It’s not some new craze up the gym – Planking is when you cook food directly on a piece of hardwood over a grill, BBQ or fire. The food surface that touches the wood picks up some of the plank’s natural flavour’s.
Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest were known to pin their salmon to large wood boards then cook them slowly over a fire.
There are many planks to choose from as they come in an array of shapes and sizes, the first thing to consider is to pick out a plank best suited for what’s being cooked on it. The most common size is a rectangle roughly 13 x 7 inches, which tends to be pretty all-purpose, but squares, ovals, and individual serving sizes are also available for matching plank to food.
Planks can be bought online or at some garden centres, but you can always cut your own and save a few quid. Just make sure its untreated hardwood and give it a good sanding before you use it.
As well as size, the type of wood is equally important because some of the flavour will be transferred to the food.
Fish: For fish and more delicate foods, the more gentle flavors of woods like cedar and alder are recommended.
Chicken and Pork: medium woods like maple, apple, and pecan will leave more flavour but not too overpowering.
Beef or Game meats: These meats can handle a wood such as oak and hickory.
Planks should be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling to avoid over-charring or catching fire. Just put them in the sink and weigh them down so their totally submerged, it’s a good idea to flip them halfway through to ensure they’re evenly and thoroughly soaked.
Some people like to use apple juice or wine to add flavor and aroma to the food.
There are many ways and techniques for cooking with planks, but here are few ideas.
Build a BBQ with that has a hot and cool side, once up to a good temperature place the plank and food on the cool side of the grill and close the lid. The longer the food cooks, the more time it has to get saturated with the wood’s flavour.
The second method is to start with placing an empty plank over the hot side of the BBQ. Once the plank starts to blacken and smoke flip the plank over and place the food on the charred side and move it to the cool side of the grill and close the lid.
This will give the food a deeper wood flavor compared to the first method. It’s also great for cooking thin fish fillets on lighter woods to make sure they pick up flavour.
Along with these methods, it’s possible to grill on a plank over direct fire, which might kill the plank beyond reuse, but also produce more smoke and potentially more wood flavour.
No matter what method you choose, it’s always a good idea to have a squirt bottle with water handy to smolder the plank if it catches fire. Or just add some extra moisture if any area of the plank seems to blacken too quickly.
As long as there’s still wood left, and the plank hasn’t been charred through, then it can be reused.
Start by scrubbing it down with water and a scouring pad without soap as you don’t want soap soaking into the plank and staying there. If you want you can use sand paper and go at it until the plank is clean.
Once it’s washed, it’s important to let it completely dry out before storing it away to prevent molding.