Essential Secrets to Cedar Plank Grilling

A few years ago, high-end cooking shops and fancy-shmancy catalogues began selling cedar planks, wooden boards that impart a smoky flavor to grilled foods. Though they were marketed as a new must-have summer cooking accessory, I managed to avoid them much as I avoid other so-called must-have items I truly don’t need at all. Plus, what’s so new about wood, other than their mark-up?

But I finally changed my tune, and recently gave the planks a try. For delicate foods like poultry, vegetables, and fish (salmon, in particular), the planks impart a subtle smokiness and helps grilled foods stay moist.

Here’s what you need to know about cooking with cedar planks:

  1. Soak. Because the planks are made of wood, you must pre-soak them prior to grilling. Follow the instructions on the packaging, but count on a soak of at least an hour, maybe more.
  2. Char. Char the planks first, then flip them, move them to indirect heat, and place your food on top.
  3. Spray. If necessary, keep a spray bottle of water nearby to tame any minor flare-ups.
  4. Be frugal. Look for grill-ready planks in the hardware store, where they tend to be less expensive than those in kitchenware shops. (Just make sure you purchase planks that are intended for cooking.)
  5. Experiment. If you like the cedar planks, experiment with other wood varieties specifically made for the grill, including maple and hickory. My local grocery store even sells cedar planks infused with wine.

Have you tried grilling with a cedar plank? Chime in below!

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Cheryl Sternman Rule is a widely-published food writer and the voice behind the blog 5 Second Rule. Read all of Cheryl's iVillage posts here.

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