table ever require moving to another location..


The entire concept of this table is to provide for a massively heavy bench that quite simply does not move a millimeter when even the largest baker kneads dough, or rolls out something like danish dough with a heavy, professional rolling pin using all of their upper body strength to do so..It will have very few nooks and crannies with which to collect flour, and thus will be very easy to keep clean..The snug-fitting, T-shaped, expansion joint filler strip would extend out over both the stone and the wood work surfaces for a distance of 1.5"..This design would keep 99.99% of any flour dust from ever getting into the gap between the wooden and stone surfaces, making that portion of the bench very easy to keep clean..


A series of drawers with varying depths would be the ONLY storage space under this bench..Absolutely NO shelves to interfere with keeping the floor underneath the bench clean..The slides for the drawers would be designed so that the front edges of the drawers could be recessed 2"-4" in from the edges of the bench, and the drawers still pulled out from under the bench far enough to look, and reach, into the backs of the drawers..There is nothing worse than pushing one's body up against a bench to accomplish a task and continually bumping, or digging, one's thigh / knee/ leg into the front, or edge, of a drawer..Any storage under the bench other than that of the drawers would be accomplished with bins or dollies that were on wheeled casters, thus allowing easy access to sweep and mop under the bench..


Such a table would allow a home baker to work with virtually any concievable kind of dough..It is at once large enough to work with full sheet pan size pieces of laminated doughs, down to the smallest bread project..During the holidays a baker could assemble a large gingerbread house on one end of this bench with enough space left over to tackle the largest home baking projects..It is large enough to teach one's children baking on, as well as one could have 2-3 helpers for a dinner party work simultaneously at this bench without being too crowded..


This bench concept represents many years of home and professional thoughts as regards to baking and pastry work..Something similar to the concept of this bench could be worked into most kitchen designs, regardless of how large, or small the design..


Bruce

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Bruce,


FWIW, I've been living with soapstone countertops for nearly a year now.  I have yet to see a downside.  We don't even bother with oiling them, unless we want a little extra shine for a party or something.  The stuff has marvelous heat transfer capabilities; warm stuff cools and frozen stuff thaws faster than it has on any other surface I've worked with.  Screaming-hot pans or icy containers straight from the freezer don't bother it all.  We've had several spills that would have been really ugly on the previous Formica counters; they just wiped right off the soapstone without a trace.  Yes, you can scratch the stuff, but that's true of any surface.  If you get to do your "money is no object" kitchen someday, take a good look at soapstone for the stone portion of your dream work surface.


I can't speak to granite, since I have no first-hand experience.


Paul 

jemar's picture
jemar

You have really put a lot of thought into that!

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Mark Sinclair, the baker who runs The Back Home Bakery.


I think he had the black countertop you saw in the video he made when he was baking at home.  Now that he has opened his bakery, he is using wood.

mcs's picture
mcs

That got my attention.  Upstairs in our regular kitchen we have the black countertop, which is one of 4 colors that Home Depot stocks in their do-it-yourself section in the back of the store.  It's called 'smoky topaz' and the sections are pretty reasonable.  I just bought a 6' piece for $69 to cover our clothes washer and dryer to make folding clothes easier.  They come with a back splash, so stuff won't fall behind now.
Downstairs is a 3'x8'x2.25" JohnBoos table that works great, but cost a lot. 
Both work well, it was just a matter of what to spend $$$ on.  For me, the most important factors are having a surface that won't move around on me and being easy to clean.
The laminate stuff is so cheap that for regular kitchen use, I'd put up with a slick feel in exchange for the low price and mostly seamless surface.


-Mark


http://TheBackHomeBakery.com

MikeC's picture
MikeC

My countertops are solid wood and came from IKEA.  They are economical because they are made from many pieces of solid fingerjointed wood.  They come in different lengths.  I am using the beech in an eight foot length which cost me just $79.  It is wonderful for breadmaking.


http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40057754

rainwater's picture
rainwater

I have a granite counter top and it performs great for bread and dough making.  Not granite tiles with many grout seams, but a solid granite counter top.  I do all my doughs next to the sink, which is easy for cleanup.  I mostly use the French, Slam, Stretch, and Fold kneading technique, and I always use wet hands or bench scraper when gathering up dough during the process.  This granite works well like this, and it cleans up very easily.  I like granite, but I could be happy with any natural surface....wood, granite, marble.....I'm sure soapstone is great too!

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hey Mark... you hit the bulls eye on laminate working well and being very cost effective.  Not long ago I added a 20-foot peninsula to my kitchen.  Considered granite or silestone, then decided on the Wilsonart high definition raven gemstone laminate.

The HD laminate isn't slick like my standard Wilsonart laminate and I like the surface for working dough as much as my large wooden kneading board (which I now rarely use).

The HD laminate was about $800 less than a stone countertop and cleans up easily. 

Madzilla, just be sure to throughly research the products you are considering. Marble is considered hard to maintain, is porous, and like granite, needs resealing. On the other hand, marble sure is great for making fudge!

 

madzilla's picture
madzilla

Well I certainly like the price point on the Ikea countertop, but not the shipping. It would be a total price of $280 to get a five foot wood countertop that only costs $49.


So I guess Ikea is out. I like Mark's idea of just a smooth laminate surface, which is kind of funny, because right now I am using the drop down table at this old farm house we live in. It is probably 80 year old laminate! (did they make laminate back then?)


 


The problem I have is that the table is too short for working, and it is too small. I also don't like the cleanup because of the wrap around aluminum edge. So I thought about attaching a wooden table top to the top of this surface. I guess I could also go with the laminate that Mark is talking about, and just seal the three open sides of a flat piece.


We don't plan on living here all that long. Maybe only a couple of years, so this shouldn't cost much.


When we build our house, I think I really like Baltochef's idea of the custom fit counter heights and different stations for more than one person to work. This will be something I would want too, as my daughters get older and want to help in the kitchen. Did you all see the ovens I posted in my post, "Kachelherd"? I want a woodburning stove in the kitchen, but also with gas capability for summer. They are so sleek and modern! I love that!


Thank you guys for your ideas. It definitely gives me lots of food for thought. Just one more question, Mark. If you had your druthers when bread making, would you prefer the laminate or the John Boos wood?


M.

mcs's picture
mcs

M.
Wood has a great feel and to me seems the most versatile.  The main negative is the cost for a quality piece of wood.  As I'm sure you know, John Boos stuff is very expensive, but also very nice. 
I spent 14 years between working at a bakery with nice wooden tables to when I rewarded myself with the John Boos table I have in the bakery now.  During the 14 year hiatus we lived in a few different rentals all of which had laminate countertops.  I also worked in some kitchen/restaurant settings that had stainless steel tables so I got used to working on everything. 
Once I built this house we're in and the bakery I knew we'd be here to stay, so I decided it was time for a nice table. 
So I guess what I'm trying to say is if I was in your position I'd put up with a nice cheap laminate surface that I'd fit to whatever length I want.  Then when I got in a more permanent location, I'd spring for something nice or build something custom like Bruce suggested.


-Mark

madzilla's picture
madzilla

Mark,


Thanks for your input. One of the problems I have with granite or marble is how cold it is. I also hate the sound of glass on stone. It sends a ringing feeling through my body.  Wood is so warm and you can rub flour into the grain.  I like the idea of working with something that is changing and alive as in bread, and it makes sense to have something warm to not "shock" it. I use a big, thick wooden bowl that I found at Wal-Mart for $13 on sale, for my bread rising. The bread rises so much better in it, than in metal or plastic.


The surfaces that I think are the nicest in feel are wood and Corian.  I am thinking maybe that I will do as you suggest.  It makes sense to go with cheap laminate for now, since it isn't our house, and then later spend more money on what I really want.  I like the idea of having maybe several work surfaces in the same kitchen.  Maybe three or four different work stations, one stainless steel, one wood, one Corian, and one Laminate lol.  How crazy would that be?! That way I could use the stainless for raw meats and fish, the wood for bread, the Corian for pastry, and the laminate for everything else!


Ah how fun it is to dream.


M.

summerbaker's picture
summerbaker

I have (posted about this before) a John Boos butcher block and yes, it was expensive.....  and yes it was wonderful for kneading - however it is a real pain to clean.  Dough sticks to wood like no other!  My husband got me a big piece (2'x3') of Corian for $75 when he got tired of scrubbing and oiling the butcher block (repeated scrubbing dries out the wood and you have to oil it w/ mineral oil).  It took some getting used to the Corian because it was slick in comparison but practice and advice from other Fresh Loafers got me used to it and now I've been almost completely converted.  Let me know if you get Corian and I'll elaborate!


Summer

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

I have a marble board that is my kneading surface.  I'm only 5'3", so our countertops are just a bit too high and also ceramic tile which is lousy for kneading. 


I pull out my built in wooden cutting board and place the marble board on top, wedging it against the edges of the tiles so it doesn't move.  It's a bit small but a perfect surface for kneading and easy to keep clean.  It stays cool, so that I can also work cookie and pie doughs on it. 


If I were tall enough to use the counter effectively and had the money to do so, I would happily put a large marble inset into the counter.  My mother-in-law had this put in her recently remodeled kitchen, but we're all too short to use it-LOL.

clazar123's picture
clazar123

I just got granite a few months ago. I used to have laminate.


I love the granite and it does not have to be sealed-it came sealed/treated from the stone yard. I'm told on the chance it needs any renewing in its life that a rag wet with the sealer wiped over it,set for a few minutes and wiped off is all it needs. But I also paid attention to choosing a nice tightgrained,non porous stone.


If I had a higher budget, I would have installed a tile warmer under the granite in the work area. It would be a wonderful place to raise dough.


As for cleaning-hot pots and durability-it's great.


 

mlgriego's picture
mlgriego

The house we owned in Tucson and the place we are in now have 4" grouted tile counters so I purchased a granite slab with the padding used on floors as a cushion to protect the tile and to keep the slab from moving.  The one in Tucson was 24" x 60" and I loved it.  I purchased a new one when we moved to Santa Fe two years ago that is 36" square and fits perfect at the end of the peninsula.  I love working dough on this surface and since the trash can be set at the end of the counter I just use my bench scraper to scrape it straight in.  It is easy to clean and maintain and I have not had any issues with the cooler surface, maybe because I live in the southwest where it is hot most of the time:-).  What a wealth of information I have found in this thread!  Melody in Santa Fe

madzilla's picture
madzilla

That sounds lovely! I will keep that in mind when we build our new house.  Having a way to scrape stuff straight into the trash is very handy.

PaddyL's picture
PaddyL

I've been using an ancient enamel-topped table for all my baking, perfect for kneading bread, rolling pie dough, or croissants dough; my father used it before me for his bread, but it was originally bought some 72 years before to be used as a changing table for my older brother.  It's a little on the low side, but if I go shoeless, it works for me!

Pain Partout's picture
Pain Partout

We have had several different materials for kitchen countertops over the years, moving around in the US and Canada.   When we designed out latest house, we built a large kitchen, with a huge Black Barracuda granite island in the middle.  As the kitchen has many linear feet of counterspace (you can nevvver have too much?),  I went with Wilsonart laminate, partly to get the green color that I wanted in the space, and it saved a hunk of money. Some of my local friends thought this a little tacky.  I love the granite for hot pots, meal prep, but don't like it for kneading bread.  It IS cold. If you want to roll out pastry dough, this is an asset.  I like the cheapo laminate for its easy cleanup (the granite is not hard to clean though), and "warmth". It is not as hard on glass either.  Even though I use a big Boos Block for serious meat prep, and smaller Boos boards for chopping/cutting stuff, I personally would not consider these wonderful wood products as a "bread prep surface".   I am only 5' 5.5 " tall, but every countertop in my big kitchen in 36 inches high.  Works for me, even though bread kneading areas are often recommended at lower heights.  I think we all have our preferences.

merkri's picture
merkri

I've made bread in kitchens with wood, stainless, laminate, granite, and quartz, and I think it's sort of a personal preference issue.


Here's my thoughts:


Wood is soft, and doesn't damage ceramics as much. Flour used to create non-stick surface works better. The problem is that it is a pain to clean and upkeep (it needs to be oiled all over), and wet dough sticks to it easily. It also stains incredibly easily, and although you can sand most stains out readily, it causes more problems than you might think.


Stone (e.g., quartz, granite) is hard and cold, and dough doesn't stick to it as readily. It does tend to damage ceramics, etc. from falls, but not as much as you might think (the banging sounds are louder than the damage they do). I think flour that's used to prevent sticking doesn't work as well, though, as you end up pushing flour around rather than resting something on top of it, if that makes any sense. I'm not sure if it matters, though, because the dough tends to stick less anyway.


Laminates work pretty well, actually. I think they are pretty similar to stone, but not as cold, so dough tends to stick more (although not as much as e.g., wood). You have to also be a teeny careful about hot pans, etc. because the laminate can get damaged by high heat relatively easily.


I currently have a big Boos block worktable and quartz countertops. I love the quartz, and tend to use that the most. I think a laminate would work almost as well, though, for a fraction of the price. The boos block is nice to have extra space for, but I tend to avoid it because cleaning it is extra work.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

As several people have mentioned, of all the surfaces that can be chosen for COUNTERTOPS, wood generally requires more time to maintain than any of the other choices..In any kitchen that I was renovating, or designing from scratch, wood would be my LAST choice for countertops..Period..


First, prepping foods with sharp knives, both meats and produce, should ALWAYS be done on a cutting board that is portable so that the prep surface can be moved to any part of the kitchen that one might choose to work in..Decades ago people got turned on to the idea of butcher block tables and countertops in residential kitchens, a la John Boos, I think mostly because they look so beautiful..Not because they are the most practical everyday work surface, certainly not for counters..But, wood sure does appeal to the asthetic in most humans..


As a teenager I worked at a small independent grocery store that had a full scale small butcher shop in it staffed with 3 full time butchers..Butcher's tables (actual tables that are rectangular in shape), and butcher's blocks (24"-36" square mini-tables) were designed for one express purpose..That purpose was to allow a butcher to break down entire carcasses of a steer, a hog, a sheep, etc. as efficiently as possible using a variety of knives, most of which are no longer to be found in most restaurants..


The tables were for laying out the sides (1/2 of an animal) so as to support the carcass as the preliminary cuts were made to begin breaking down these large pieces of meat..The blocks were for smaller tasks, and were designed to be able to withstand the repeated blows of a 2-5 lb. meat cleaver wielded by a strong adult man using maximum overhead blows..


Most butcher's tables were a minimum of 6"thick, most were 12" thick that I saw..Butcher's blocks were generally 12"-18" thick..There were two reasons for the thickness of the tops..First was to provide a massive, extremely heavy work surface that was NOT prone to moving around..Second, was so that the work surface would last as long as possible through the wood loss that occured from knives and cleavers slicing into the surface all day long, and from the nightly cleaning process..


Old-time baker's benches were built the same way as butcher's tables and blocks were..Massively thick for stability and longevity..


Cleaning these wooden surfaces for a butcher was a matter of applying a heavy layer of salt to the butcher's tables and blocks after the following steps were carried out..First, begin by wiping them off with towels..Then a thin layer of salt was applied to the surface, and it was scrubbed with a wire brush..Then a SHARP bench scraper (knife) was used to scrape off the salt, the blood, and any remaining bits of meat, in the process removing a very thin layer of wood....Then table salt was applied to the wood, completely covering the work surface..This was done at the beginning of the day's cleaning schedule and allowed to sit until the rest of the kitchen was completey cleaned up..The salt's hygroscopic properties drew the blood that had penetrated the fibers of the wood up and out of the pores of the wood..Then the salt was swept off into the trash, and the table scraped again with the sharp bench knife..This procedure was QUITE sanitary, contrary to popular notions..It exposed a clean layer of wood every time the butcher's tables and blocks were so scraped..Sometimes this was done several times during the day, in addition to at the end of the work day..Recent tests have shown that the salt and scraping is MORE sanitary than anti-bateriological soaps used on the white polypropylene cutting boards that have been mandated by most states because they were thought for decades to be more sanitary than wood..Not so..


The same exact procedures, minus the wire brushing and the salt, were performed by bakers to their benches and tables..This is why an old butcher's table, butcher's block, or baker's bench will be dished in the center and higher on the ends..Most of the work is performed in the centers of these tables, and humans tend to push downwards harder in the center of such a surface while scraping it, than they do at the edges, or ends..


Stone surfaces in a kitchen excel at resisting the heat from pots and pans taken directly off of a stove's burner, and from anything removed from a hot oven..Stone is perfect for virtually all pastry work, the exceptions being the working by hand of laminated doughs where a wooden surface is better..Stone is also the preferred surface for candy making..Lately, I have come to appreciate a stone surface for working the stickier rye doughs that I am experimenting with..


A heavy wooden TABLE or BENCH is the best all-around surface for working wheat-based doughs..Period..It has a tactile feel to it that the other surfaces lack, both man-made and natural..Part of a wooden surface's advantages are those tiny microscopic wood fibers that stick up to catch the dough so that it DOES NOT slide around while being kneaded, or shaped..Those same fibers sticking up also make wood surfaces HARDER TO CLEAN than most other work surface choices..


In order to keep a wooden surface used for working with doughs in good shape it MUST be scraped with a SHARP bench scraper, aka bench knife..Under NO circumstances should the wooden surface be washed with water..NEVER!!NEVER!!!NEVER!!!! use water on a wooden table or bench destined for use as a dough-working surface..First, water swells the fibers of the wood as the fibers absorb the water..Second, the water mixes with the flour trapped in the fibers of the wood, turning to paste which hardens into flour cement..Washing the wooden surface used for working doughs eventually results in a SLICK surface that loses all of those wonderful tactile properties that professional bakers so desire..Third, when the wood fibers swell they TRAP particles of food below the working surface where those food particles start to decompose and grow bacteria..You especially do not want this to happen with blood..


Any surface used regularly to prep doughs should not be used to prep other foods with sharp knives..A wood surface with thousands upon thousands of knife cuts in it is less optimal for working doughs as it is too rough..There is also the issue of food / bacteria transference between the wood surface and the dough to condider..


The very best bench scrapers made in large quantities for working with doughs were made by Dexter..They were manufactured from CARBON STEEL, not stainless steel..The very additives, such as chromium, that are added to carbon steel to turn it into stainless steel; are the same additives that make a S.S. tool MUCH harder to sharpen..This is especially true of bench scrapers as the steel in them IS NOT knife-grade steel..This means that trying to file an edge on a bench scraper is a lot harder than accomplishing the same task on a carbon steel bench scraper..What happens is that the file clogs up much faster due to the softer, stickier nature of most stainless steels..This necessitates the need to own and use a file card to keep the file's teeth clean of clogged filings so that the teeth can actually do what they are designed to do..


The bench scraper that I recommend home bakers to look for at flea markets, thrift shops, yard sales, etc. is the Dexter 476 carbon steel bench scraper..When I purchased mine in 1984 the cutlery market in the United States was already shifting away from carbon steel knives to stainless steel ones..There was a massive transition from carbon steel kitchen tools to stainless steel versions of those same tools..I had to search hard in late 1984 to find a store in Baltimore that still sold the Dexter 476 bench scraper..I should have bought several instead of the single one that I purchased to customize..


Wood surfaces require more from the cook or baker than other surfaces as regards to care and maintanence..If easy-to-clean is a priority for the baker, then surfaces other than wood should be considered..


Finally, wood is still prefered today by pro bakers because of its all around ability to deal with almost any dough prep situation..Other surfaces may be desired if certain baking tasks are going to be performed regularly..Sticky doughs, candies, pastries, these all call for a stone or laminate surface that does not have the porosity of wood..Doughs can be worked on virtually any surface if the baker is willing to deal with the idiosyncrasies of a particular surface..


Bruce


 

LLM777's picture
LLM777

I appreciate your detailed posts throughout this site.  Thank you for taking the time.

madzilla's picture
madzilla

Wow, what an informative post! Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I have learned so much from you that I think it has helped me a great deal towards making an informed choice.


Here is what I am dealing with right now:


This is my kitchen. It is an old farm house on the ranch where my husband works. Hence, we don't own it, and they put NO money into fixing it up. I am in the process of painting and wish I had the money to do the floors. But again, I hate to put my own money into it if we will only be here another year or two.  So for now, I need a temporary and possibly portable solution.


The pop-down table is where I do my kneading. It is surprisingly sturdy since it is hinged and heavy. It is just a bit short for me. I am 5'8".  So I bed over some.


I do NOT like the metal trim, as it makes clean up very difficult. I DO like that the surface is smooth old formica.  Grandma's old table:-)


So to make this better or maybe even a bit taller, I was thinking of maybe a formica countertop attached to the top of this. Yes, it would prevent closing it back up, but that is okay. Maybe I could devise some sort of temporary solution so that I could take it with me when we go. 


I also like the idea of having Corian to work on for pastry, cookies, and bread as well.  So I did some research and came up with a website that custom makes boards out of Corian.  I emailed them to find out the cost of a pastry board in the color of my choice with (and get this) an inlaid initial in a different color!. Yes they do that for $30 more. Not that it is needed, but could be something to pass down to my daughters one day.


I requested a quote for a board sized 22 x 24. They usually only do 18x24, but we'll see what they say.


I still like the idea of wood, especially after reading Bruce's post! But I may have to wait for my ideal kitchen for that. I have learned one important thing though...I need a Carbon Steel Bench Scraper! And I now know how to take care of my wood cutting blocks! So Bruce, for what it is worth, here is a link to one that you might like. They come in three sizes: Carbon Steel Scraper


http://www.cheftools.com/prodinfo-new.asp?number=06-1249%20%20%2011  (just in case that link didn't work.


So I will post again when I get the quote about the pastry board.


M.

baltochef's picture
baltochef

M


The scrapers in the links you provides that Lamson-Sharp manufacrures are the best of the stainless steel scrapers..The steel in these is high-carbon stainless steel, not the carbon steel I am speaking about in the above post..Most bench scrapers are not manufactured with high-carbon stainless steel, but with softer alloys that will not hold a very sharp edge for any length of time..The Dexter 476 scraper's blade is made from high-carbon steel that has NO additives in the alloy to prevent staining and oxidation, aka rusting..Allow any older carbon steel implement that is naked steel to get wet, and within a few minutes it will start to oxidize..Within an hours time bright orange rust spots will be readily apparent..Up until the 1960's virtually all tools that required a sharp edge were made from high-carbon plain steels..Why??..Because they held the best edge (sharpest), and were the most easily sharpened..Compared to today's modern steel alloys, these older blades are softer, which makes them exponentially EASIER to sharpen..This is true regardless of whether one is using a file to sharpen a tool such as a bench scraper; or whether one is using a sharpening stone to sharpen a knife..


So why the switch to various alloys of stainless steel for everyday implements, to include kitchen wares; and to high-carbon stainless steels for edged tools??..The reason is simplicity itself..Most humans are somewhat lazy, and anything that can reduce mundane, every day, repetitive chores to a minimum is welcomed with open arms..


Anything manufactured from stainless steels, none of which, by the way, are entirely free from the risk of rusting; quite simply need FAR less maintanence than do objects made from ordinary old-fashioned carbon steel..Period..Not having to worry abourt rusting freed up a lot of time for people in all walks of life to spend the time spent maintaining their carbon steel tools doing other tasks..


What was gained was a lack of needing to be concerned about rusting, as well as freeing up a person's time for some other task....What was lost was the ease with which a worker could put a razor sharp edge on their tool..Carbon steels, being softer, are quite simply far easier to sharpen..They do dull a little faster than does a comparable high-carbon stainless steel tool..In the realm of kitchen knives, keeping a carbon steel knife sharp with a good honing (butcher's) steel, or sharpening it on a stone is very easy to do..


High-carbon stainless steels generally are more difficult to get as sharp as a similar plain high-carbon steel..It can be done, but special tools are sometimes required, and the time element  to obtain a razor sharp cutting edge is almost always longer..Once the high-carbon stainless steel becomes dull, they are generally a cast iron pain-in-the a** to sharpen back to their original factoty level of sharpness..


This is why I suggest looking for an older plain carbon steel bench scraper to use to scrape wood surfaces..Clamp the blade in a vise, and a few minutes spent carefully sharpening a bevel on just one edge with a 6"-8" mill bastard flat file will result in a sharp edge that will do a beautiful job of scraping wooden work surfaces clean..It helps greatly to have a file card to keep the teeth of the file free from clogging up with small flecks of steel..Anyone should be able to do this..Young, old, male, female..


The Dexter 476 scraper will be easier to sharpen, and keep sharp, than will the Lamson-Sharp S.S. scrapers..And, should not cost more than $1.00-$2.00 used..


Bruce

madzilla's picture
madzilla

Well, Bruce, from the sound of that, I think I would probably just go with the high-carbon stainless steel.  Mainly because I wouldn't want to have to deal with the sharpening, or the rusting.  Maybe they should come out with the ceramic blade bench scraper. That boasts a 10 times as sharp and lasting blade as anything.


Also, if it is advertised as German Alloy Steel, then isn't that strong and sharp? Also, how sharp does it have to be, for the proper care of a cutting board with rubbing the salt in?


Thanks,


M.

xaipete's picture
xaipete

We had a discussion about this a while back, but since there is so much discussion about this topic again ....


I have formica countertops (they look nice and are cheap--probably very similar to what Mark was using at one point). But I also have a large Boos wooden board (I forget how much this cost) and an even larger piece of polished granite (custom made, 25 x 25 inches @ a cost of about $100). Both the board and the granite live on top of the countertop. I use one or the other depending upon my use. If I'm making pastry: granite. If I'm working with a really slack dough: wood. Etc.


--Pamela

photojess's picture
photojess

Pamela, could you explain what the different uses would be for?  What is the difference in the doughs, that you'd choose one over the other as far as working surfaces go?

H20loo's picture
H20loo

I saved the built in cutting board from my former kitchen. On the one side we glued formica and the other side is oiled wood and my wife used it on top of the kitchen table for kneading and rolling out her dough. I prefer the height  and surface of the granite countertop but I'm just beginning so I may find a use for either side of the cutting board. Lots of good ideas in this thread!!

montanagrandma's picture
montanagrandma

from a local wood/counter top company a 25" x 28" x 11/2" piece of solid fingerjointed wood, similar to the one from Ikea, for $25.


It is usable from both sides. One side I use for everyday chopping, the other for my bread making.


Works great and a little vinegar does the trick in keeping it sanitazed.


I do oil it several times a year with a food grade mineral oil.


The bench scraper is a must for all the jobs I do on my board.