One of my favorite techniques for cooking on the grill has to be planking.
A process that dates back to at least the Native Americans, planking is a unique form of indirect cooking in which seafood, meat, cheese, vegetables or even fruit are grilled on an untreated piece of wood above the flames. By doing so, the food is allowed to evenly cook without the threat of direct heat. Meanwhile the wood serves not only as a heat shield, but a source of flavor as it begins to slowly char and release smoke up and in to the food.
Now many of you may recall a few years back when cedar planked salmon took the grilling world by storm, nearly knocking chicken off its mighty beer can throne as the “it factor” at countless backyard cookouts. But the art of plank cooking is so much more than a single dish or a single type of wood. Personally I don’t care for the smell or taste of cedar so I buy cherry and maple planks in bulk from a source I found online.
And when it comes to plank cooked recipes, virtually nothing is off limits. Imagine a meal of a plank cooked brie cheese appetizer, plank grilled lobster, grilled summer vegetables like herb grilled zucchini, followed by plank “poached” stone fruit with honey and whipped cream. All the flavor of the grill without the threat of direct flames means countless possibilities.
To use, simply soak the plank (usually about one inch thick and available at most hardware stores in the grilling section, in many grocery stores often in the seafood section, or online at various retail barbecue sites) for an hour, place directly on the grate over medium-high heat and close the lid until the wood begins to smoke slightly. At this point I tend to flip the plank and place the food on the preheated side. Depending on the dish you may also want to add a touch of oil to the cooking side of the plank, especially when cooking skin-on fish in an effort to avoid sticking. Cook until desired level of doneness is achieved; bearing in mind that indirect cooking will take longer than cooking over direct flames. Once the dish is complete, either discard the used plank or use for smoke and fuel during your next cookout. I would not, however, recommend reusing the plank for cooking purposes as the risk of contamination is too high.
Tips by Clint Cantwell, courtesy of Kingsford.com