17 Dec. 2000|
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For all that I've grilled (150-plus recipes and counting), there's always plenty of uncharted territory.
It wasn't until I started seeing Mike Lang over at Another Pint Please plank everything from pork to vegetables to cheese, that my interest in this grilling technique perked. Since then, the method has been carried down and modified for the home cook, with the grill being primary means of planking, but also adapted for use in the oven as well.
Coming in an array of shapes and sizes, the first thing to consider is to pick out a plank best suited for what's being cooked on it. If you can't find what you're looking for, or want to save a few bucks, cutting your own planks is an option. Size is just one important factor to consider, with type of wood weighing in pretty equally. Fish: For delicate foods, like many fish, the more gentle flavors of woods like cedar and alder are a good match. Chicken or pork: Take a step up to heartier meats like chicken and pork, and medium woods like maple, apple, and pecan will leave more of an impression without being overpowering. Beef or gamier meats: You can bump up the wood flavor even more to heavier-handed options such as oak and hickory.
Each wood has its own uniqueness, so it's worth picking up a variety and playing around to see how each imparts a different flavor.
Plank preparation is key: It must be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to grilling to avoid over-charring or catching fire.
Although there are many ways to grill with planks, so far, I've only found use for two methods. For this, a two-zone indirect fire is built, then the food arranged on a plank and placed on the cool side of the grill and covered.
The second method I've been using: start with a two-zone indirect fire and place an empty plank over the hot side of the grill.
Along with these methods, it's possible to grill on a plank over direct fire, which might kill the plank beyond reuse, but also produce more smoke and potentially more wood flavor. No matter what method you choose, it's always a good idea to have a squirt bottle with water handy to smolder the plank if it catches fire.
As long as there's still wood left, and the plank hasn't been charred through, there's no problem reusing the plank.
About the author: Joshua Bousel brings you new, tasty condiment each Wednesday and a recipe for weekend grilling every Friday. When cooking this way, the surface of the food touching the wood picks up some of the plank's natural flavors. The most common size is a rectangle roughly 13 x 7 inches, which tends to be pretty all-purpose, but squares, ovals, and individual serving sizes are also available for matching plank to food. Since some of the essence of the wood will be transferred to the food being planked, it's good to know the depth of flavor each wood carries and choose one that might best complement the flavor of the food. Rimmed sheet pans are perfect for soaking planks—just place a plank in the pan, add enough water to completely cover it, then weigh the plank down to keep it submerged (try using a medium-sized pot for this).
The longer the food cooks, the more time it has to get saturated with the wood's flavor, so I usually opt for medium heat to extend the cooking time with a full indirect cook.
Let it go until it just starts to blacken and smoke, then flip the plank, place the food on the charred side, and move it to the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook. Another option is searing prior to planking, which would be preferable for something like steak that would just not be right without a well developed crust. To clean a plank, start by scrubbing it down with water and a scouring pad without soap—you don't want soap soaking into the plank and staying there.
He also writes about grilling and barbecue on his blog The Meatwave whenever he can be pulled away from his grill.
He brings that love for barbecue, grilling, and cooking to Serious Eats as a regular recipe contributor. There aren't usually many planking recipes in cookbooks, save the ubiquitous planked salmon. Between that book and Mike's blog, I've finally found my footing in the world of planking, and am loving the results. Although there's some debate on the origins of planking, it's been documented that Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest pinned their salmon to large wood boards, then slow cooked them—planking. Personally, I've been loving the natural look of the planks Afire provided me, which are cut on the bias with the bark still attached and give an extra boost to the presentation factor of the plank.
I prefer to soak my planks for a minimum of an hour, flipping halfway through to ensure they're evenly and thoroughly soaked. Starting on a scorched and smoking plank gives a deeper wood flavor compared to the pure indirect method. If there's some excess char or food that just won't dislodge, then it's time to bust out a piece of fine sandpaper and go at it until the plank is clean.
It's also great for quicker cooking fish fillets planked on lighter woods to make sure they pick up flavor.