Basics of Plank Grilling

Basics of Plank Grilling
From Habanero SmokerPlank grilling infuses food with delicious smoky flavor.

Plank grilling is very simple, and it introduces a whole new range of flavors to you fish, meat, poultry, vegetables and fruits. Most people associate plank grilling with salmon and other fish on cedar planks, but plank grilling can be use to cook any food on a variety of woods. Some other woods that can be used are oak, maple, hickory, cherry, alder or apple wood planks.

Though plank grilling is simple, it may look overwhelming to a new comer. Read all the instructions a few times, and you first plank grilling experience will go smoothly.

Basic Plank Grilling Directions:

  1. To prepare planks for the grill fully immerse the plank in water and soak for at least 4 hours but not longer than 24 hours. The soaking adds moisture to the wood and prevents it from burning on the grill. If your plank is not too long a 2.5 quart baking dish (13″ x 9″ x 2″), works well. Place a couple of teaspoons on the bottom of the dish. This will keep the plank off the bottom of the dish, and allow for better soaking. Place something heavy on the plank to keep it submerged; such as a can of vegetables or a full glass of water.
    • Harder denser grain and thicker woods require longer soaking times, then less dense grain and thinner woods.
    • Before soaking plank(s) make sure the food you will be cooking will fit on the plank. There should be at least 1-inch of wood space to spare on all sides; since the edge of the planks will burn.
  2. Although a charcoal grill can be used, the best grilling method is to use a gas grill. Gas grills provide a consistent level of heat. Follow the directions that came with your grill and set your grill up for indirect heat, and preheat to medium temperature (350°F to 375°F).
  3. After grill has heated up, take plank(s) out of the water and shake off any excess. It is now time to preheat the plank(s). Place plank(s) in the middle of the grill with the cook side facing down, close lid and preheat for 3 to 5 minutes. Once preheated use tongs to turn the plank back over and position it on the grill for the best indirect heat. Once preheating is completed the plank(s) must be used immediately.
    • If this is the first time you are using the plank, this is the time to choose which side is best for the food surface.
  4. Next use a barbecue or pastry brush, and brush the top of the plank(s) with vegetable oil. The oil will help prevent food from sticking to the wood. Place marinated or ready-to-cook foods directly on the plank. Close lid and keep it closed as much as possible to maintain temperatures and maximize smoking.
    • Although you should keep the lid closed as much as possible, you will still need to monitor the plank(s) occasionally (See #6). Flare-ups are less lightly when you keep the grill temperatures between 350°F to 375°F
  5. Because of the lower grilling temperature, and the insulation properties of the wood plank grilling takes about 50% longer to cook. Check plank occasionally to ensure the plank doesn’t flare up. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy so flames can be extinguished. If the plank starts to burn, spritz any flames with water.
  6. During grilling you will need to monitor the smoke. You should start seeing smoke in about 15 to 20 minutes. What you are looking for is a constant flow of light grey to white smoke coming from the grill. If the smoke is too heavy your fire is too high and your plank(s) will catch on fire, you will need to lower the heat. If you see very little smoke or no smoke at all your fire is too low, and you will need to increase the heat.
  7. Continue to grill to desired doneness; for meats it best to use the internal temperature for doness. Planked grilled foods do not have to be turned during grilling, except if you are plank grilling thicker cuts of meats; such as a pork loin or thicker. These cuts of meat need to be turned over half way through the cooking process. On the other hand, whole chickens can be plank grilled without turning them over.
  8. About 20 minutes before the food is done, you can brush meat or fish with barbecue sauce, or glaze, or add any required topping such as salsa.
  9. When the food is done turn off grill. It is best to remove the food from the plank(s), and immediately spray the plank(s) using an outdoor hose or fully submerge them into cold water. This extinguishes any smoldering, extends the usefulness of the plank(s), and also prevents any fire hazard. If you want to serve your food on the plank(s), use a large heavy duty metal spatula to lift plank(s) with the food still on it. Use the spray bottle and thoroughly spray the bottom of the plank(s), but do not spritz the food.
    • If you serve the food on the plank, remember the bottom of the plank is extremely hot, and can melt or set combustible materials on fire. Make sure you place it on a safe surface, such as a cooling rack set above an oven proof serving tray.

    Plank Cooking In The Oven:

    You can also use planks in your oven, though the flavor will be milder. Prepare the plank as above. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place prepare plank directly on the oven rack (middle position), and place a baking dish or disposable aluminum pan on the rack beneath the plank to catch any drippings. Preheat for 10 minutes, and brush plank with vegetable oil. Place food on plank and cook until desired doneness.

Plank cooking in the oven will fill your home with the pleasant aroma of the wood.


NOTE: A good recipe to test your plank grilling skills would be Olds’ Smoked Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breast-1, or any of his other Wrapped Chicken Breast recipes. Prepare the recipe as written, then instead of using the Bradley, plank grill the breast. Plank grill on a preheated 350°F grill, for 20 – 25 minutes (depending on your grill times can be longer).

Cleaning, Storage and Reuse:

  • As soon as plank(s) have been removed from the grill, place the plank(s) in a container of water or spray down with an outdoor hose. This not only extends its use, but also prevents it from igniting.
  • Most grilling planks can be reused at least two or more times. If there’s wood left, you can use the plank. How many times you can reuse a plank depends on how hot the grill is, the length of grilling time, and how close the plank is to the heat source.
  • If you are planning on reusing the plank(s), as soon as the plank(s) have cooled use warm water, mild detergent and a stiff brush to clean plank(s). Wash thoroughly; making sure all fat residue is removed. After they have been washed, you can also rinse them in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Allow to completely dry before storing them.
  • When the plank(s) are completely dry; store the plank(s) in a dry clean place. This will prevent mold. You can store them in paper bags if you like, but never use plastic.
  • When plank(s) have been used to grill strong flavored foods such as fish, onions, garlic etc, these flavors tend to stay with the wood, and will impart some of this flavor in other foods that will be cooked on these planks. After cleaning keep these plank(s) separated from the others, and only reuse them for grilling strong flavored food.
  • Just prior to reusing a plank, sand both sides before soaking it. This will expose new wood, which will improve the aromatic flavor of the wood.
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