When they hear the word “plank,” many people immediately think of pirates—and an untimely demise.
But chefs have long been fans of planking, a grilling method first embraced by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Not surprisingly, they planked the region’s bountiful fish and seafood, creating a barbecue trend that’s experiencing a resurgence today.
As the name implies, fish fillets and shellfish are placed on a wet, aromatic wooden plank, which flavors the food.
You can purchase precut planks at barbecue and grill shops, supermarkets, some natural and organic food stores, and online. Read labels carefully to ensure you’re buying organic planks, such as Elizabeth Karmel’s Grill Friends Organic Cedar Grilling Planks, made from organic American wood that comes from sustainable forests.
Another source for planks is your local lumberyard; just be sure to buy untreated hardwood lumber (again, preferably organic).
The best wood choices for planking are cedar, alder and oak. Hickory and maple also work well. Do not use pine or other soft woods, as they are too resinous.
Before grilling, presoak the plank in water for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Pat planks dry with paper towels, and spray-coat or lightly oil one side. (You’ll place seafood on the oiled side.)
Season fillets or seafood lightly with an herb blend, such as Taj Rub, or simply use salt and pepper. Go easy, as you don't want to overpower the flavor imbued by the plank.
Preheat one side of the grill to medium-high, and place the planked seafood on the indirect (nonheated) side. Close the lid, and turn down the heat to medium. After 10 minutes, check fish and seafood frequently for doneness.
Be advised: Seafood changes from translucent to opaque as it cooks, and it will continue to cook after it is removed from the heat. Cook just until opaque throughout.
If you’re grilling fish without a plank, follow the tips provided in Fish on the Barbie.
For Your Organic Bookshelf:The Plank Grilling Cookbook: Infuse Food with More Flavor Using Wood Planks
Tips courtesy of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute