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How To Grill With Wood Planks

It’s grilling season again and time to take your game to the next level with planks.  Grilling on wood planks is the next best thing to cooking meals in a smoker or on a wood pellet grill.  It infuses a delicious smoky flavor that enhances just about any meal.  Best of all, it’s easy.  Anyone can do it.  There are just a few things you need to know before heading outside to fire up the grill.

  1. Soak wood grilling plank for 3-8 hours (up to 24 hours) to add moisture and flavor, and to slow the burning process.

Place plank in pan (bucket or large bowl), cover with water and soak for 3-8 hours flipping plank occasionally to ensure the wood becomes saturated.  Alternatively, place a heavy, waterproof object on the plank to keep it immersed and fully covered by the water. Don’t skimp on soaking time.  The longer you soak it the better the performance and the more cooks you’ll get from the plank. I soak planks for 8-12 hours and get between 3-5 uses from them.

SPECIAL TIP: To kick up the flavor a notch add salt, wine, apple cider or juice to the water. It’s a simple way to enhance the flavor profile. 

  1. Pre-heat grill, then lightly toast each side of the wood grilling plank for 4-6 minutes over direct medium heat.

 Place the soaked plank on the grill over medium-high heat and close the grill lid.  Allow plank to toast for up to 10 minutes then turn it over and toast the other side. If it begins to bow a bit, don’t worry – it’s normal.  Toasting time will vary depending on the type of wood grilling plank being used.  Cedar is soft and toasts quickly.  Hickory is dense and takes longer.  The plank is done when it begins to sizzle, crackle or smoke.  It should have some char on it.

 SPECIAL TIP:  Always monitor the plank while toasting and be sure to have a spray bottle on hand to extinguish any flames if it catches on fire.

  1. Place food on wood grilling plank, close the grill lid and wait/watch for white smoke to billow from the grill.

Smoke is good. It produces great flavor. White smoke is best – it means the wood plank is smoldering.  Black smoke is bad – it means the wood is burning (not wet enough).  “Smoking hot” is just a few degrees from a combustible event called fire.  Oxygen fuels fire which is why opening your grill lid during smoking time is a bad idea. Keep the lid closed!

Place the food on the plank – any side will do during the first use.  If you’ve used the plank before, then place the food on the side that was previously used.  The heavily charred side should face down - toward to the fire.  Cook until desired doneness.

SPECIAL TIP: Keep the lid down and closed for the full cook time.   No peeking.  Remember, we’re trying to create a smoky environment inside the grill, not a combustible event.

  1. Cook until done and turn the heat down before lifting the lid.

If you’re using a gas grill, turn it off at the tank first, then the burner knobs.  Remove food from the plank.  Allow the plank to cool or remove it from the grill with tongs, grilling gloves or oven mitts and place it back in the water to cool and clean it.

Well-seasoned grilling planks can be re-used several times.  Just wash and rinse with hot water (no soap or cleaning agent), allow to dry and store it away in a cool dry location until next time.  When you’re ready to plank again, simply soak, smoke and savor every last bite.


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