Wood Plank Grilling
Grilled Foods with the Flavor of Wood
and home cooks alike go to great lengths to capture the smoky
essence of wood in their favorite grilled foods by using aromatic
wood chips, mesquite charcoal, even liquid smoke. Yet the most
direct and natural way to suffuse fish, meat, poultry and vegetables
with the flavor of smoldering timber is to grill them on wood
itself. Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest first utilized
slabs of indigenous woods to fire-roast salmon and game. Today,
wood planks in many varieties — from sturdy cedar, hickory
and alder to sweet maple, cherry and apple — are readily
available as platforms for slow and succulent backyard or oven
For a divine grilling performance, first you need to properly prepare the stage. Any wood plank you choose must be soaked in advance to prevent it from catching on fire on the grill. This should be done at least one hour in advance but ideally anywhere from four hours to overnight. Submerge the plank in water and weigh it down so it doesn’t float. For a richer soak, you might even add some Chardonnay to the water (especially good if you can find an oak plank from old wine barrels). Aside from deterring fiery flare-ups, soaking is what produces all that wonderful smoke. The damp wood also releases its moisture back into the food, helping it retain juices.
Before placing food on the plank, brush the cooking side lightly with vegetable oil to keep food from sticking. Delicate items or those that cook slowly are the best candidates for your plank: fish fillets, roast chicken, pork roast, corn or even fruit. Allow for 50 percent more cooking time than regular grilling. The plank provides indirect heat like a baking stone, so it isn’t good for quickly-cooked items like steaks that need intense, direct flame.
season your food and place the plank in the middle of the grill,
then don’t mess with it. No flipping is required because
the plank is a heat conductor; all you have to do is baste as
desired with barbecue
sauce or lemon juice, spray any errant flames with a water
bottle and wait patiently. The result is moist, naturally seasoned
food with that quintessential smoked wood taste. Plank-cooked
fare is also healthier than even traditional grilling because it retains more nutrients
and requires less fat to achieve the same juicy results.
can get your hands on a sampler pack of Western maple, Western
red cedar and Western alder planks at fine kitchen stores. Remember, each plank should
be used only once. By visiting your local hardware store, you
could even fashion your own plank by purchasing a cut of your
favorite wood — just make sure it hasn’t been treated
with chemicals. Choose a plank 12-16 inches long, 6-8 inches
wide and about 1 inch thick. Whether you choose store-bought
or do-it-yourself, it’s time to toss out that liquid smoke.
Find various Grilling Planks on Amazon
(Updated: 03/18/13 SG)