Grilling planks are pieces of wood which are used to hold foods while they are grilled. They are particularly popular for fish, especially salmon, although grilling planks can also be used with meats as well. Humans have been using grilling planks for centuries, and they experienced a resurgence in popularity in the late 1990s. Many kitchen supply stores sell grilling planks, and it is also possible to pick up suitable planks at a lumber supply.
There are several reasons to use a grilling plank. The first is that the plank can be used to hold delicate meats and fish which might fall apart if they were grilled directly. It also keeps foods moist, and prevents burning. Most grilling planks are made from aromatic woods, so they add unique flavors and scents to the finished food. Using a grilling plank will also enhance the smoky flavor of grilling or barbecuing.
To use a grilling plank, cooks soak the plank for two to four hours before use. The soaking will prevent the wood from splitting or catching fire on the grill. After the plank is removed from the water, the side which will hold the food is oiled slightly, to prevent sticking, and then the food is arranged on top and the grilling plank is placed over the fire. It is important to check the temperature of the food when using a grilling plank, to ensure that it is cooked all the way through.
A number of different woods are used to make grilling planks, including oak, cedar, alder, beechnut, cherry, walnut, hickory, birch, and apple. Hardwoods tend to be the most suitable, since they will withstand high heat for long periods of time, and they will not break down through repeated uses. A cedar grilling plank is an excellent choice for salmon and fish, while an oak grilling plank will pair well with robust meats like hamburgers.
Alder, beechnut, cedar, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, pecan and walnut are all types of wood used as cooking planks. They are used when cooking many proteins such as fish, chicken and pork over open flames or on grills. Keeping the meat moist and giving it flavor are two common reasons for using the planks. Hardwoods generally are preferred over softwoods, because they can handle the higher temperatures better and flavor the meat better. Some people even use cooking planks to prepare fruits and vegetables.
One of the most common types of planks is made from alder. It is chosen for the slightly sweet flavor that it gives foods such as salmon. Beechnut is a favorite for many types of meat, because it gives a slightly smoky flavor without having it overpower the natural flavors of the meat. Cedar is used for the same reason. Cherry wood provides a sweetness and fruity flavor to meats when used as a cooking plank, with black cherry being the most common type used.
Hickory is very common in the southern United States and is most commonly used for pork, giving it a smoky bacon flavor. A mild smokiness and sweet flavor are given to poultry and pork by maple cooking planks. Oak is popular because it can be found in many areas and gives a nice flavor to many meats. Pecan is provides a more subdued hickory flavor. Red meat and game meat are most commonly cooked on walnut cooking planks because of the stronger flavors they provide.
Properly preparing cooking planks before use is important for grilling or open fire preparation. Boards should be no more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and should be soaked in water for several hours before they are used. This prevents the planks from drying out during the cooking process. It might still be necessary for any flames that spring up during cooking to be doused with water. Many people choose to brush their planks with olive or vegetable oil to help prevent sticking.