When people think barbeque, the foods that immediately pop into their heads include ribs, chicken, maybe hamburgers and hot dogs. While some people grill seafood, such as shrimp, the delicate nature of fish filets makes them harder to deal with on a barbeque grill. However, one of the latest trends in barbequing is plank grilled fish. Grilling fish, or other items, on a wooden plank, imparts a smoky flavor to the food while also providing a stable surface for the fish to rest on as it cooks. Although this produces a delicious and restaurant-worthy dish, the techniques are simple and easy to replicate at home.
The fish that is most frequently paired with plank grilling is salmon. Other firm-fleshed fish, such as arctic char or trout, also produce excellent results with plank grilling.
The wood typically used for plank grilling is cedar. Other delicious options include alder, hickory, or maple. The most important thing is that you get a piece of wood that is untreated. Otherwise, you will be leaching chemicals into your food. Suitable pieces can be purchased online or at gourmet food stores. Once you have the plank, you must soak it in water for one hour. This adds moisture to the wood to prevent burning and helps keep your fish moist and tender. You may add salt, wine, or fruit juices to the soaking liquid to enhance the wood’s natural aroma and further flavor your fish.
If your plank has never been used before, pre-treat it by heating each side over a hot grill for one minute. The wood should be lightly toasted, which will enhance the smoky flavor. When your plank has been thoroughly prepared, place your marinated fish directly on the plank. Although it is tempting to peak at the food inside, try to keep the grill closed as much as possible to contain the smoke and maintain an even temperature. Because the fish is being cooked without direct contact with the heat source, it does not need to be turned during grilling. You should expect plank-grilled foods to take about twice as long to cook as those cooked directly on the grates. Expect smoldering and smoking around the plank, this is what contributes to the delicious smoky flavor. However, it is a good idea to have a spray bottle of water handy to put out any small fires.
After grilling is complete, remove the plank from the grill to soak in a bucket of water. The plank can be washed with soap and water and left to dry. If there is enough wood for a piece of food to sit on the plank, it can be re-used. Simply re-soak and follow the directions above. Typically, planks can be used up to 2-3 times. When they can no longer be used for plank grilling, don’t throw them in the trash. Instead, break them into pieces to throw into the bottom of your charcoal grill. Here, they will provide lovely smoky flavor to whatever food you are cooking.
While plank grilling was developed for fish, any food that can be grilled can be cooked on a plank. Simply place the marinated beef roasts, chicken, vegetables, or seafood directly on the plank and follow the directions listed above for fish.
Although plank grilling produces delicious fish with a beautiful texture and wonderful smoky flavor, the techniques are rather simple. This is a wonderful trick to have in your barbeque arsenal and always leads to impressed guests.