Grill plank cooking or cooking on wooden grill planks has been a favorite grilling method of mine for quite some time. Cooking salmon, specifically on a plank, is the grilling method I use when I am hoping to impress dinner guests. The wooden plank brings a simplistic cooking method with a sweet, rich, smoky flavor and its presentation is just plain fun.
One night, the gang from work went out for a business dinner at a very popular steak house known for its hand-cut Angus beef. A co-worker of mine recommended I try the cedar-planked salmon. Everyone else was ordering bacon-wrapped filets, T-bones, and rib eyes big enough to put Fido into a food coma but Adam insisted the salmon was the way to go. Our steaks all showed up on big oval dinner plates with a side of baked or mashed potatoes and some kind of seasonal veggie.
My steak looked fantastic, but I could not take my eyes off of what Adam had ordered.
They did cedar-plank salmon differently than I had ever seen before. They cooked the heck out of the cedar plank, which cooked the salmon just perfectly. When the waitress brought Adam's plate, it was practically smoking as if it had just been on fire, and all that flavor translated directly to the fish. From that evening forward, I looked at cooking on a grill plank a lot differently.
Recently, I was invited to try out some of the grill planks from Outdoor Gourmet. A manufacturer, just up the road in Sandpoint, ID. Until now, I thought grill planks were made of cedar but Outdoor Gourmet is making them out of a variety of fun woods that will suit just about whatever smoky, sweet grill flavor you are hoping to achieve.
I figured it would be fun to challenge myself to make something other than salmon or chicken on the planks and tested a few ideas. The first one was an appetizer that would make a great hors d'oeuvres for a festive function. It was prosciutto and pineapple wrapped with swiss cheese and bundled in puff pastry. I sprayed the cherry wood grill plank with a non-stick food spray and grilled it at about 400F until it puffed and looked delicious. Being that it was a cold day, I also decided to make myself a hot toddy and sat the mug of whiskey, honey, lemon, and water on the plank to heat up and take on some smoky flavor at the same time. Both turned out amazing.
For the main event, I cooked beef short ribs over the hickory grill plank with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. The hickory flavor worked well with the meaty short ribs that are well marbled and pack tons of flavor. The cool thing about cooking asparagus on the plank is unlike when I cook them on my grill grate, none of them fell through the wood plank for sacrifice to the charcoal gods.
One of the things that I enjoy about grilling is that it can be as versatile as you can be imaginative. Now with these different flavored grill planks, my imagination is running wild over the idea of mixing new and different woods with unique ingredients.