Cooking meats on a wooden board is an old tradition. Some believe it originated with the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Others believe the practice originated in Scandinavia.
For the backyard chef, it matters little who was the first to cook meat on a wood plank. Plank cooking is easy, it can be used for meats, fish, vegetables, cheese and even fruit. It can be a nice change of pace as you experiment with this unique process, impressive presentation and enjoy the wood-infused flavor.
Grilling on a hardwood plank keeps your food away from the direct heat of the grill. The plank serves as a heat shield and helps flavor your food. The incredible smoky flavors of wood such as Western Red Cedar, Alder, Sugar Maple, Hickory, Mesquite and Oak from old wine barrels can be infused into your favorite foods as you grill or bake.
You can purchase planks at your local hardwood store. As long as the wood is clean, untreated and one of the species mentioned above, it should be safe to cook on. Use thick planks because they are less likely to catch fire while cooking, and they are reusable for at least a couple of cooking sessions. Thick planks are also less likely to warp.
Plank Cooking Tips
- Soak the plank in water for at least 30 minutes before putting it on the grill. Make sure the plank is fully submerged by putting a heavy pot on top of it.
- Depending on what you’re grilling, try different types of untreated wood planks — cedar, oak, alder, hickory, maple, cherry and apple.
- If cooking fish with the skin on, spray or brush the skin with cooking oil before placing it on the plank.
- Place fresh herbs between the plank and your meat or fish. Cook vegetables on the same plank as your protein. Serve directly on the plank.
- Rotate and reposition planks as needed for even cooking. For some foods, like steak, you may want to flip the food on the plank halfway through cooking.
- Use a spray bottle of water to put out any flare-ups or flames on the plank if it starts to burn.
- It will take longer for your food to cook because it will not be directly above the heat. If using a gas grill, turn half of the burners on. If using a charcoal grill, place the charcoal on one side of the grill.
- Place the plank in water after grilling because a heated plank can contain glowing embers that could reignite.
- You can reuse a grilling plank two or three times. Rinse well with water, and then put the plank back into a hot grill for at least 10 minutes to kill any bacteria. It is recommended that a plank used to grill fish should only be reused to cook more fish.