So What Is Planking?
Put simply, planking is cooking food directly on a piece of hardwood. When cooking this way, the surface of the food touching the wood picks up some of the plank’s natural flavors. Although there’s some debate on the origins of planking, it’s been documented that Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest pinned their salmon to large wood boards, then slow cooked them—planking.
Since then, the method has been carried down and modified for the home cook, with the grill being primary means of planking, but also adapted for use in the oven as well. (Planks for the oven are usually thicker, larger, and more expensive then those made for the grill.)
Plank Types & Sizes
Cedar lends sweet, spicy and smoky flavors, while maple and cherry woods provide the highest degree of sweetness. As one would expect, plank grilling with cherry wood also adds identifiable fruit accents to food. In this way, the type of plank you choose really can be as important as the ingredients you use in a marinade or rub to flavor your meat or vegetables.
Grillers who want to cook a larger meal all at once would select a larger plank. Those who prefer to create single servings will usually use a smaller plank — one that can be easily transferred to add drama and panache to a guest’s place setting.
Plank thickness is another variable to consider. Most grillers say that the ideal plank thickness is around 3/8 to 5/8 of an inch. Planks that are thicker can restrict the transfer of heat and don’t work as well. Conversely, planks that are only 1/4 of an inch thick are considered more disposable and can usually be used only once.
Once the plank is soaked, place it on the grill—cooking side down—at medium heat for 3-5 minutes and allow it to dry out slightly. Why soak a plank and then heat it immediately? This process will eliminate any bacteria from the plank and allow for safe cooking as you place your food directly on the plank.
Brush a light coating of olive oil onto the cooking side of the board. To enhance a meal’s flavor rub a clove of garlic on the plank, or lay a bed of fresh herbs on the cooking side of the plank before placing your main course on top of it.
Feeling even more adventurous? Drill some holes into your plank, and stuff garlic, basil, thyme or other seasonings into each hole.
Direct Heat (Grilling)
This method promotes a heavy smoke flavor. Use the lowest setting on your gas grill or low heat on the charcoal grill. Place the plank with food directly over the heat source. Cook with the lid closed, so that smoke surrounds the food and infuses it with flavor. The plank should reach heavy smoke within 20 minutes. When the plank begins to smoke, it’s important that you check it often (and use that water spray bottle to extinguish any flame on the plank).
Indirect Heat (Smoking)
While the cooking time increases due to the lower temperature, this method promotes a light smoke flavor. Using a medium setting on your grill, place the plank opposite the heat source. Cook with the lid closed so smoke surrounds your food. The plank should begin to smoke after 15-20 minutes. The plank should not catch fire using this method.
When done cooking on the plank, immediately douse the plank with water. This can extend the plank’s life, and prevents the possibility of fire dangers should the plank be haphazardly set aside.
Simple Plank Salmon Recipe
· 1 cup (packed) brown sugar
· 1-quart water
· 1 cup sugar
· 1/4 cup salt
· 6 5- to 6-ounce salmon fillets with skin
· Stir first 4 ingredients in large bowl until both sugars dissolve. Add salmon, skin side up, to brine, pressing to submerge. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove salmon from brine; discard brine. Rinse salmon under cold water. Place salmon, skin side down, on plank. Let stand until top is dry to touch (do not pat dry), about 1 hour.
· Lightly apply Extra Virgin Olive Oil to non-skin side of salmon.
· Apply Three Little Pig’s Kansas City Championship Rub on non-skin side of salmon.
· Prepare Grill or Smoker with All-Natural Lump Charcoal and set smoking temp to 250 degrees for the Salmon.
· Arrange salmon, skin side down, on rectangle. Place salmon on plank on smoker or grill. Cook until salmon is firm to touch and glaze forms over salmon, usually 45 minutes to 1 hour.
· Remove salmon from plank, leaving skin on plank . Lightly glaze with Three Little Pig’s Competition BBQ Sauce, transfer salmon to platter; serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
Chris Marks CBBQE (Chief BBQ Expert) Three Little Pig’s Rubs & Sauces and Good-One Smoker/Grills