Gas grills are fast and easy, but don’t offer the flavor of charcoal – but toss in a cedar plank and teach that old gas grill some tasty new tricks! A cedar plank adds just the right amount of smokiness to your dish as it protects delicate meats, fish and vegetables from falling apart, sticking to the grill or premature burning – they’re brilliant, and everyone should know how to use them!
Start with a cedar plank from Tony’s, NOT a cedar roof shingle or cedar from a lumberyard (they’re treated with chemicals). Earlier in the day, soak it in a clean sink or in a roasting pan – just add water and weigh the planks down with a pot of water, a rock, a can of tomatoes, or a watermelon; anything heavy enough to keep it underwater. It is best to soak them for 2-8 hours, especially if you are doing something that needs long cooking, like a whole chicken or a rack of ribs, but if time is short, 30 minutes will do for quick cooking foods, you’ll just need to mist the edges with water from time to time.
Tony’s Cedar Plank Meat and Cheese Samplers
We’re making Meat and Cheese sampler platters on both large and small cedar planks! They’re great for smaller groups on a picnic, in the office or with a glass of wine before supper. After you enjoy the meat and cheese, use the board to experiment with cedar plank grilling! Six sampler planks to choose from, available in our markets, or call and order ahead.
Plank Grilling Tips
Preheat a medium high grill, place your prepared foods on the plank. Place the plank on the cooking grid over direct heat and close the lid. The bottom and edges of the plank will smolder and burn. Don’t worry though! This adds wonderful flavor to your foods as they cook slowly with indirect heat like in a smoker. This slower cooking virtually eliminates the burn spots that gas grills are famous for, and gives you more time to judge doneness, which helps avoid accidental overcooking. The process is a lot like smoking, but with far less time and effort!
Don’t Fear Flare-ups!
As the plank burns, the edges will usually flare up. However, don’t be alarmed, just check regularly and mist the edges of the cedar plank with water from a spray bottle. These boards are the ultimate with fish and shellfish, protecting delicate fillets from falling apart or sticking to the grill. It’s also great with shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, crabs and so on. But don’t stop there, it’s also great with chicken, chops, ribs, steaks and even vegetables, fruits and soft cheeses! Planks are also amazing with sweet seasonings or glazes, allowing them to glaze nicely without burning.
Salmon is a natural on cedar planks. Keep your salmon cold, marinate or season and place skin side down on the board. I prefer tail pieces, so I put the tail in the center of the board and the thick part near the end. I usually will cook one large fillet, but individual servings are fine too! Make sure you just keep them about 1 inch apart and from the edge of the plank. Cooking times can depend on a number of variables. I plank fish over about medium high heat and they are usually done in 20 minutes or so.
Fish and Shellfish
Planking is highly recommend for delicate fishes such as Trout, Arctic Char, Steelhead, Halibut, Striped Bass and Sablefish. Basically any fish you are worried might fall apart when they are done. Season or marinate and place large fillets on the plank, skin side down, or separate smaller fillets by about an inch for even cooking. Separate shrimp, scallops, clams or mussels by 1/4-1/2 inch.
Steaks come out great on a cedar plank. Season in advance and rest at cool room temperature for 1-2 hours. Position the steaks evenly on the plank with about 1-inch spacing and 1 inch from the edges. Preheat a dual temperature fire (hot on one side and low on the other side), start cooking over the hottest portion of the grill and when they start smoking nicely, move to the lower temperature part of the grill. Cook about halfway and flip steaks over – remove from grill at desired temperature, I suggest between 120-130° internal. Rest 5-10 minutes and serve. Don’t forget game steaks such as bison, elk and venison – amazing!
Chicken and Poultry
Chicken breasts are my favorite cut for planking! Choose boneless or bone in breasts, marinate or season, arrange 1-inch apart on a soaked plank and grill over direct medium-high heat to about 145-150° internal. If you would like grill marks, start the plank on one side of the preheated grill, mist the other side with oil and quickly mark the breasts for 1-2 minutes on the hot grid, and then put the chicken on the plank.For whole chickens start with a dual temperature fire (hot on one side, low on the other). I prefer to split or quarter the chickens, marinate, place on the cedar plank and start on the hot side of the grill (whole birds work great too, just need a little more patience). Once the plank is smoking, move to the low-temperature side of the grill – and when they are about halfway done, turn the pieces over for even cooking. The ideal air temperature inside the grill is 250-300 degrees. Test to be sure the legs and thighs cook to at least 165°, rest covered for 10 minutes and serve. Also amazing with whole or cut game birds!
Pork and Ribs
Chops, pork prime rib, marinated whole or medallions of tenderloin are also fabulous choices – cook as you would chicken. Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Peach SalsaCountry style, Baby Back or St Louis Style ribs all work nicely on the cedar plank, as do beef back ribs and thin flanken ribs (cross cut beef short ribs). I start by soaking the planks as long as possible and either marinating the ribs (always marinate flanked ribs) or coat well in one of our BBQ rubs. Prepare the dual temperature fire and cook as I have described steaks or split chickens above; start over the hot side and when the plank gets smoking move to the low side, maintain an air temperature from 250-300 degrees and turn about half way through cooking. Don’t forget the BBQ sauce!
Toss quick-cooking vegetables like asparagus, peppers, squash, tomatoes and onions in a combination of olive oil and seasonings and add to a plank, I like to add them to salmon, fish and chicken breasts because the cooking times are about the same.
Planked peaches or other soft fruits work great! I’ll scatter peach or nectarine halves with herbs like thyme and add a pat of butter and even some brown sugar to the middle and top – makes a great side dish or dessert. Grapes on a skewer or cantaloupe or pineapple pieces and fig or plum halves wrapped in prosciutto work beautifully and make a great side to meats – and don’t forget stuffed apples!
Try a small wheel of brie, chill it well first and plank, great with fruit preserves or chunks of fresh fruit for dipping with crackers (I especially like the sweet Wheat Crackers from Carr’s). Brie is also great rolled in nuts and brown sugar and topped with dried cranberries before planking.
Use your imagination! How about mini pizzas, calzones, kabobs, burritos, quesadillas, hand pies, shepherd’s pie, stuffed mushrooms, buffalo wings, chicken cordon bleu, duckling breasts or legs, turkey breast or legs, pheasant, quail. For dessert, how about mini fruit or pumpkin pies, rustic fruit tarts or crisps, sliced pears with berries, marshmallows or even s’mores!
We proudly stock planks from OutdoorGourmet.com, using only American cedar, local labor and packaging. Produced without ever being exposed to chemicals (not even from the saw or milling process) for a completely safe experience – I strongly recommend staying away from imported planks!
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