Wooden planks can be purchased at lumber stores, hardware stores, food stores, and a variety of specialty kitchen stores. When selecting, and depending on the size of food being grilled, attempt to find boards that are approximately 12 to 16 inches in length, 6 to 8 inches wide and 1 inch or so for thickness. The wood should be untreated to keep any infused chemicals from contaminating the food. Prior to grilling, soak the wood plank for 4 to 8 hours or longer, keeping it totally immersed in water. When ready to use, remove the plank from water and just before placing it on the grill, use a pastry or grill brush to apply vegetable or olive oil to the side that will hold the meat to keep it from sticking to the board. Place the board in the center of the grill over a medium heat and place the food on the board.
Food placed on a plank is grilled to the same temperatures as is customary for the food being prepared, making sure it is completely cooked and reaching temperatures that make it safe to eat. Be prepared with a spray bottle of water to extinguish any flames that ignite the board as the moisture in the board dries out and the board begins to darken along the underside and the edges. If any grilling or barbecue sauce is to be applied, this can be accomplished during the last 20 to 30 minutes of the grilling process. When the grilled food is finished cooking, remove the food, turn off the grill and allow the board to remain on the grill to cool down before handling. Foods such as meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables are all good choices to consider for grilling on a plank.
Popular Woods Used for Grilling
Alder - In the Northwest States where smoked salmon is common, alder is the popular choice. It is also used for poultry and small game birds, providing a subtle, sweet taste to the meat.
Apple - Apple provides a sweet, fruity taste to most meats, poultry, and small game birds but is especially good for smoking ham.
Birch - Birch is best used with cuts of pork and poultry, providing a flavor similar to maple wood.
Beechnut - a lighter wood that provides a delicate, mild flavor to foods being grilled. Beechnut works well with many different types of foods such as pork, poultry and fish, providing a lightly smoked flavor that does not overpower the others flavors in the food.
Cedar - This wood is used for a variety of foods from meat, to poultry, fish, and vegetables as it provides a somewhat smoky and aromatic flavor to the foods. Both Red and White Cedar species of wood are used for making Grilling Planks.
Cherry - Cherry is used for all types of meat and like apple, it provides a subtle, sweet, fruity flavor to foods. Black Cherry is one of the most common types of cherry wood available.
Hickory - Hickory is more common in the South, but is popular in many regions. It is used just as often if not more often than oak. Hickory provides a strong smoky bacon flavor and can be used for all types of meat, but is especially good for cuts of pork and ribs.
Maple - Maple provides a mild, smoky and somewhat sweet flavor to foods and is best use with pork, poultry, and small game birds.
Mesquite - Mesquite burns very hot and provides a strong flavor to foods. It is the most popular in Texas and the Southwest U.S and is most often used for cuts of beef.
Oak - Oak is one of the most often used woods because it is common in many regions of the country. It provides a good flavor without overpowering the food. It is used for all types of meat and fish.
Pecan - Pecan is popular in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states. It provides a flavor similar to hickory, but not quite as strong. It can be used with most cuts of meat.
Walnut - Walnut is best used for red meats and strong tasting, heavy game because of the strong and somewhat bitter flavor it provides. It is often mixed with woods with milder flavors in order to provide a more subtle flavor to foods.