In grilling, the question is to plank or not to plank

Published on Thu, Jul 10, 2008 by rissy Eiben

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In grilling, the question is to plank or not to plank

By Krissy Eiben

Have you tried plank grilling yet? I must warn you that once you “plank” you will never quite grill the same.

You may have seen packages of six shingles or a fancy, re-usable routed piece at a local fish store or maybe a gourmet kitchen shop and wondered to yourself, “How in the world does this thing not catch on fire?” Easy, you soak it for up to an hour, sometimes overnight and voila … good to go! Just think of how impressive it will look the next time you serve your friends a succulent salmon on a big hunk of alder wood … I can hear the applause right now!

Options are endless with a wood plank providing a whole new arena of recipes and outdoor cooking ideas. Fish is typically the first food you will attempt to cook with your new plank; however foods like chicken, vegetables, even fruit have all made their way onto my plank!

Steak is probably the only thing you wouldn’t grill on a plank as it requires more of an intense direct flame for proper cooking. Once soaked and lightly oiled a plank is a perfect tool for cooking anything that would otherwise fall apart or stick to a grill.

Planks are commonly constructed out of cedar or alder wood mostly for the subtle aromatics they produce but you may find other species of wood used like maple, oak or even a rustic hemlock.

Regardless of variety the plank will infuse a woody essence and a smoky flavor into whichever recipe you choose all the while keeping your food moist and tender.

I have two personal signature plank recipes of my own for you to try; I promise they are surefire winners with a crowd of hungry guests.

Garlicky Salmon
2-3lb salmon fillet
1 cup mayonnaise
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Dash of salt and pepper

1. Prepare your plank with a soak in water anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on the thickness of the wood.
2. Then drizzle with oil and let sit until mostly absorbed, wiping off excess oil if any with a paper towel. (Better yet, follow instructions included with your plank for preparation)
3. Combine mayonnaise, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside.
4. Pre-heat your soaked lightly oiled plank on your grill (medium indirect heat) for 5 minutes.
5. Prepare your fillet by generously slathering the fleshy side with mayonnaise mixture skin side down on a cutting board allowing you to easily slide on to the pre-heated plank.
6. Cover and cook on indirect flame for approximately 15-20 minutes until easily flaked!

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Mushrooms
2 lbs medium or large
½ cup cooking oil
2 Tbsp garlic powder
½ tsp of lemon or lime juice
1 tsp pepper

1. Prepare your plank with a soak and light oiling. (Same instructions as with the salmon.)
2. Dry rub the caps of the mushrooms with a damp tea towel or cloth.
3. Cut into halves or quarters depending on the size of the mushroom – think bite size.
4. Toss in a large bowl with oil, garlic, lemon or lime juice and pepper.
5. Set aside for around 15 minutes. (You can also put into a re-sealable bag and store over night.)
6. Pile and mound mushrooms on plank.
7. Grill on indirect flame for 15 to 20 minutes, either loosely covering with tin foil or make sure to close the lid. Or bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes with a cookie sheet on lower rack to catch any leaking oil or moisture.
Serve with toothpicks for an easy appetizer or sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles for a nice steak topper!
A variety of vegetables found locally could also be slow roasted using a plank with the same key ingredients as my mushroom recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment and create your own signature dish!
Mushroom cooking tips
*Don’t bathe mushrooms in water it will only make them soggy.
* Be sure to have a spray bottle filled with water nearby or the hose as sometimes the wood plank can catch a flame if not properly soaked.

There are quite a few cookbooks now available that are dedicated to plank grilling.

The right plank if properly maintained will provide you with many years of cooking giving you year-round access to the tastes of summer!

One great online resource for wood planks is Also, a good book to look for is Plank Cooking: The Essence of Natural Wood by Seattle authors Scott and Tiffany Haugen.