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La Jolla Mom

Beginner’s Guide to Plank Grilling on the Barbecue

BY La Jolla Mom

It’s been an incredibly busy summer to date and we’ve often relied on plank grilling as a convenient and easy way to prepare quick meals. It turns out you can plank grill almost anything from peaches to prime cuts of meat while minimizing mess on built-in barbecues that can otherwise be a hassle to clean. You can leave food on planks instead of transferring to platters for serving and the smoke adds a touch of flavor.

Here, I highlight what we’ve learned and a few easy ways to plank grill easy brie, salmon and vegetables worthy of a dinner party.

What Is Plank Grilling?

Plank grilling is a technique pioneered by Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest who used it as an easy way to cook fish, other meats and vegetables. Basically, food is placed on a wood plank that has been soaked in water (to prevent burning) and placed on an open flame. Flavor from the wood subtly transfers to the food, providing hints of spice and smoke that pair well with wine.

Types of Wood to Use

The type of plank chosen depends on availability and the depth of flavor you’d like.

  • Western red cedar is by far the most popular plank as it adds a mild sweet and smoky flavor to food.
  • Alder gives off a stronger flavor with hints of vanilla.
  • Maple, pecan and apple are medium woods that do well with chicken and pork.
  • Oak and hickory lend more flavor to heartier meats like beef and lamb.

A good all-purpose choice is definitely a Western red cedar plank and we’ve had good luck using (affiliate link) these from Amazon. Planks range in shapes and sizes, but they can be between 5″ and 7″ wide which may be narrower than some steaks. Make sure your meat will fit. You can buy oval shapes and square planks made specifically for cheese (yes, cheese… see below).

You can cut your own planks but it is incredibly important not to use wood that has been treated with chemicals as you don’t want them leaching into your food.

Prepping BBQ Planks

Soak the wood at least an hour in advance of grilling to prevent it from burning. Some people get a little fancy here by adding tea, juice, wine or other flavors to the water. Then, place the plank on the grill a few minutes on each side to season the plank which also prevent warping. You’ll likely hear it pop or crack and that’s normal. Then, it’s ready for food.

Grilling salmon on a cedar plank is easy.

I keep everything outside waiting so that I can just slip it on the planks after they’re seasoned.

Safety Precautions

Keep a bottle of water near the barbecue when plank grilling in order to extinguish the plank should the edges catch on fire. It is a good idea to stay near the barbecue when planks are on it in case of fire. I find this an excellent time to pour a glass of wine and enjoy our view (with one diligent eye on the BBQ).

Easy plank grilling recipes paired with wine

Plank Grilled Brie Cheese Recipe

Yes, you can and should put brie on a cedar plank and grill it. This is a very easy appetizer. Truthfully, a not-too-sweet raspberry jam and wheel of brie will do if you don’t feel like whipping up this housemade jam (which is very easy anyway). Or, use a chutney or whatever you like on the brie.

A delicious recipe for brie cheese grilled on a cedar plank.

Plank Grilled Brie Cheese with Homemade Raspberry Jam

Plank Grilled Brie Cheese with Homemade Raspberry Jam

Ingredients

  • Round of brie cheese
  • 1 package of raspberries
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • wood barbecue pank

Instructions

  1. Place raspberries, brown sugar and red wine vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until thickened.
  2. Soak wood barbecue plank for at least an hour. Cook it for a few minutes on each side (or according to package instructions).
  3. Place brie round on one side of the wood plank. Cover the top of the brie with the raspberry mixture and reserve the rest.
  4. Cook brie on barbecue for about 15-20 minutes. Remove if cheese begins to leak substantially out of the round.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve.

Notes

Raspberry jam can be substituted for the raspberry, brown sugar and red wine vinegar mixture.

The raspberry jam will harden a little on top of the brie and take on a smoky flavor after being grilled. It’s delicious.

A good rule of thumb is that cheeses with rinds pair well with white wines like Chardonnay. Wine should always be sweeter with the cheese. Grilled brie on a plank has a slight, slight element of smoke to it. If you must drink red, Merlot is a good choice, like the Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2013.

How to Grill Salmon on a Cedar Plank

Learn the basics of plank grilling, a shockingly easy way to barbecue anything from salmon to brie.

The most commonly plank grilled meat on the barbecue is probably salmon likely because the spice from the wood compliments the flavor of the salmon well.

We find that this is by far the easiest way to cook salmon because all we do is prep the plank, turn on the gas barbecue, put the salmon on and serve it on the plank with minimal mess.

Prepping the salmon itself simply requires lemon slices, a little dill and some salt or Old Bay for flavor. That’s really it. We strongly prefer wild caught salmon.

Chardonnay is my wine of choice for barbecued seafood and the Sterling Vintner’s Collection 2014 is a really affordable choice that tastes lightly oaked and fruit-forward.

Plank Grilling Vegetables

I don’t have a photo because my family eats these off of the plank so quickly. Slice 2 lbs of young carrots carrots (if you can mix purple, white and orange together, all the better) lengthwise and put them in a zippered plastic bag with:

  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional fresh herbs

Lay them flat side down so they don’t roll on a plank (we have even roasted them in foil) and place the plank on the barbecue for about 20 minutes or until they’re tender.

You can really use any mixture of vegetables you like, but we happen to think it works well with asparagus, carrots and zucchini.

Reusing Barbecue Planks

The rule of thumb is that if the plank still has wood left on it, you can reuse it, but it’s likely you’ll get 2-3 uses out of a plank. Scrape off food excess with water (do not use soap). To prevent mildew it’s typically suggested that you dry them in the oven but we’ve had good luck air drying them next to an open window in Southern California sunshine.

What foods do you grill on wood planks? And, what wines do you pair with them?

I am working in partnership with Sterling Wines and I am being compensated for my participation in this campaign. All thoughts/opinions are 100% my own. Wine is intended for those whom alcohol is legal and appropriate. Please drink responsibly! Read more about my visit to Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley and awesome tips for traveling with wine.

Learn the basics of plank grilling on the barbecue along with easy recipes for salmon, brie (!!!) and vegetables.
A delicious recipe for brie cheese grilled on a cedar plank.

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