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Grilling on a Wood Plank

grilling on a wood plank

There’s nothing like grilling to bring a unique, dynamic flavor to your food. However, the intense heat of the grill that creates that flavor can be so strong that your food ends up overcooking and drying out faster than you’d like. This dilemma is the source of techniques like indirect grilling and building two-zone fires. 

Another method, which also happens to enhance your food’s flavor profiles, is plank grilling. You’ve probably heard about wood plank grilling mostly in the context of cooking fish, but the technique applies to a ton of other ingredients. It’s quick, easy and impresses a crowd. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started.  

How Does Wood Plank Grilling Work?

Wood plank grilling is as straightforward as the name suggests. You put the plank on the grill, and put the food on the plank. This method cooks your food indirectly, since the plank acts as a barrier between the food and the fire or hot grate of the grill. One of the advantages of grilling on wood planks is that you don’t have to flip your food. That’s one of the primary reasons it’s so good for fish. You don’t have to worry about fillets falling apart while flipping them, but they still come out juicy and fully cooked.  

Types of Grilling Plank

You’ve got a lot of wood types to choose from, but cedar plank grilling is the most common for its affordability. If you shop around a little, you can usually find pre-cut planks made specifically for grilling in cooking or fine food stores. Alternatively, you can go right to the lumber store. However, you’ll need to take precautions to make sure you’re getting wood that’s safe to come in contact with food. Construction-grade wood gets treated with a bunch of chemicals that will result in a nasty flavor and potentially even toxins leaching into your meal. 

types of grilling planks

To ensure your safety, ask for untreated, kiln-dried, furniture-grade wood. You want a thickness of at least half an inch to one inch, and the type of wood is up to you. The best options are:

  • Cedar
  • Cherry
  • Hickory
  • Pecan
  • Maple
  • Apple
  • Red oak

If you’re buying your planks pre-cut, you might be able to find a variety pack that will let you test out multiple types of wood and figure out which ones you like best for a variety of different foods. For example, you might find that while cedar is great for fish, you don’t think the flavor is strong enough for plank-grilling steak.  

Preparing Your Plank

The point of grilling on wood planks is to infuse your food with delicious wood smoke flavor. However, you don’t want the type of smoke that comes with being on fire — you want the type that comes from a slow smolder. To keep your planks, and your food, from going up in flames, you need to soak your planks before using them. 

If you’ve bought planks packaged for grilling, they likely come with specific instructions on how to soak them. Generally, you want to soak the planks for at least one or two hours before they hit the grill. Doing this will ensure your food has time to cook through without the wood catching fire. 

All you need is your kitchen sink or a large container, and something you can use to weigh down the plank, so it stays fully submerged and soaks evenly. After the soak time is over, take the plank out of the water and allow it to drain. Pat it dry with a paper towel, so it’s still damp, but not dripping. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your soaking liquids. Try adding any of these elements to your soak sessions: 

  • Wine
  • Fruit juices
  • Cider
  • Sake
  • Flavored liqueur
  • Tea
  • Citrus slices
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • Salt
  • Vinegar

Your plank will readily soak up the flavors and transfer them to whatever you cook. 

preparing your wood plank for grilling

Grilling Fish on a Wood Plank 

Grilling fish is about as easy as grilling on planks recipes can get. Take your pre-soaked plank and brush the top side of it with oil. Be sure you only oil the top, as the other side will be in direct contact with the grill. If your fish or fillets have skin, place that side down on the plank. Then, brush some oil on the fish and go to town with whatever seasonings you’d like. 

Turn the grill to medium-high heat, and put the plank with the fish on it right in the center of the grate. Your cooking time will depend on variables like the thickness of the wood and the size of the fillet, but as a general rule, it will take about 15 minutes for a two-pound salmon fillet to cook through. 

Using Wood Planks for Other Foods

Plank grilling is a versatile technique that applies well to foods other than fish. All your proteins, including steak, can benefit from this method — but you have to adjust your approach a little bit. While the idea behind plank grilling is more of a low-and-slow approach, steaks are best when you crank the heat and get the meat on and off the grill quickly. To meet in the middle, you can start by searing your steak in a hot skillet and then transfer it to the plank to finish cooking. 

Some cooks blacken their planks on the hot grill and then flip them over, placing the meat on the blackened surface. This approach imparts an incredibly intense wood flavor that many people find attractive. However, the act of flipping the extremely hot plank can be quite dangerous, and the wood smoke flavor can be overpowering for some. Additionally, this technique makes your planks disintegrate more quickly than they would from normal use. 

grilling food on a wood plank

When you’re plank-grilling veggies, the only real rule is to choose ones that have the structural integrity to stand up to grilling in general. Essentially, your only restriction is avoiding anything leafy like lettuce or spinach. These are some of the veggies that turn out fantastically on a plank and go well with any protein:

  • Red, yellow or green peppers
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Potatoes

With only one good-sized plank, you can easily prepare a satisfying meal.   

Harness the Power of Planks With Grilla Grill

With the power of a Grilla pellet grill and a few quality grilling planks on hand, you can create an unforgettable flavor experience that your friends and family will rave about. Check out our collection of outstanding recipes and find out what a Grilla grill can do for you. 

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