How do you use a grilling plank: Flavors, Cleaning & Re-Using

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 5, 2022

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Planks are about ½ inch or 1-inch thick pieces of wood that you grill your food on.

You can find pre-cut grilling planks at grocery stores, on Amazon, or you can make your own.

The most popular planks are rectangular shaped, about 13×7, or 6×12 inches, but you can also buy square and oval-shaped planks depending on the dish you’re cooking.

How to use a grilling plank

Planks are going to give your food that wood-smoked, intense flavor on a grill. You have to place your food directly onto the plank, covering most of the plank.

There are two simple ways to use a plank:

  1. Place food on your damp plank, covering most of the surface, and put it down on the grill. Let it cook on medium heat.
  2. Place an empty plank on the grill and let it smoke a little bit until slightly charred. Flip the plank and put your food on the charred side. This will give your food an even more intense flavor.

Food on a plank will cook slower than on regular grills, so you’ll need to give yourself some extra time. For some meats, the cooking time can be up to 50% longer.

For example, it takes about 15-20 minutes to cook a 2-pound piece of salmon, whereas it takes only about ten on a regular grill.

Also read: these are the best grilling planks reviewed

But, the flavors of cedar planked salmon are incomparable to simple cooking.

BBQ Galore USA has this great video on BBQ planking:

What flavor plank should I use?

With all the plank options available, you’re probably wondering which type of wood you need to use. It all depends on what kind of food you’re cooking.

  • With salmon and other fish like trout, use cedar.
  • With chicken, use a medium wood like pecan, maple, or fruit woods. These woods don’t overpower the taste of the meats.
  • With game meats, pork, and beef – you need a strong wood with intense flavor like oak and hickory.
  • With vegetables, you can use any wood plank flavor you like.

Check out this selection of wood planks we’ve selected below. You’ll be sure to find planks that appeal to your grilling needs.

Can you use grilling planks on a gas grill?

You can use grilling planks on all grills, charcoal and gas grills included.

If you use a gas grill, the direct flames will cause your wood to smolder, which creates smoke – this gives an excellent smoky flavor to your food.

Always try to contain the smoke by keeping the lid of the grill closed for as long as possible during the grilling process.

How to clean planks

If you aren’t throwing your planks out, wash and scrub them with water only, no soap. The soap penetrates the wood and has a bad taste when you grill.

Even if the plank has some charring on it, you can still use it one more time if you’ve given it a good scrub.

Some grillers go as far as sanding down the plank to get more use out of it.

How long do grilling planks last?

Planks are resistant to heat as long as you prep them properly by soaking them in water before use.

Some grillers will tell you that a half-hour soak is enough, but experts suggest a much longer soak.

To make sure that your wood doesn’t catch fire while grilling, give your plank a long soak for a minimum of 2 hours for up to 4 hours for the best results.

Place the planks in a sink or container and submerge them in water completely. Use some type of weight to push them down if necessary.

Your planks must not float; they need to be fully covered by the water.

This way, they’ll last long on the grill for you to be able to cook all kinds of foods properly.

An occasional flare-up may happen here and there, so keep a water bottle close by and spray if needed.

Some charring is normal, and small flare-ups won’t destroy your food but always extinguish them right away.

When you place the planks on the grill, they should be damp only. Make sure the wood is not dripping wet, so use a towel to pat the wood until it is moist and damp.

Be careful about using oil on the plank; it can actually cause the plank to catch fire and burn much quicker.

You can add a slight amount of oil onto the fish skin but not on the plank itself.

If you prep your plank correctly, it will last for at least one hour, so you can cook any type of food.

Can you re-use grilling planks?

In most cases, it’s best to use each plank only once and dispose of it after you’re finished cooking.

To get the most flavor and best results from your planking experience, use the plank just once.

But if you really want to re-use your planks, they need to still be in good shape. It should not be badly charred and burned or bent in any way.

When you use a plank, it releases flavor and oils. Once you’ve used it, some of the wood’s oils are used up.

The second time you use the plank, you won’t get as much flavor out of it.

You can only use planks with one type of food/protein. You can’t use it for salmon the first time and then re-use with chicken the second time.

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.