Cedar Plank Grilling 101

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You may have heard of Cedar Plank Grilling or “Planked Fish.” You may even have had the opportunity to enjoy a “Planked Whitefish” entrée as served in any number of restaurants in Northern Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula.

But exactly what is “Planked Grilling?” How does it all work? And finally, is it really worth all the bother?

The last answer is yes!


What Is Plank Grilling?

Planking is an old cooking tradition first used by the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. It utilizes wood planks, which are soaked then grilled with a product on top, over open flames to capture the essence of wood as a seasoning. Plank cooking is a simple and delicious way to add a wonderfully robust, woodsy flavor to meats, poultry, fish and fresh vegetables. And it’s one of the hottest methods of gourmet cooking.

How Does Plank Grilling Work?

The incredible smoky flavors of wood, such as Western Red Cedar, Hickory, Mesquite or even Oak from old wine barrels, are infused into your foods as you grill or bake them. No matter which type of wood you use for cooking your fish or meat, it will be one of the best tasting and juiciest dishes you have ever prepared. The foods on the planks retain their juices because the wood planks protect the meats and fish from the intense heat and flames and allow the meat to cook more evenly than traditional grilling. The mass of the plank absorbs the heat and acts like a baking stone that then works as a heat conductor.

There are two methods of plank cooking: grilling (roasting) and oven (roasting). Both methods offer the delicious flavor of the wood chosen.

Depending on the method chosen (grilling or oven roasting) planks can be used a second time with proper care. After their first use, clean your planks with soap and water and store them in a dry place. After the second use, consider cutting the board into smaller pieces, soaking these chips and then adding them to the grill coals or coils to add a wonderful smoke flavor to your foods.

Easy Plank Grilling

Using a plank is easy… actually, WAY easy…

Step 1: Soak the plank for at least 1 to 2 hours (more doesn’t hurt). You can soak the planks in plain water, add seasonings or wine, or soak them in brine if you like. Experimentation is all part of the fun.

Step 2: Heat the plank on the grill rack for 3 to 5 minutes or long enough for the underside of the wood to begin smoldering.

Step 3: Add your food to the plank, keeping the product safely within the perimeter of the board to prevent burning its edges.

Step 4: Close the lid to the grill and heat until the food is fully cooked.

Want to give it a try? Stop by Nino’s! We always have a good supply of Cedar Grilling Planks in our Seafood Department. And if you forget how to use them or need a recipe, don’t worry; we include all that information right on the wrapper.

Cooking Tips and Care of Your Cedar Planks

To control flame flare-ups on your planked recipes, have a spray bottle of soaking liquid available to mist your boards while cooking. This controlled cooking will ensure even charring of your board and more uniform cooking of your food.

Plank Grilling Recipes

You can simply buy a fillet of fresh fish or breast of chicken,  and with no additional preparation other than trimming it to fit the board, use it as is following the 4-step method. OR you can enjoy one of the 3 recipes we have below.

Plank Grilled Nino’s Fresh Flavor Fillets ©

Serves 1 or More

Many of Nino’s “Fresh Flavor Fillets” © are excellent choices for plank grilling. They’re pre-seasoned or marinated, and all you have to do is put them right on the plank when that time comes. Choose from:

  • Fresh Dill & Garlic Salmon
  • Maple Barbecue Salmon
  • The “Ultimate” Tilapia
  • Crab Stuffed Orange Roughy
  • Teriyaki & Pineapple Swordfish
  • Cajun Marinated Catfish

Board Soaking Solution: 1 pt White Wine or Water

Method: Follow the 4-step method above. *Cooking times will vary depending on the type of fish.

Cedar & Cider Turkey Breast

Serves 4

1-3 lb Turkey Breast, Raw
*Turkey Breast Brining Solution
2 cups Apple Cider
3 tbsp Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp Black Pepper, Cracked

Board Soaking Solution: 1 pt Apple Cider or Water

Method: Stir together apple cider, sugar, salt, thyme and pepper. Soak turkey breast 4 to 6 hours in this brine solution. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry, lightly butter and place on soaked and heated plank. Close grill and roast the breast to an internal temperature of 165 F.

*Discard brine solution after soaking turkey.

Plank Grilled Veggies

Serves 4

1 cups Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Vidalia Onion, Chopped Finely
1 tsp Fresh Garlic, Minced
3 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Black Pepper, Coarse Grind
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
4 cups total  (Broccoli, Carrot, Onion, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Cauliflower) etc.

Board Soaking Solution: 1 pt Red Wine or Water

Method: Cut veggies into large chunks. Mix together oil, vinegar and spices, and marinate veggies in that mixture for 1 to 2 hours. From there, follow the 4-step method above.

Have you tried plank grilling yet?  What were your results?