I recently got an e-mail from Coley asking about cooking salmon on cedar planks and adding, “I’ve researched it enough to know there is more than one type of cedar and that means different flavor to the food. Also, there was enough information available I’m confused. Could you point me in the right direction?” There IS a lot of information available on line as well as a lot of products for sale. Roasting or grilling on a wooden plank keeps foods moist, avoids having to turn the food (which is especially a problem when grilling fish), adds a smoky flavor, and provides an interesting serving plate or platter liner when placed on a larger heat-proof plate. Cooking fish on cedar is the best known combination but any meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetable that you would roast or grill can be roasted or grilled on cedar, alder, maple, hickory, pecan, oak, cherry, or apple wood planks. Cooking planks are available in a variety of sizes small enough for individual servings or large enough for a family meal. Cedar is also available in thin sheets that, once soaked in water, are flexible enough to be wrapped around foods. How do you decide? Each of the woods provides a slightly different flavor in addition to smokiness and the best way to make that decision is to start with the most easily available and gradually try others to see what you like best. Do select organic or all-natural cooking planks from sustainable American forests and buy them from a source that you trust. One of my favorite sources is Elizabeth Karmel’s Grill Friends collection which includes a variety of sizes and styles. They are available on line here
. Do not buy wood from a lumber yard and cut it yourself as wood that is intended for home construction has often been treated with chemicals to make it fire or insect resistant. Planks must be soaked before being used and fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, herb-infused water may be substituted for plain water for added flavor. If you want to use the planks more than once, follow the cleaning instructions on the package. They need to be thoroughly cleaned without using soap as that could affect the flavor of the food the next time you use them. A much better idea is to break used planks into pieces and add them to the fire when grilling or smoking.