Cooking With Planks Adds Extra Flavor to Simple Meals
American Indians of the northwest have known for centuries that wood planks add smoke and flavor to any food that is cooked on them. The oils and smoke from the wood combine with the steam of the soaking liquid to produce flavorful moist food.
Cedar is the most popular wood used for cooking on planks. Alder wood has a milder flavor than cedar. Other woods such as oak, cherry, pecan, hickory, and pecan wood would be good choices. Of course the wood must not have any finish on it or have been treated with any chemicals. The planks range from thin to one inch thick. You can purchase planks specifically for cooking.
To produce smoke the plank is soaked in water for a few hours or overnight. You may have to weight it down to keep it from floating in the water. Some cooks are experimenting with soaking the wood in wine, beer and even apple cider.
Before cooking on the plank brush the top side with oil cooking oil to prevent the food from sticking. The food is not turned on the board during the cooking process. This makes it a good method for delicate foods such as fish. If cooking fish place it skin side down on the plank. The indirect heat will increase the cooking time and allow for the smokiness of the wood to infuse the food.
Brush the top of the food with a light coating of oil. Put the plank on a hot grill and close the lid. While the meat or fish is cooking, you can marinate the top with butter, lemon or lime juice, soy sauce or anything that you like as long as it won’t drip onto the goals and cause the fire to flare up. If the fire does flare up then squelch it with a spray of plain water.
Food that takes longer to cook such as roasts or chicken halves work well on a plank. Food that takes longer needs a harder wood to give it time to cook. Pork is delicious cooked on apple wood. Lam on olive wood and chicken on sugar maple woods are great combinations. Chops and steaks cook too quickly to benefit from the smoke supplied by the plank. Even fruit can be cooked on a plank. Try peaches or apples. Vegetables on their own or cooked with the meat get the same infusion of flavor and aroma. Onions, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, almost any vegetable that you would grill you can cook on a plank.
To avoid breaking up the fish or meat you can remove the whole plank. Turn off the grill and let the plank cool before removing it from the grill. Put the plank on a heatproof platter and serve it directly off of the plank or slide the food onto a platter if you prefer.
Cooking on a wood plank opens up a new world of experimentation for the grill. The flavors of food are greatly enhanced but the aromas that are added make it mouthwatering as well. Experiment with different combinations and wow your guests when you serve them on a wood plank.