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Grilling planks are an excellent way to add another dimension to outdoor cooking. The indirect heat of plank grilling promotes even cooking, and virtually any kind of kind of meat, poultry, fish, or vegetable benefits from the natural wood flavors imparted by grilling planks. Western red cedar is the wood most often used, but maple, hickory, and alder are also common. If you stick to a few basic techniques, the process is simple and the results are delicious.
Prior to grilling, soak planks in a wide, shallow baking dish of warm tap water for about 15 minutes (or up to an hour in cold water). This will keep the plank from scorching during cooking; however, keep an eye on the plank to make sure one area doesn’t dry out and ignite. Use a spray bottle of water to suppress any unwanted flare ups. You can also infuse your soaking or spray water with fruit juices, salt, herbs, or white wine to intensify flavors.
Scorch one side of a plank before cooking. Then turn it over and lay your meal on the scorched side. This helps season the wood prior to cooking, minimizes warping, and imparts maximum flavor.
If the meal does not take up the entire plank, take advantage of the unused space by adding sliced or wedged vegetables alongside the protein. For a rustic presentation, serve the meal right on the plank, which can be reused a second or third time with a scrub of hot, soapy water. Then thoroughly rinse and allow to completely dry.