A Beginners Guide to Plank Grilling (Tips and Recipes you can try)

Warm weather has finally arrived! It’s now time to clean off the grill and prep for another stellar grilling season. During the summer, I’ll grill anything and everything including meat, veggies, pizza and even dessert.

One grilling technique I love is using a cedar grill plank, the reason is because, it adds much needed versatility to my grilling efforts.

What is Plank Grilling?

Plank grilling (also known as “planking”), is a method of grilling in which the food is placed on a wooden board or plank that has been set over indirect heat on a grill. It’s a great way to ensure that your dish is well smoked.

How it works

  • Grill planking involves placing food on a presoaked wood plank, which is then put on the grill. The grill lid is then closed, essentially baking the food in the grill.
  • The underside of the plank will begin to char and the smoke from the wood provides a mild smoky flavor to the food.

Why plank grill?

Generally, planking allows more delicate foods to be cooked on a grill.

Plank grilling gives you many more options to cook and grill foods you would never think to cook on a grill. Most foods that are difficult to cook using other methods, becomes easy using the plank grilling method. This method of grilling is similar to grilling a la plancha, but the difference is, you use a cedar plank to grill instead of a griddle.

For instance, fish, mashed potatoes, cheeses, and even brownies, are delicate foods that would never work on a grill. But, with plank grilling, these foods can be protected from the hot flames and grill grates – and the end result is amazing!

How to Grill with a Plank in 3 Simple Steps

As a beginner, there are a couple things to consider if you want to try plank grilling.

1. Choose the type of wood you want to use

To plank grill, you need a wood. Normally, this shouldn’t be a problem owing to the fact that wood is everywhere around us. However, if you want to get the most out of your grill, then you need a good plank for smoking.

There are different types of woods for smoking, amongst which, Cedar is the most common type chosen, but any wood that could be used for smoking will work on an outdoor grill.

Along with cedar, other great choices to consider include oak, maple, alder, and hickory. These can be purchased, pre-cut, so they are sized and ready to go on the grill.

It’s also possible to go to the hardware store and purchase longer lengths of your chosen wood and cut them to fit your grill.

If you’re buying a wood from a hardware store, ensure that the wood from the hardware store has not been treated. Treated lumber has been preserved, so to speak, with chemicals and is not suitable for use with food. If you’re unsure about a piece of wood, ask an attendant at the store or use established grilling planks.

2. Deep soak the plank first

Make sure the plank you choose has had plenty of time for soaking in water. If the wood is dry, it can catch fire while on the grill and ruin your food.

Depending on the type of wood and the thickness of the plank, deep soak your plank for approximately 2 to 5 hours before using it.

Cedar wood is soft, so it takes less time than harder wood planks like maple or oak. Also, wood that is 1/4-inch thick needs to soak for less time than a plank that is 1/2-inch thick or more.

3. Oil and cook it

Oil it: If you are cooking fish with its skin on, spray or grease the skin with cooking oil before adding it to the plank for grilling.

With indirect grilling such as planking, the time for your food to cook well is usually longer, since it will not be directly above the heat, but the results are unlike direct grilling.

TIP: If you are using a gas grill, turn half of the burners on. For charcoal grills, place the charcoal on one side of the grill.

Recipes to try

Here are a couple of my favorite plank grilling recipes. Hope you’ll give them a try! If you do, leave me a comment and let me know how it went.

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Spicy Brown Sugar Rub

This dish is easily the most popular dish for plank grilling and many restaurants have it on their menus. The salmon comes out moist, tender, and full of flavor. Many different toppings can go on the salmon from spice rubs, herbs, glazes, and more. This simple brown sugar rub has a blend of spices that compliment and highlight the wonderful taste of cedar planked salmon.


  • 2 1- to 1-1/2-pound salmon fillets
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • cedar planks

Cooking Instruction

  1. Soak cedar planks for at least 2 hours.
  2. Cut the two salmon filets in half lengthwise. Cut through the skin and make sure that it stays on each piece of salmon.
  3. Mix the brown sugar and spices together in a bowl.
  4. Pat the salmon fillets dry with a paper towel.
  5. Rub the top and sides of the salmon generously with the brown sugar rub and place the salmon, skin side down, on the wet cedar planks.
  6. Preheat the grill to medium so that the temperature is around 350 to 375 F.

Place the planks, with the salmon on them, on the grill and close the lid. Cook the salmon for about 15 minutes. The time may vary depending on the thickness of the salmon. The steaks are done when the internal temperature reads 135 F.

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