What is a grilling plank?

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 4, 2022

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Planking is a method of cooking on the grill where you place your food on a wooden plank and cook indirectly on the grill.

The heat enters the food indirectly and spreads flavors from the plank and smoke from the grill into your food.

The planks are made of different kinds of wood, which give your food different flavors.

The most popular planks are

  • cedar (for fish),
  • alder,
  • hickory,
  • pecan,
  • maple,
  • cherry,
  • and apple.

The reason people love using a grilling plank is the simplicity behind this method.

Just place the food on the wood and place it on the grill.

The wood protects your food from the fire, which ensures even the most delicate of foods cook well without falling into pieces.

Did you know that planking is healthier than cooking directly on heat?

When you cook on an open flame or direct heat, carcinogenic chemicals are produced which penetrate your food.

Using wooden planks creates a barrier layer, which doesn’t let the chemicals touch your food.

Benefits of using grilling planks

You’re probably wondering why people are raging about the great taste of planked food?

There are three main advantages of using wood planks:

  1. more flavor,
  2. more moisture,
  3. and more whole food.

The first benefit of using planks is the taste your food will have.

The skin on your fish, your veggies, and other meats will stay directly on the wood and get that charred smokey flavor.

Usually, you can only get that smokey BBQ flavor when you use a real smoker, but with the planking method, you get a similar taste with a simple grill.

You can flavor your meal anyway you prefer by choosing different types of wood planks.

With the help of the plank, your food is away from direct flames and the intense heat from the grill. The plank acts as a heat shield, which then spreads flavor into the food.

The second benefit of using planks is that your food remains moist. You’ve probably had an experience where your meat turned out dry and chewy.

The advantage of using a plank is that as your food cooks on the damp piece of wood, it won’t dry out as fast and retains more moisture than if you grill on the grates.

The third advantage is that your food will remain intact on the plank.

Grilling fish and vegetables can be challenging. Imagine, just as you are about the turn the fish around, it falls apart and sticks to the grates!

Or, your asparagus breaks in half and falls through the grates!

With planks, you avoid all the inconveniences of grilling delicate foods directly on your cooking device, and you end up with whole pieces of food.

Can you make your own grilling planks?

It is possible to make your own planks. The easiest way to make them is to buy wood from a lumber store.

The wood must high-quality, meaning it should be furniture-grade, kiln-dried, and it must be untreated.

You don’t want any harsh and toxic chemicals transferring into your food. Cut your planks into rectangular shapes of 1-inch thickness.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.