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Plank Cooking
Picking a Plank

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When Curtis got to the Beach, he asked me if I had any cedar wood. Not having any, we decided we would check out some of the local lumberyards. The first one wanted a dollar a lineal foot; the second wanted sixty-seven cents a foot. We grabbed a nice eight-foot piece and headed home.

It was still before noon, but he wanted to get the planks cut and in the water as soon as possible.

Curtis marked the board at 12-inch intervals and cut eight planks from the piece we bought. The pictures on the right show him hard at work.

Picking a Plank

A local lumberyard will most likely have what you need for plank cooking (but expect strange looks when they find out what it's for). Here are some things to ask for when it comes to different wood types and specifications for the planks.

Wood Type: Cedar put plank cooking on the culinary map. Native Americans used western cedar, and I recommend it when getting started in plank cooking -- its flavor and aroma are distinct. But not all cedar is alike. Eastern cedar is strong-smelling, and even though cedar roofing shingles look like they'd work well, they're tapered and are often chemically treated.

Cedar isn't the only wood that can be used for plank cooking -- any traditional smoking wood, like cherry, apple, oat, maple, and hickory work very well too. Each one has its own nuances that enhance the flavor of foods. But avoid any woods that are soft (poplar and birch) or resinous (pine and fir).

Specifications: The next step in plank picking is seeing that they meet certain specifications. First, make sure the wood is "construction grade" and has not been treated (Meaning it hasn't been sprayed to be fire retardant or insect repellent).

Next, be detailed on measurements -- the planks will probably need to be cut down from larger boards (ask them to do this at the lumberyard). They should be at least 1/2-inch thick but no more than an inch -- 5/8-inch is ideal. Thinner planks may warp on the grill; thicker ones take too long to soak and are too heavy to maneuver safely. Then have the board trimmed into planks 6 inches wide and to 12 inches long. They'll fit on standard gas and charcoal grills, be big enough for two servings, and be easy to handle.

But for an easy way around the technical stuff, there are grilling planks on the market -- convenient, easy to use, and a great deal. You can order cedar planks from the website, Plank Cooking. They are inexpensive and the perfect size for one or two servings.


Plank Cooking Table of Contents

Picking a Plank
Plank FAQs
The Brine
Cooking on Wood
Plank-Cooked Chicken
Plank-Cooked Brie

Marking the cedar lumber at 12-inch intervals

Marking the Board

The cedar board marked at 12-inch intervals

Marked Board in 12-inch Increments

Curtis sawing the cedar board with my cordless trim saw.

Cutting the Board

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