Cooking with a Cedar Plank

(this photo is from the website www.thenibble.com )

(I am re-posting this from the archives due to so many folks asking me about it. Thanks for the interest!)

This is one of my most favorite ways to cook salmon, halibut, mahimahi, and Opah. There are a couple of reasons why I like this method so much: 1) So easy with a serious WOW affect on the guests; 2) Fantastic flavor. Not only the fish, but anything you grill or cook with it gets that wonderful smoky flavor; 3) Leaves my clothes smelling like I was sitting around a campfire all night.

I am only going to speak about Cedar Planks today. I have not tried the Alder, Oak, or any other type of plank and I am not comfortable talking about things that I have not tried.

Here in the Northwest, finding a cedar grilling plank is as easy as going to your local fresh fish stand. That could be at your local grocer or fish market. I should think that should be true wherever you may live. I hope.

Soak your plank. At least 4 hours is what most recipe's say. I don't think that is quite enough. I soak them for at least 8 hours and over night in most instances. The more saturation your plank gets, the less it will actually flame up. As for what you can soak your plank in, you have choices. One of my favorites is soaking it in apple cider. You may also consider white wine (the cheaper and sweeter the better), Saki (rice wine), beer, and of course, water. No, you do not need a 5 gallon bucker to soak your planks. I use a 11 x 17 roasting pan (irks my wife, haha). All you will need is about 2 cups of liquid to completely soak your plank. Find a way to sink your plank. Cedar floats. I use a tall glass filled with water. Sometimes I will even use a bottle of beer.

Gilling: Get your grill up to temperature. I like to cook my fish hot and fast, so my grill temp is around 400 deg/f when I set my plank on the rack. Pre-heat your plank for about 5 minutes before you place your fish on it. Once your plank is pre-heated, use some olive oil to cover the surface of the plank. Place your fillet or steak on the plank.
This is where you can get a little creative as well. I like to lay some fresh dill (and I mean I cover the entire fillet or steak with whole dill)on the fillet and then top it with fresh lemon slices. I may or may not season the fillet first with lemon pepper or Lemon Garli Garni.
Once you have your fillet on the plank, close the lid. DON'T PANIC! The board is supposed to char and smoke. It may even flame it up. If it does flame (didn't soak long enough), simply spray the flame down. Again, I like to cook mine hot and fast. I get the temp back up to 400 and keep it there as best I can. A 2 to 3 pound fillet should take about 15 minutes. When you push down on the fish, it should start to flake. I like it a little rare in the middle when I pull it off the heat. It will continue to cook as it rest. I let mine rest for about 3 to 5 minutes before I cut into it to serve.
In the OVEN. Yes. You can cook it in the oven this way too. If you soaked your plank in the roasting pan, simply remove about half of the liquid in the pan. You should have just enough in there to go about a 1/4 of the way up the board. Oil the plank and put into pre-heated (385-400deg/f) oven without the fish on it. Like grilling, bring the board up to temperature before putting the fillet on it. After about 5 minutes pre-heating the plank, add your fish. Season how you like and cook for about 15 minutes. Let stand for 3-5 minutes and then serve. Doing it in the oven, you may get 3 or 4 uses out of each plank as opposed to once on the grill. You will not get the smoke that you get when you grill. However, you will get the wonderful aromatics from the cedar and whatever you soaked the board in.
If you give this a try, or have other methods that you like, leave a comment and I will be happy to post it.


fracas said...

You added me on fuelmyblog and as I usually do when someone adds me, I came by to see who you are. Imagine my surprise to find that a recent post is as if you read my mind!

Mr. Fracas came home with alder planks from a friend at work, and I was looking for some instructions about using them. I know your post is about cedar, but I'm going to wing it with your guidelines and I'll let you know how it comes out!

Thanks... and thanks for adding me. I'm returning the favour. Nice to "meet" you.

Laurie said...

I usually grill all my fish dishes but I have never used planks. Thanks for this informative post! :)

Randall said...

Thank Fracas! Your blog is wonderful and entertaining!

Laurie, I promise you will not be disappointed. Please, let me know how it goes and how you added your personal touch.

Lori Lynn said...

YAY! I bought a cedar plank last week! I am so excited to see this post. I might even try it out tonight, but I gotta go soak it right away...I'll be back.

Lori Lynn

P.S. Thanks for letting me know how the salmon with seaweed turned out. That makes me happy :)

Randall said...

Lori Lynn, You are so welcome! I am looking forward to hearing about how your plank grilling goes.

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