The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

Grate Foods - Part 4 - Cedar Planked Grilling

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This 4 part blog entry on Grate Foods will conclude with Cedar Planked Grilling. Many people think of salmon or fish when they think of cedar planked grilling, but it can be used with almost any type of food. Thus far I’ve plank grilled salmon, chicken thighs and meatloaf. The big picture definition of the process is a flat cedar plank is soaked in water for a minimum of an hour. The plank is then preheated on the grill for about 10 minutes until it is beginning to smolder. The food is then placed on top of the plank and is basically indirect grilled with smoke while sitting on top of the plank. The cedar smoke imparts a wonderful flavor to the food. The cedar plank serves a multitude of purposes. First it serves as a “pan” to cook the food on and protect it from the harsh direct heat of the grill. Next it imparts a great smoke flavor to the food. Lastly it serves as an interesting serving platter when the food is cooked.


My first attempt at plank grilling was cedar planked salmon. It was even better than I expected.

While this all sounds easy, as I found out: It is not without peril. Soaking the plank long enough is key. The longer you are going to cook the food for, the longer you need to soak the plank. I had originally intended that a CEDAR PLANKED SALMON was to be my first fish dish on my 6 burner gas grill. That wasn’t to be. When I got around to finally making it, I wished I hadn’t waited so long to get around to it. The plank was soaked for an hour and in the meantime the salmon was soaking in a spicy marinade. The gas grill was preheated to high and the plank was placed on the grill for about 10 minutes until it just began to smoke. The cedar was removed from the marinade which was reserved and boiled for several minutes. The cedar went onto the now smoldering plank and was cooked for about 25 minutes. The cedar was brought inside and was served on the plank together with the reserved marinade. The cedar planked salmon was a revelation. It was moist which I’m sure was due to both the marinade and the indirect grilling on the plank. Some of the moistness from the plank was imparted to the fish and the plank protected the fish from direct exposure to the high heat. The fish had a wonderful cedar smoke flavor which really complimented the taste of the salmon.


After years of saying I wanted to try cedar plank grilling I made my second dish, Cedar Planked Chicken Thighs, the next day.

The next planked item I tried was CEDAR PLANKED CHICKEN THIGHS. This was a recipe I found while looking for the recipe for the CEDAR PLANKED SALMON. It looked so good I grabbed the chicken thighs while I was buying the fish. Like the salmon, the chicken received a marinade which was reserved and boiled for future use. In this case the marinade was reused to brush on the chicken while it was grilling. While the chicken was in the marinade, the cedar plank was soaking not in water but in beer. The plank was preheated over medium heat until the first side was smoldering. The plank was flipped to charred side up and the chicken thighs were placed on the plank. The chicken was cooked for the first 10 minutes with the burners still on under the plank. After that the burners under the plank were turned off and the burners to either side of the plank remained on. The chicken was cooked for an additional 30 minutes using indirect medium heat. The marinade was now used as a glaze which was brushed onto the chicken 3 times during the last 15 minutes of cooking. The chicken was even better than the CEDAR PLANKED SALMON and the marinade/glaze had given it a great Asian influenced flavor. I liked it so much I was determined to make it on the weekend for my parents to try. This was when I found out that cedar planked grilling wasn’t quite as easy as it looked.


The key to success cedar plank grilling is to make sure the wood is soaked long enough to suit the grilling time & to warm it up for the right amount of time & at the right temperature.

I wrote a blog entry (UP IN FLAMES) about the experience so I will just summarize what happened here. If you are interested in more details you can follow the link for the other blog entry. Actually the blog title UP IN FLAMES pretty much nails it. It was three things happening at once. First the air temperature was about 20 degrees (11 C) warmer on the day I made my second attempt at the CEDAR PLANKED CHICKEN THIGHS. I didn’t compensate for this when setting the burners and the grill was considerable hotter than it should have been. Lastly I got distracted and didn’t get back out to the grill until 10 minutes had elapsed. This time had been fine when the grill and air temps were lower, but on this day the plank went up in flames while I was starting to add the chicken to the plank. It could have been a lot worse, since I was able to save the food. The plank was toast and I had to delay dinner for an hour while I soaked another plank. The second try at the chicken came out fine, but from this point on I would not take things for granted while plank grilling.


Cedar Planked meatloaf was one of the best meatloaves I’ve ever had.

Shortly after this I piked up a cookbook devoted just to cedar plank grilling called logically enough: The Plank Grilling Cookbook. They went into great detail about the proper techniques and also mentioned it is easy to end up with a plank up in flames if you don’t do things just right. The right time and temperature while preheating the plank was one of the keys, as I discovered myself. Another important thing was the amount of time you soaked the plank for. One hour was about the shortest you should use. On the long end you could use up to 24 hours for items that spend a long time grilling. The meatloaf I made certainly qualified as a long cook at 90 minutes. I was a bit worried because instead of turning off the burners under the plank, you kept them on for the entire time. I kept an eye on things and stayed out at the grill the whole time. As it turned out I think the plank was about ready to combust if it had remained out at the grill much longer. After the plank was soaked for 8 hours and preheated on both sides, the meatloaf went on. This was actually the hardest part of the process, but a fish spatula certainly helped. I had some issues with grease, but the bottom line was after 90 minutes I had a great meatloaf on my hands. Once again, this is another case where I’ve already written the blog entry: PLANK GRILLED MEATLOAF about this cook. For more detail you can refer to that entry. Let me just say here that this was one of the best meatloaves I’ve ever had.

If you haven’t tried plank grilling you should give it a whirl. You will be in for a great, or if you go by the bad pun in the title grate, treat. Make sure to soak the plank long enough and carefully follow the grilling directions. Don’t use too much heat and you probably should remain out by the grill at all times. Before I scare you off, let me also add this is good advice for most anything you make on the grill. Plank grilling is easy to do and the results have been constantly great. Can’t ask for more than that!




  UP IN FLAMES -2009 Blog Entry


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