Apr 19, 2012

Planking

When you hear the term planking often images of people laying horizontally in random locales comes to mind. But for us foodies, planking should generate images of thick sturdy wooden planks adorned with various proteins (usually fish), fruits or vegetables placed either in a hot oven or on top of a blazing grill. Cedar planks are the most common and readily available but others are out there for the adventurous. Oak, Cherry, Apple, Adler and Maple come to mind. But I usually focus on Cedar because I know that anyone can procure it by simply traveling down to the local home improvement store to get some. 

No need for any specially ordered planks at outrageous prices via the web. I recently purchased a 12' L x 8" W x 1" T untreated Cedar board from the local Home Depot for $17 (note that you need to purchase an untreated board to avoid any chemicals). I had the friendly associate slice the board into roughly 6 2' boards, the perfect size that fits in most residential ovens and on top of most small charcoal grills. The 8" width provided plenty of surface area and even ensured the fattiest salmon fillet wouldn't struggle to fit. Simply soaking it in a bucket for a hour to ensure you don't have to call me to save your kitchen or deck is the last step.

But you may have asked the question, why use planks at all? First and foremost, it provides a very delicate fresh cut wood flavor with subtle hints of smoke (admit it, I made it sound good). Can't you just imagine yourself in the Pacific Northwest on the side of the Columbia River, after spending the last 20 minutes hauling in a huge Pacific Salmon amongst all the Cedar and Alder trees and cooking it by the campfire? Remember that food can be both tasty and transportive, having that ability to take you back to places you been before or help you realize in your mind where it came from. Second, it also acts as a all-purpose serving vessel as it travels from the heat to the kitchen table and looks rustic too. Lastly, it is especially convient for cooking fish on the grill. No sticking to the grates, no wacky looking fish cage contraption, just the fish, the wood and the heat. Just like the campfire next to the Columbia River, whether you've been there or not...



BTW, look for an upcoming episode on Cedar Plank Salmon very soon. Stay Hungry!

2 comments:

  1. No matter how long I soak my planks, they always seem to catch fire on the grill. What am I doing wrong?

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  2. A little flame is to be expected as the plank should be placed directly over the hot coals, just so long as it's just the bottom portion of the plank. It is also common practice to leave the plank as a sacrifice to the grill Gods if it is beyond recycling for another round of grilling. Remember as well, most proteins will be cooked in less then 30 minutes tops (less for thin fillets/steaks of fish) so exposure times will be brief. If it gets out of hand, it can easily be controlled by adjusting the amount of air that is introduced into the grill (a term we call Ventilation in the Fire Service, one of the core principals to master when trying to control a fire). No air = no fire. If in the event that doesn't contain the flame, use a standard spray bottle stocked with water to control it. Besides, it is good practice to have a water bottle around the grill for general flare ups anyways. Hope this lengthy response helps. Stay hungry!

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