By Judith H. Dern
Healthnotes Newswire (May 21, 2009)—“Grilling on a plank perfectly captures the essence of Pacific Northwest flavor,” says chef Greg Atkinson, author of Entertaining in the Northwest Style. Originating with the region’s native people who roasted salmon on aromatic cedar and alder planks, natural wood oils and moisture add subtle flavor while keeping grilled foods succulent and tender. This natural cooking method is now popular worldwide for fish, meat, and poultry—even pizza and fruit!
Choose a wood grilling plank for distinctive flavor
Use only untreated wood planks for grilling. Different woods offer distinct flavors. Select a signature style or try them all.
• Western Red Cedar—Sweet, spicy flavor blended with a mild, smoky edge. Excellent for all types of foods; especially good with fish and vegetables.
• Western Alder—Robust, smoky flavor complemented by a light, vanilla essence. Traditionally used in the Northwest for salmon and fish, also great for vegetables, cheeses, and pizza.
• Western Maple—Sweet, buttery taste with layers of mild smoky flavor. Ideal for all kinds of food.
• Shagbark Hickory—Rich, smoky flavor with mild, bacon-like notes. Superb with meat and poultry, plus burgers, pizza, and breads.
Follow these guidelines for successful plank grilling
Grilling planks are easy to use and versatile, their smoky flavor enhancing a wide variety of foods from herb-stuffed trout and salmon to new potatoes, corn on the cob, London broil, scallops, and more. Whether you cook with gas or charcoal, the following tips will ensure delicious results.
• Soak grilling planks at least 1 hour to add moisture to the wood and help resist burning on the grill.
• For first-time use, once the plank is soaked, place it on the grill, close the lid, and lightly toast 2 minutes. Turn the plank over and repeat. When plank begins to crackle, you’re ready to cook.
• Put the prepared plank on the grill, place ready-to-cook food on top, and cover the grill. Keep lid closed to maintain temperature control and maximize smoke flavor.
• Don’t let your grill become so hot the plank burns. If this happens, use a water-filled spray bottle to extinguish any flames and adjust temperature.
Judith Dern is a veteran of national consumer public relations agency programs for both commodity board food products and branded manufactured foods. She is coauthor of The Sustainable Kitchen: Passionate Cooking Inspired by Fields, Farms and Oceans (2004, New Society Publishers). Her articles have appeared in publications such as Relish, Cooking Light, Seattle Homes & Lifestyles, Northwest Palate, and Woman’s Day Special Interest Christmas Publications. She has also served as copywriter and ghostwriter on several cookbooks and has written on food for regional and national organizations. A member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), she was awarded the Harry A. Bell Grant for Food Writers in 2003.
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