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The Art of Planking

There are several simple steps involved in cedar planking. Following these guidelines will ensure that your cedar grilling experience is nothing less than superb. We have broken down the sequence of events for planking a salmon fillet into the following steps.

  • Pre-soaking the Planks
  • Preparing the Planks
  • Preparing the Salmon
  • Planking the Salmon
  • Serving the Salmon

Click on any of the pictures displayed on the left to view them in more detail.

View entire slideshow.

Pre-soaking the Planks

The plank must be pre-soaked prior to direct grilling. It is recommended to soak the plank for two to six hours, but soaking overnight will ensure complete saturation.

The most common method of soaking planks is to place them in the kitchen sink and place enough weight on them to hold them completely under the water. A roasting pan makes another excellent vessel to soak a plank. A mug of water, a bottle of wine or a water-filled pot is sufficient to keep the plank submerged.

Tip: Using warm water will help initially to open the pores of the cedar and aid in the saturation process.

Tip: A 5-gallon or 25-litre pail with a lid makes an ideal container for soaking planks. Several planks may be inserted vertically into the pail, a lid with a hole drilled in it is then placed on the pail, then fill the pail outdoors with a garden hose.

Tip: Try adding white wine, beer or apple cider and fresh herbs to the soaking solution for a different flavour.

Tip: Soak your planks ahead of time and store them in a plastic bag in your freezer. When the time arrives to start a new planking experience, you can thaw the plank by soaking it in hot water for 10 minutes.

Preparing the Planks

Dry the plank and lightly coat the top surface with olive oil or vegetable oil.

Tip: Try rubbing the plank with sea salt, garlic and fresh herbs.

Tip: Try using flavoured oils on the plank.

Pre-heat the grill on high for 10 minutes with the lid closed. Adjust the grill temperatures to medium heat (350-400F / 180-200C) and pre-heat the plank by placing it on the grill for 5 minutes.

Always have a spray bottle of water on hand to extinguish any flames.

Tip: An oven thermometer may be used to achieve accurate cooking temperatures.

Preparing the Salmon

Every successful event usually requires planning and organization - cooking and barbequing should be no different. Assemble all ingredients and have all barbequing equipment at hand.

Tip: It is a good idea to wash the salmon with fresh water and pat it dry with a paper towel before placing it on the plank.

Place the salmon on the plank and add spices or sauce according to the desired recipe. Place the salmon skin side down if fillet is not skinless.

Tip: Creating a bed of orange slices or other fruits and vegetables will help to make the salmon super moist as well as enhance the flavour.

Planking the Salmon

Close the lid and cook at 350F - 400F (180C - 200C) for about 15 to 25 minutes.

Do not turn the salmon over on the plank. It will cook completely with the skin side down.

Keep the BBQ lid closed to capture the smoke and retain the heat. This is the hardest step as it is difficult to resist the urge to take a peek.

Check briefly every 5 minutes for flare-ups. If a flare-up does occur, reduce the heat and use a spray bottle of water to extinguish the flames.

Tip: If you have grilling gloves, you can lift up the burning plank and spray water directly on the bottom of the plank to extinguish the flames.

Notice in the pictures how the plank has caught fire. The flames help to get the plank smoldering to produce the sweet cedar smoke. Spray just enough water directly on the flames to extinguish them. You don't want to stop the plank from smoldering.

Everyone has different tastes when it comes to rare, medium or well done.  If you are using an instant read thermometer to check the meat for doneness, you can get a more accurate estimate of whether the salmon is cooked.

Cooking at a medium heat, the difference between rare, medium and well done is approximately 15, 20 and 25 minutes.  If you don't have an instant read thermometer, you'll want to test the fillet with a fork to determine if it has become flaky.

These cooking times are estimates and will vary with every barbeque.  In the pictures on the left you will notice that we have used several different type of grills with different types of fuels (gas, lump charcoal, briquettes) but the one thing they all have in common is that the internal temperature of the meat indicates how well it is cooked.

Tip: Use an instant-read thermometer and check the temperature by placing it in the thickest part of the fillet. Rare, medium and well done temperatures are 120, 125 and 130F (49, 52 and 55C).

Serving the Salmon

When you have determined that the salmon is ready, you have several options on how best to serve up this delectable feast.

Timing is very important with any barbequing endeavor and you should make sure your planning of other side dishes coincides with the estimated cooking times for the salmon.

If you are using a gas grill, be sure to turn it off.

Make sure the plank has been extinguished with your water sprayer and be careful around flammable objects and surfaces.  If you have grilling gloves, you may lift up the smoldering plank and spray the bottom.

Carefully transfer the salmon to a serving dish using a turner or lifter.  If it is a large fillet, it may take 2 lifters to keep the fillet intact.

Tip: Use a metal serving platter or cookie sheet and transfer the plank directly on to the platter and serve the salmon right off the plank.  It's almost a sure bet that the conversation around the dinner table will revolve around the concept of cooking on cedar planks.

Some Additional Thoughts on Planking

We hope that this has helped to take the mystery out of how to cook salmon on a cedar plank. Every salmon lover we have met over the past few years has expressed a positive, if not passionate opinion that the taste and experience of a cedar grilled salmon dinner is second to none.

Cooking on cedar planks is not restricted to salmon or fish.  We have constantly been working on perfecting recipes that incorporate planking other types of meats, appetizers and desserts.  Be sure to check our recipe pages for some terrific ideas.

Recipes that call for indirect heating allow the plank to be reused several times. Be sure to clean and sanitize the planks between uses.

Cooking on a plank is so incredibly simple and the results are so incredibly moist and delicious, you can't help but have the greatest of entertainment experiences.

Some Additional Thoughts on Safety

Remember to always exercise caution when barbequing and respect the fact that you are cooking with fire. Never place a smoldering plank directly on a flammable surface.

Please make sure the plank is completely extinguished before you discard it. Submerging the plank in a pail of water will do the trick.  Some people like to break the planks into smaller pieces and use them as wood chips in their smoking pans or directly in  their charcoal BBQ.

If a plank has not become overly charred, or was used in a recipe that called for indirect heating, it may be re-used - but should be cleaned and sanitized first.  You can place the plank in the dishwasher. Remember you don't need to add dishwasher soap as it may yield an unpleasant flavour.

If you are going to use gloves or mitts, be sure that they are designed for the purpose you are using them for. We recommend using high-temperature leather grilling gloves that are designed to withstand brief encounters with the high temperatures that are associated with grilling.


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