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TIP OF THE DAY: Grilling On Planks

Salmon on a cedar plank. Planks available


Are you a convert to plank grilling yet?

Grilling on planks of wood boosts the flavor of grilled fish, meats and vegetables by infusing them with subtle, smoky flavors.

The Haida natives of the Pacific Northwest are the earliest known people to have used plank grilling, using wood planks to cook the plentiful local salmon over fire.

Untreated wood planks—typically alder, cedar, hickory, maple, mesquite and oak—are are popular and the planks can be reused. The planks can also be used in the oven. (NOTE: be absolutely sure the planks are untreated; otherwise, they are treated with harmful chemical preservatives for non-culinary uses.)

Prepare the food as you normally wood—marinating it, for example—prior to plank grilling.

While planks often come with instructions to use only once, that’s just the manufacturer trying to get you to buy more planks. You can actually reuse grilling planks two or three times, or until there’s enough plank left upon which to place food. (Only enough wood left to hold one burger? Use it and compare the flavor to the non-planked burgers.)

After that, crumble up what’s left of the charred planks and place the “chips” over the coals for another session of grilling.

Here are plank grilling tips and a planked grilled salmon recipe from Grand Lux Cafe, which has locations in Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Texas.


  • PICK up a grilling plank from your grocer, culinary specialty store (such as Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma) or online.
  • SOAK the plank for at least one hour prior to using, to add moisture to the wood and prevent it from burning on the grill. Add a tablespoon of salt or a cup of apple juice, citrus juice or white wine, plus optional garlic or onion, to the soaking water. It will accent the wood aromas.
  • SEASON planks that you are using for the first time by placing them on a preheated grill for 2 minutes, turning once. Lightly toasting a plank on both sides will intensify its smoky flavor and prevent warping. When the plank starts crackling, it’s ready for cooking.
  • PLACE marinated or ready-to-cook foods directly on the plank. Keep the grill lid closed as much as possible to maintain temperatures and maximize the smoke infusion.
  • DON’T flip: Planked food does not have to be turned during grilling.
  • KEEP a spray bottle of water handy if the edges of the plank catch fire. Just lightly spray the area.
  • REUSE: After cooking, the edges of the plank will be charred, brittle, and smoldering. Use oven mitts and a spatula to transfer the empty plank onto a cookie sheet, a fireproof serving platter or a container of water. Clean it with soap and water and let it dry for another use.
  • EXPERIMENT next time. While cedar is the fail-safe standard, you can experiment pairing different types of wood and foods. Maple and pork work well together (maple also works with salmon).


    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 cedar plank, any size larger than the fish
  • 10-12 ounces salmon filet, bones and skin removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • Citrus juice, herbs and olive oil for seasoning, or 1/2 cup chipotle-honey BBQ sauce or other flavor

    1. SOAK the cedar planks in water for a minimum of 30 minutes before using.


    Cedar planks. Photo courtesy All-State Forest Products.


    2. PREHEAT the grill to medium high heat (approximately 400°F or grey coals if using charcoal). Place the cedar plank onto the grill for 2-3 minutes or until it begins to smoke and becomes slightly darker in color. Remove the plank from the grill.

    3. SPREAD 2 tablespoons of the barbecue sauce on the center of the cedar plank. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.

    4. PLACE the salmon onto the cedar plank and set it onto the grill. Place a lid over the fish or close the cover over the grill and allow the fish to cook for 2 minutes.

    5. BASTE the fish three times: Lift the lid and baste the salmon with a little of the sauce; close the lid and cook for 2 more minutes. Repeat two more times. Then continue to cook for another 2 minutes or until the fish is done. When cooked correctly, the fish will be extremely moist, with a deep, rich sheen across the surface.


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