How to Plank Grill - The Three Rules to Perfect Planking

Using a plank on the barbecue is synonymous with cedar-planked salmon. So much so, that it’s barely conceivable to cook anything other than salmon on cedar on a grill. There are so many other things that you can do with a plank and some fire. In this article, we’re going to explore the different ways of using planks to cook on the barbecue. Really, there are only three rules to follow and they’re very easy. Soak. Smoke. And Serve.


Originating in the Pacific Northwest, planking started as a way to preserve freshly caught fish. The fish would be strapped to large boards or driftwood and placed downwind of the fire to smoke.



1. Soak

Planks, unlike wood chunks, need to be soaked for at least 30 minutes before being preheated or used on the barbecue. There are several reasons to prepare your plank or several planks by soaking.

  1. Safety. A plank that has been soaked will have a layer of liquid that will prevent it from combusting while on the grill.

  2. The steam from the soaked wood will help cook the food while still providing a smoky wood flavor.

  3. You can increase flavor tenfold by using a tasty liquid like juice, wine, or beer in the soak.

There are several varieties of wood that can be used when planking. Cedar is just one option. Another common wood for planks is maple. For something even more unique, try our PRO Cedar Infusion Plank. The grooves hold your favorite liquid to enhance the meal. Imagine a smoky planked steak infused with a deep whiskey or red wine.



2. Smoke

Although unnecessary, you can warm the plank on the grill during preheating. Unless it is otherwise called for, the indirect method of grilling will be used when using planks on the barbecue. That is when the two outside burners are lit, leaving the one(s) in the middle of the grill off. Preheat the grill to the desired temperature with or without the plank. If you placed the plank on the grill to preheat as well, transfer the food onto the plank and cook the food until it’s ready. Fish will be fast, chicken and steaks – anything thicker will take a bit longer, and roasts will take the longest. Use a digital meat thermometer, like the Napoleon Bluetooth Barbecue Thermometer, to ensure that it’s cooked.



Pro Tip:
For a bit more of a smoky flavor, pre-char your plank by placing the soaked slab of wood over a lit burner while preheating the grill. When the barbecue is up to temperature, place the food onto the side of the plank that was facing the lit burner. That side will be slightly charred and the moisture from soaking will have evaporated leaving a woodier-smokier taste.


3. Serve

Once the food is cooked, it’s time to eat it. Your food, fish, vegetables, pancakes, pasta, poultry, pork, beef, or anything else you can imagine will have a unique flavor from the aromatics found in the oils of the particular wood used.

You can serve the food directly from the planks themselves if they’re not overly burnt or smoldering. However, if your plank is a tad on-fire-ish you may want to transfer your food to a serving platter or a fresh plank. Once the food is safely off the plank you can douse it in a bucket of water until completely cooled.



Can you Reuse the Planks?

Although there are many who feel that planks should not be reused, however, as long as they’re clean, a plank can be used. Once a plank or planks are completely cool, wash them using running water and a sponge or scrubby. Do not use soap as this can leave an unpleasant aftertaste on a plank. When clean, allow your plank to dry completely before returning to storage. If there are stubborn and stuck on bits, fine-grit sandpaper will take those off.


Smoke, good! Fire, bad!
As with anything, safety should be your number one priority, and you are working with wood and flames in close proximity. That means that when the plank is on the grill it is best if you stay close until the food is ready. Have a phone, long-handled tongs, a spray bottle with water, heat resistant BBQ gloves, baking soda, and a hose handy. Most of these should be on hand as part of your barbecuing gear, while others should be on hand just in case anyway.



Plank Grilling Tips

  • As mentioned before, you can use many different varieties of wood for planking, however, untreated hardwoods are best. Softwoods like pine and those with the bark still on them produce a bitter smoke.

  • When planking veggies, prep them the day before so that they can firm up overnight and don’t get runny.

  • Oven-like temperature consistency is key to a good planked meal. Avoid lifting the lid of your BBQ when possible.

  • If you are planking on a charcoal grill, keep a close eye on things, not only to ensure a constant temperature but to ensure the plank doesn’t go up in smoke.

  • Do not reuse a plank that is more than 50 % charred through. Instead, you can break it up and use it as wood chunks when smoking next.



When Should you Plank?

Plank grilling is a great solution when you are looking to experience a different flavor than just barbecued or just smoked. Plank roasted food has a lighter smoky flavor than something that has been purely smoked. It also won’t have the crust of something that has been seared – unless you add that to your cooking process.


Why Should you Plank?

Why wouldn’t you? Adding plank grilling to your grilling repertoire is a great way to ensure that things don’t get boring. It creates a unique and flavorful meal. Eating planked food is delicious, smoke from the vanillans in the wood are transferred to the meal in a similar fashion to smoking, Where the food has been in contact with the plank will have a stronger flavor than elsewhere. Using a plank is also a striking way to serve food as well.

What is your favorite plank grilling recipe? Share yours and your other planking stories and photos on our social pages, like Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtags #PlankGrilling and #NapoleonGrills.

Happy Grilling!