Some of you may have heard of or even seen cedar planks at the market or in specialty stores, but might not know what they are or how to use them. Most commonly, wood planks are used for cooking fish like salmon. Cooking fish on a wood plank results in tender, moist fish that is infused with a woodsy flavor. It also makes cooking fish on a grill easier, since it won’t fall apart and fall through the grates.
Types of planks. You can use any wood plank that you can find at your store, but ideally they should be about 1 inch thick and untreated. You can use a cedar plank for stronger woodsy flavor, or maple for a sweeter, more mild taste. Hickory provides a smoky flavor to your food.
Soaking. The wood plank should be soaked in water for at least 1 hour prior to grilling, to ensure the fish will cook through without the wood burning. You can also soak the plank in wine, fruit juice, tea, or any other flavorful liquid you can think of to add even more flavor to your food. You can use the soaking liquid like a marinade for the wood plank. It will soak up the flavors of whatever you use and impart them to your food. Fresh herbs, citrus, garlic, and vinegar are all good additions to your soaking liquid.
Preparing. Season your fish well with salt and pepper and place it skin-side down. Preheat the grill before placing the planks on top. You can put the fish on the plank before you put it on the grill or first heat the plank on the grill for an even smokier flavor. Toasting the plank on both sides is a good idea if it is the first time you are using it. Grease the plank with a little oil to prevent sticking. Allow the air to circulate around the plank; don’t overcrowd the grill with too many planks or other items.
Cooking. Cook the food with the grill lid closed so the smoke from the wood will fill the grill. The smoke from the wood will envelop the fish and infuse it with the smoky flavor. You can spray it with more water to keep it moist if it is not smoking enough. Run a knife under the fish and remove carefully with a spatula. A grilling plank will last about 2–3 uses. v
With Mango-Kiwi Salsa
1 large cedar plank, soaked in water for at least an hour
1 cup finely diced mango
½ cup finely diced kiwi
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 6-oz. salmon fillets, preferably wild
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Combine mango, kiwi, cilantro, olive oil, pepper, and lime juice in small bowl. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Season salmon with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place plank on grill until lightly charred on both sides and beginning to crackle, about 3 minutes on each side. Flip plank over and brush with olive oil. Place fish skin-side down on plank. Cover and grill 8–10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Top each fillet with ⅓ cup mango-kiwi salsa.
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