What Is “planking” In Grilling?

Picture this: the grill is sizzling, the aroma of perfectly seasoned meat fills the air, and you’re ready to take your grilling game to the next level. But have you ever heard of “planking” in grilling? If not, don’t worry, because we’re here to give you the inside scoop. “Planking” in grilling refers to the method of cooking food on a wooden plank, typically cedar, which infuses a smoky and aromatic flavor into your dishes. It’s a technique that has been used for centuries and is now making a mighty comeback in the world of grilling. Get ready to discover the secrets of “planking” and elevate your grilling experience like never before.

What is “planking” in grilling?

Planking in grilling refers to the technique of cooking food on a wooden plank over an open flame or grill. This method adds a unique smoky flavor to the food while also helping to retain its natural juices. It has gained popularity in recent years, and many grill enthusiasts and professional chefs alike have adopted planking as a preferred method of cooking.

Definition of Planking

Planking involves placing a piece of food, such as fish, chicken, or vegetables, onto a soaked wooden plank, which is then placed directly on the grill or fire. As the plank heats up, it releases moisture, which infuses the food with flavor and helps to keep it moist during the cooking process. The food is cooked slowly and gently, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish.

History of Planking

The technique of planking can be traced back to indigenous cultures in North America, specifically the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Native Americans and First Nations people used wooden planks to cook their food over open fires, particularly fish. By cooking the fish on planks, they were able to enhance the natural flavors and preserve the delicate texture of the fish.

Planking later gained recognition in the culinary world in the 1980s when it was popularized by chefs in the Pacific Northwest. They introduced planking as a way to infuse smoky flavors into dishes while creating an impressive presentation for their guests. Since then, planking has become a beloved cooking method for grilling enthusiasts and has expanded to include a variety of food options.

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Types of Wood for Planking

When it comes to planking, choosing the right type of wood is essential as it contributes to the flavor profile of the dish. Certain woods, such as cedar, alder, oak, maple, and hickory, are commonly used because they impart a sweet and smoky taste to the food. Cedar is a popular choice for planking salmon due to its aromatic and slightly sweet flavor, while alder wood is commonly used for seafood and vegetables.

It is important to ensure that the wood used for planking is untreated and free from chemicals or contaminants. Using untreated wood guarantees that no harmful substances will transfer onto the food during the cooking process.

Benefits of Planking

Planking offers several benefits that make it an appealing cooking technique for grilling enthusiasts. Firstly, it enhances the flavor of the food by infusing it with the unique smoky taste of the wood. This additional layer of flavor elevates the overall dining experience and can impress guests with delicious and succulent dishes.

Secondly, planking helps to retain the natural juices and moisture of the food, preventing it from drying out during the cooking process. This is especially beneficial when cooking leaner meats or delicate seafood, ensuring a juicy and moist end result.

Additionally, planking is a versatile technique that can be used with a wide range of foods, including fish, poultry, vegetables, and even fruits. The smoky flavors from the wood can complement various types of cuisine and add a new dimension to familiar dishes.

Equipment Needed for Planking

Planking requires minimal equipment, making it accessible to both beginner and experienced grillers. The main items you will need are wooden planks, which can be purchased at most hardware stores or specialty cooking stores. Ensure that the planks are untreated and of appropriate thickness, typically around 1 inch.

You will also need a grill or an open fire, as planking is a direct cooking method that involves placing the planks directly over heat. It is important to have a consistent heat source to ensure even cooking of the food.

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If you prefer to soak the planks before cooking, you will need a container or a sink large enough to submerge the planks completely in water. Soaking the planks helps to prevent them from catching fire during the grilling process.

Preparing the Plank

Before using the wooden plank for cooking, it is crucial to prepare it properly to ensure the best results. Start by soaking the plank in water for at least 1-2 hours, or ideally overnight. This step helps to prevent the plank from burning or catching fire while on the grill.

After soaking, remove the plank from the water and pat it dry with a cloth or paper towel. This helps to eliminate excess moisture that may affect the cooking process. It is important to note that soaked planks will steam during cooking, which aids in the flavor infusion.

Preparing the Food

To prepare the food for planking, ensure that it is fresh and seasoned to your preference. Marinating the food before cooking can enhance the flavors and add an extra layer of complexity. For example, marinating salmon in a citrus-infused marinade can complement the smoky flavors imparted by the cedar plank.

As planking is a slow and gentle cooking method, it is important to ensure that the food is cut into appropriate sizes to facilitate even cooking. This is especially important for meats and fish to ensure that they reach the desired level of doneness without overcooking.

Planking Techniques

There are a few different planking techniques that can be used depending on personal preference and the type of food being cooked. The most common technique involves placing the prepared food directly onto the soaked wooden plank, which is then placed on the grill or fire.

Alternatively, some grillers prefer to use double planking, where an additional plank is placed on top of the food to create a “lid.” This technique can help to trap the steam and smoke, further enhancing the flavors and ensuring that the food remains moist.

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Another technique is to plank-roast, which involves cooking the food indirectly on the grill with the plank acting as a buffer between the heat source and the food. This method is popular for larger cuts of meat or when a longer cooking time is required.

Tips for Successful Planking

To ensure a successful planking experience, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Choose the right type of wood for the desired flavor profile.
  2. Soak the planks in water for an adequate amount of time to prevent burning.
  3. Preheat the grill before placing the soaked planks on it.
  4. Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby to extinguish any flair-ups.
  5. Monitor the cooking process carefully, ensuring that the plank does not catch fire.
  6. Experiment with different marinades, seasonings, and toppings to enhance the flavors.
  7. Allow the food to rest for a few minutes after removing it from the plank to allow the flavors to redistribute.

Popular Foods for Planking

While planking can be used with various types of food, there are certain dishes that are particularly well-suited for this cooking technique. Salmon is perhaps the most popular food for planking due to its delicate flavor and ability to withstand the smoky infusion from the wood.

Other seafood options, such as trout, shrimp, and scallops, can also be successfully cooked on planks. The smoky flavors pair well with the natural sweetness of these seafood items.

For meat lovers, planking offers a unique way to cook cuts like pork tenderloin, chicken breasts, and even steak. The slow cooking process contributes to tender and juicy meat, with the added benefit of a smoky flavor.

Vegetables, such as asparagus, zucchini, or bell peppers, can also be plated on wooden planks to add a smoky twist to vegetarian dishes or as a flavorful side dish.

In conclusion, planking is a fantastic and flavorful method of cooking that adds a smoky twist to a variety of foods. Whether grilling for a crowd or simply looking to elevate your grilling game, planking is a versatile and impressive cooking technique to explore. Soak those planks, fire up the grill, and get ready to enjoy delicious, smoky creations that will leave your taste buds satisfied.