How to Cook on a Wood Plank

July 10, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: All you need to achieve tender, smoky fish is a wood plank.

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We've been helping you to whittle down your list of foods you never dreamed of making at home. Decadent pork belly? You can make it. Eggs sous vide? You can make those, too. Now it's time to take to the seas and cross another restaurant-only food off your list: plank-smoked fish.

Cooking fish on a wood plank will leave you with tender, moist fish fillets infused with woodsy flavor. Plus, a plank provides a stable surface to cook on, which makes grilling delicate fillets less nerve-wracking.

You can buy wood planks at a grocery store with a well-stocked grilling section or at a local hardware store. Look for planks that are about 1-inch thick and have not been chemically treated. The type of wood is up to you: while cedar provides the most intense, aromatic flavor, you might opt for maple if you want a sweeter, milder fish or hickory if you'd like something stronger and smokier.

Soak the wooden planks for at least 2 hours before putting them on the grill. This ensures that the fish has time to cook completely without the wood burning. (You can even weigh down the planks to make sure they're good and submerged!)

Get creative with the soaking liquid. You can use wine, fruit juice, cider, sake, tea, or even flavored liqueur. Experiment with adding fresh herbs, spices, citrus slices, salt, and vinegar. The wood will soak up all these flavors and transfer them to your fillets.

Prepare your fish to walk the plank by seasoning it with salt and pepper and placing it skin-side down on the wooden plank. Heat your grill to medium heat (350º F).

Place your fish-topped planks on the grill. (For an even smokier flavor, place the planks directly on the preheated grill for a couple of minutes. When they start to crackle, lay the fish on top.) If you're using multiple planks, make sure each one is in full contact with the grill and plenty of breathing room so that air and heat can circulate.

Close the lid for 12 to 15 minutes to allow the smoke from the wood to fill the grill. You might want to have spray bottle at hand in case anything suspicious happens, but keep in mind that your wood should smolder.

Your fish is finished when it's no longer translucent in the center. To remove the fillet from the plank, run a knife between the flesh and the skin. Scrub the skin from the plank, allow it to air dry, and then reuse it the next time you're craving smoky, perfectly-cooked fish. It will most likely be soon after.

What do you like to cook on a wood plank? Let us know in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Equator180
  • Lori
  • Americanweekends
  • Foodiewithalife
  • Triantafyllos
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Equator180 August 17, 2013
I see why you printed this article you are selling the planks! Please check what experienced people who have planked for some time are telling you...these cross-cut slabs of wood with the bark on are NOT the right way to go! Dense end grain is the ideal thing for butcher-block cutting boards but rough cut slabs of this species of wood are going to suck up the oils and grease and will create problems, for planking any food you use a plank with the grain parallel to the item being planked, a board in common language, not the leftover from your xmas tree.
Lori August 16, 2013
I've used cedar planks for grilled salmon several times. You simply can't beat the flavor and aroma.
Americanweekends August 16, 2013
Has anyone tried this with vegetables or alternative proteins??
Foodiewithalife July 18, 2013
1) Great picture! 2) I was given some cedar wraps - has anyone ever used these? I haven't experimented yet.

Triantafyllos July 18, 2013
Giggles July 18, 2013
I totally agree with Equator180 regarding the type of plank, It needs to be cut with the grain of the wood. Just like the best cutting boards. It also needs to be of a hardwood such as maple or cedar, it will withstand the heat better and impart a nice smokey flavor. Do not use planks with bark, the bark is highly flammable and if it has any sap in it, even more so. I have found my planks to be easy to clean with a short soak and have been reused many times.
Equator180 July 18, 2013
A plank like the one in the article is across the grain and any fats, juices etc. will saturate the wood. It would be very difficult to clean and then if soaked again there is the equation of fats coming to the top etc., so if they are not gone they will burn the next time around. If a plank of parallel grain ( not like the end grain shown) there is very little absorption of he fats, juices etc and can be used many times, the one shown, I personally don't think so..
PaulineT July 17, 2013
Can the plank be reused? If so, how do you clean it?
Equator180 July 17, 2013
I've cooked and eaten quite a few of other peoples "planked," salmon and other species but NEVER have I seen (or done so myself) the plank being a cross cut of the tree, especially with the bark on it. The juices and oils will definately saturate the wood and if there are any resins chances are they are some between the bark and the wood. Also wouldn't the bark add something not akin to the wood flavor tot he fish. Planked fish (salmon) I believe started in the Pacific North West, check how they do it. A good photo shoot does not a good dish make!
bmorecharmer July 17, 2013
I've used this method many times to grill tuna steaks on the grill. I've never used anything but cedar, and it's always delicious. I have a gas grill, and have never had any problems.
Sarah K. July 17, 2013
can you do this with any kind of fish?
Giggles July 18, 2013
Sarah, I've used this method for salmon, tuna and trout so I would think that it would work with any fish that would be complimented by a smokey flavor.
jane B. July 14, 2013
Does anyone have any experience using this method on an electric grill?
Turbeville G. July 10, 2013
Can I use this method in the oven?
Sarah J. July 10, 2013
Hi Turbeville Green! I think that this method will work in the oven, but not as effectively (and it will take a longer time for your fish to cook). The method relies on the wood smoldering and producing a fragrant, flavorful smoke that cooks the fish. I'm not sure that that same effect could be replicated in the oven (though if your wood smolders in the oven, I think a similar result could be had!).
Turbeville G. July 10, 2013
Great, thanks. I was just wondering as I tried it in the oven once and didn't really notice any difference than usual baked salmon so perhaps I'll plop it on the grill to get the real flavor.
Sarah J. July 12, 2013
That's a great idea! Do let me know how it works out as compared to the oven -- I'd love to hear!