A pork loin cooked to perfection on a cedar plank.
What’s your position on planks; just another food trend or the secret to achieving smoky goodness with your gas grill? I used to be a doubter, but one day I found The Plank Grilling Cookbook, Infuse Food with More Flavor using Wood Planks – my grilling life will never be the same. Grilling food on planks infuses whatever your cooking – fish, meat, vegetables and even desserts – with a delicious smokey flavor. And, because the planks sit between your food and the flames, meats don’t dry out. Meats cooked on planks are moist, juicy and delicious.
Pork loin marinated in Stonewall Kitchen's Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce.
A quick guide to grilling with planks:
1) Soak – O.K. people we are talking about putting a piece of wood just a few precious inches from a flame. Soak the planks for several hours – although the package directions may say to soak for just 1 hour I suggest soaking for 3-4 hours; 12 or up to 24 is best. To be prepared for any grilling opportunity, soak several planks at once then store them in your freezer, they will quickly de-thaw when you preheat them on your grill.
2) Preheat – First pre-heat your grill then pre-heat your planks. Place the well soaked planks on the grill for a few minutes (2-3) on each side. You’ll start to hear popping noises – this is just a sign that the wet wood is drying and contracting from the heat of the grill. Preheating the planks allows develops a slight char on the surface of the plank which will infuse flavor into your food. Preheating also cleans the surface of the planks making them safe for food.
3) Cook – Once you’ve preheated your planks it’s time to start cooking, place whatever you’re cooking on the planks, close the lid and wait to see white smoke billow out of your grill.
4) Smoke – There will be smoke. That’s a very good thing, it means your planks are doing their job and all of that delicious smoke is wafting over your food making it even more delicious. Just make sure it’s white smoke, black smoke is a sign that your planks (and your food) is burning.
5) No Peeking – The magic of plank grilling is that the water-soaked planks get really hot, smoking hot to be exact. Smoking hot is just a few degrees away from your planks actually catching on fire. Oxygen feeds fire. One way to prevent your planks from catching on fire is to keep the lid on your grill closed! Opening the lid allows a rush of oxygen to sweep in pushing your smoldering planks into the fire zone. When you are ready to open your grill lid make sure to turn your grill down to low first. I have discovered a tiny opening on the side of my grill lid (I’m sure you have one too if you look) that I can peek through to make sure there are no red or orange flames dancing around my pork loin.
6) Fire — Be prepared for flames. Never grill with planks without having a fire extinguisher and bucket of water with the proper oven mitts and other fire prevention accoutrements on hand.
7) Fire – It’s worth repeating, have a plan for safely handling burning planks.
Cedar Planks: New, Used Once, Well Loved.
You can reuse your planks; just remember to soak them again. The really, charred planks can be broken up into chunks, soaked and used in a smoker box.
Purchasing planks – the planks in the fancy kitchen supply stores are really expensive. Especially if after tasting the delicious food produced on your planks vow never to grill without them again. After I burned through my first two planks I knew that I would have to buy bulk to support my habit. I can’t remember my exact source but www.grillingplanks.biz offers bulk purchasing options. They also offer additional tips and recipes.
I challenge you to think beyond salmon, I love using planks for vegetables, pork loin and tilapia.
Parmesan Herbed Potatoes from The Plank Grilling Cookbook:
2 large baking potatoes, halved
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Sour cream (optional)
Parboil potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water over medium-high heat until tender but firm, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes, pat dry, and allow them to cool.
In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except sour cream. Cut potatoes into ¼ -inch slices and coast well with Parmesan mixture.
Prepare plank for grilling. Place potato slices on plank. Close lid and grill for 15 minutes. To serve, top potatoes with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.