‘Planking’ is the practice of grilling or cooking food (usually meat) on a piece of raw, natural, non-treated hardwood or grill planks. It’s said to stem from a Native American technique in which salmon were cooked very slowly while attached to makeshift wooden boards, though it has become very popular with modern grill-masters and culinary experts who like to ‘dabble’ in the exotic.
What types of wood should you use while planking?
Of course, choosing the right type of wood is very important. Different varieties impart different types of flavor to the food. With a bit of practice, one can quickly figure out what types of wood they prefer, though there are a few ‘standards’ that have come to be very popular.
Cedar is one of the most commonly used types of wood for planking. It imparts a gentler flavor, which is why it is usually paired with poultry or seafood. Many experienced grill-masters swear by cedar grill planks as the best choice for fish. (Tip: Use a cedar plank to grill salmon with sliced lemons on the side to create a dish that anyone will love.)
Maple will impart a sturdier flavor that many describe as ‘rich and nutty’. It is more commonly used with meats that are heavier than fish. Some like to use it with poultry (especially chicken), though it is also very popular for use with pork. (Tip: You can sear pork chops right on the grill before moving them to the plank. This helps to give them more of an open-flame taste.)
Alder is usually described as ‘gentle and mild’. It is most commonly used for fish and poultry. This would likely be a popular choice for grill-masters wishing to avoid the more ‘distinctive’ flavor of cedar. (Tip: You can re-use planks—but make sure not to wash them with soap, as it can soak into the wood!)
Cherry wood is a fantastic fit for gamier meats, such as beef or venison—though it is also very popular for use with some types of fish (especially salmon). Some grill-experts say that black cherry grill planks are an excellent choice for vegetables as well. (Tip: Try warming some peaches on a slab of cherry wood and serving them with ice-cream for dessert!)