Grilling planks for fish Complete Guide

Are you looking for ways to take your fish grilling experience to the next level? Grilling planks is a perfect way to enhance your fish-cooking experience.

With this complete guide, you’ll learn all the tips and tricks to make the most out of your grilling planks. Let’s get started!


Grilling with wooden planks is a fantastic way to infuse your favorite fish with the delicious smoky flavor of charred wood. This cooking style has been around for centuries and was used by Native Americans who would prepare pork and salmon on top of cedar boards. This method offers two distinct benefits: it keeps the fish moist while also infusing it with delicious woody flavors like hickory, mesquite, oak, and cedar. Plus, it makes for a nice presentation, too!

Before you begin grilling your own fish, there are a few considerations that you should take into account. First, safety must come first; ensure that your plank is free from any sharp edges or splinters that could cause injury during the grilling process. Secondly, make sure you choose the right variety of wood for your dish and season it well beforehand to prevent burning and to bring out its best flavors and aromas. And finally, properly prepare both the plank (soaking) and fish (marinade) before putting them together on top of the grill.

This guide will provide step-by-step instructions on how to use grilling planks correctly in order to safely deliver mouth-watering meals right off your grill!

Explanation of what grilling planks are

Grilling planks are wood boards that are typically used around the world as a way to grill and smoke fish, meat, vegetables and other food items. The boards act as a protective layer between the direct heat of the coals and the food item, allowing for even cooking that does not burn easily or become charred. Additionally, grilling planks imbue the food with a unique flavor from the aromatic ingredients in cedar, hickory or other woods that provide smoky flavors to meats and vegetables alike.

There are various types of grilling planks to choose from depending on your preferred cooking style and tastes. Popular varieties include aromatic cedar, applewood-smoked maple, cherrywood orange smoked maple, mesquite lime smoked maple and hickory garlic smoked maple. In addition to these wood-based options, there are also aluminum grilling planks which may be preferable if you’re looking for an easy cleanup after grilling.

Grilling planks can be used on gas or charcoal grills and many indoor ovens; however they work best over medium-high heat on an outdoor grill where there is plenty of room for indirect heat cooking without fear of burning your food item due to its protective layer of wood. It is important to remember that all wood will likely char when it comes in contact with high temperatures so make sure you choose appropriately sized pieces for your particular needs.

Types of grilling planks

Bamboo, cedar, and cherry are the most commonly used types of grilling planks. It’s important to consider the flavor you want to impart on your grilled seafood when selecting a plank.

Bamboo: Bamboo offers a natural smoky flavor when it heats up on the grill that adds a subtle sweetness to fish. The lighter weight of bamboo also makes it excellent for grilling smaller items such as shrimp skewers, salmon pouches, or any thin-cut filets.

Cedar: Cedar planks are primarily used for grilling larger filets such as swordfish, tuna, halibut or other substantial pieces. Cedar can give off a strong smokey aroma during cooking that imparts an intense flavor onto the fish; more so than with other woods. Be sure to select thick planks to prevent them from burning on the grill too quickly.

Cherry: Cherry wood will add a sweet and slightly fruity flavor to grilled fish dishes and is great used with most any type of Seafood as long as it’s not too thin or delicate in texture. For best results choose thicker cuts so they don’t scorch or burn while they cook on the grill’s direct heat source.

Cedar, maple, oak, hickory, and alder

Cedar grilling planks impart a mild, familiar smoky flavor that can easily become overpowering. Opt for woody herbs and citrus flavors to pair with this wood. With the right preparation, the cedar plank can reveal an amazing bright flavor that marries perfectly with sweet summer fruits like peaches and cherries.

Maple is mildest of all woods used for grilling planks and will give a subtle sweetness to your food. It pairs well with pork, smokey flavors, and is great when combined with fruity accents such as apples or blueberries.

Oak imparts a bold smoky flavor that melds nicely with steak, poultry, or game meat. The distinct smokiness of oak pairs well with strong herbs like rosemary and sage. The tannin notes in oak require more seasoning on proteins before grilling for best results.

Hickory wood has been praised by pit masters around the world due to its bold flavor profile which gives an immediate “smoked” effect to food cooked over it. Hickory pairs well with brisket, pork shoulder/pork butt or any smoked BBQ recipes but also works well on delicate fish or poultry dishes where you want to add a bit of smoke without overpowering the dish. The sweet notes from hickory are great when paired together with sweeter fruit flavors such as apples and peaches!

Alder produces a mellower flavor than other hardwoods used for grilling planks; This light-bodied wood helps foods retain their natural taste while adding just a hint of sweetness—a perfect pairing for white fish such as salmon or halibut! Alder imparts just enough of its prized earth-tone nuances giving whatever you’re cooking the perfect finish!

Pros and cons of each type

When deciding exactly what type of plank you want to use for grilling your fish, there are some pros and cons that can help you narrow down your search. Every type of plank has its own flavor and texture, so it is important to consider the characteristics that each option has. Here is a breakdown of some of the common types of cooking planks and their advantages and disadvantages.

Cedar Planks: These are the trusted go-to when it comes to grilling fish on a plank. The natural piney aroma that comes from cedar gives the fish a unique flavor profile you won’t get any other way. On the other hand, they can be expensive, as well as hard to find in stores. They can also require soaking or other preparation prior to using them on the grill.

Bamboo Planks: While they don’t impart quite as much flavor as cedar planks, bamboo will still give your fish a smoky sweetness that’s very pleasant. Plus, these planks are lightweight, easy to work with and more cost-effective than other options — win/win! However, one disadvantage is bamboo does not have many ridges for fish juices or marinades to run off into like other grilling planks do.

Oak Planks: This flavorful wood is great for giving your grilled fish bold woody notes and adds an intense smoked aroma; However, oak can easily draw too much moisture away from delicate filets like salmon when grilling over indirect heat – so watch those temperatures! It’s also important to note — Oak planks must be seasoned multiple times before using them otherwise they may impart off flavors onto your food or even spit out sparks!

Hickory Planks: Although hickory doesn’t impart quite as strong of flavor as oak or cedar does, this hearty type of wood still offers plenty of earthy smokiness with ever bite it yields – yum! Like oak though, hickory needs to properly seasoned before cooking; otherwise it may contribute bitter and sour notes rather than delicious sweet ones…so keep an eye out for this!

Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon - Jessica Gavin

III. Preparing the grilling planks

Once you’ve selected the grilling plank that works best for your needs, it’s important to properly prepare it before you get started. You can make sure your grilling plank is ready in several simple steps.

Firstly, you should soak the plank in water for 2-3 hours prior to use. The slow soaking process helps prevent the wood from burning and allows it to begin releasing its aromatic vapors prior to cooking. Make sure the weight of the plank is securely held under water, as air pockets will lead to an uneven cooking surface.

Once the plank has been left alone for a few hours, drain off any of the remaining standing water and quickly wipe both sides of your continuing wet or damp grilling plank with a clean cloth towel. This will help ready it for next step: heating your soaked and prepped plank on a hot grill before adding your fish!

Soaking the planks

When cooking fish on grilling planks, it is important to first properly soak the plank in order to prevent the plank from catching fire. This also ensures that your fish cooks evenly and thoroughly, without becoming burned or dried out from contact with the hot plank.

To properly soak a grilling plank for fish, first select a suitable vessel for the task. Depending on its size, a standard kitchen sink should be large enough for this part of the process. Fill the kichen sink with cold water; you will need enough so that it covers entire underside of the grilling board when placed in it. Let your board sit in the cold water for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours depending on thickness.

This soaking helps to release any extra sap that could cause flare ups while grilling and also adds moisture to keep your fish moist and delicious when finished cooking. Thoroughly rinse the board off after soaking before placing your food on it, as any residue sap on there can leave an unpleasant taste if not removed beforehand. Once soaked correctly, your patience will be rewarded with perfectly prepared fish every time!

Adding flavor to the planks

Adding flavor to the planks is an easy way to make your grilled fish even more delicious. There are several options for fully enhancing the flavor of your fish, including marinating and soaking prior to cooking or spritzing with flavored liquid while the fish grills.

Marinating the plank: Before grilling, soak the plank in beer, wine, or any other flavorful liquid. This will help to transfer moisture and flavor into the fish while you cook it on the plank. Prior to marinating, score three crosshatches along each side of the plank. This will allow maximum exposure when it comes time to add flavor throughout grilling. Be sure that your marinade has enough salt content; this will also add a burst of savory notes into your final product!

Soaking: For additional infusion, consider soaking your plank (or using flavored wood chips such as applewood) in water overnight before placing it on top of brined fish or seafood. Not only does this give the food more flavor but it also keeps it moist during cooking without producing a soggy taste by imparting smoke and heat from above.

Spraying with liquid: This technique uses flavored liquids such as lemon-lime soda, citrus fruit juice, maple syrup and more in order to enhance grill flavors as well as providing additional moisture throughout cooking on medium-high temperatures between 375-400° F (190-204° C). Be careful not to over saturate by spraying too frequently — once every five minutes should be enough!

Preparing the fish

After selecting your favorite fish, the next step is to properly prepare the fish for grilling. Start by rinsing the fish in cold water and patting it dry with paper towels. Brush both sides with a light coat of olive oil and season as desired.

Once seasoned, fold back the tail to create a pocket in the center of the fish that can be easily opened during grilling. Place a lemon wedge inside and fold back into place. This pocket will not only add flavor but help to cook the fish more evenly, and keep it juicy while on the plank.

For a flavorful addition that helps seal in natural juices and nutrients, sprinkle a light layer of salt on both sides of each filet before placing them on planks that have already been soaked for at least an hour ahead of time, as this will enhance flavor as well adding moisture as they grill. Position skin side down if applicable, so it won’t curl while cooking on medium-low heat (approximate 300°F).Grill times vary depending upon thickness, however 10-15 minutes per inch should work for most varieties or until internal temperature registers 145°F with meat thermometer or just before flesh turns opaque throughout. When done remove from heat source, cover loosely with foil for 4-5 minutes allowing carryover cooking to take place before serving fresh from the plank for maximum flavor!

A Beginner's Guide to Cedar Plank Grilling | Taste of Home

Choosing the right type of fish

When it comes to selecting the right type of fish for grilling, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. The most important factor is to ensure that the fish is of a high quality and appropriate for grilling. Oily fish like salmon or mackerel or oily fish will usually be best suited for grilling planks. White-fleshed, mild-flavored freshwater whitefish such as lake trout may also be used. Cod, haddock, and halibut are also acceptable choices but they can take longer to cook than oily fish and require more seasoning to enhance their flavors.

Consider the size of your grilling plank when selecting a suitable fish; if the plank is too small for your largest piece of fish it will not work as well as you would like it to. Additionally, don’t forget about preparing other types of vegetables on planks like peppers or onions as well!

Grilling the fish

Once you have selected your preferred fish, prepped and seasoned it, and soaked the plank of wood, you are ready to begin grilling.

Position the wood plank on the preheated grill with the smooth side facing down, and close the lid. Wait until you can see smoke coming from under the wooden plank, which usually takes about 10 minutes. Once there is enough smoke rising through breech in the grill between spaces and plates, place the fish onto the plank.

Closely monitor fish temperature using a contact-style thermometer to prevent overcooking. Exact cooking time will depend on the size of fish and thickness of fillets. To avoid drying out or burning your meal, it’s important to check for doneness at regular intervals – open portioning of pin bones from fillet can be a great indicator for doneness as well. The internal temp should be 140˚F (60˚C) when done — when it reaches this point remove it from the grill.

The smoky flavour of fish cooked on a cedar or other wooden planks is heavenly: subtle yet delicious – When properly prepared!

Setting up the grill for plank grilling

To cook on a plank, you’ll need to set up your grill for indirect heat grilling. Wood planks need a hot and even heat to cook the fish correctly, so it’s important to get the temperature and placement right before you begin.

Place an aluminum drip pan filled with an inch of water on one side of the grill, under the grate. This will catch fat drippings from cooking and allow them to turn into smoke, giving food flavor while preventing flare-ups and spills.

Over this pan, you can then arrange charcoal briquettes or pre-soaked wood chips as needed. Build up two piles of briquettes or create an “indirect heat” setup with a few on each side if you are using gas or electric heat sources. Place your wood planks over this pan so that they do not come in direct contact with the heating source — but you want them close enough that they will get hot enough to start smoking within 10 minutes of the grill being opened.

Placing the plank on the grill

Before placing the plank on the grill, make sure that the surface of the grill is clean and cool to the touch. If grilling over charcoal, have coals spread evenly, and turn off any more searing elements to reduce direct dominance and flare-ups. For gas grills, preheat to medium-high heat for about 10 minutes.

Ideally, before adding a plank to a gas or charcoal grill, submerge it in water for 60-90 minutes before you are ready to cook; doing this will help ensure your plank does not catch fire too quickly when you put it onto the heated cooking grate. Once submerged, drain any excess water from your plank before you are ready to place it onto the prepared cooking grate over indirect heat. Brush with oil or butter if desired as this will help create even more flavor in your finished dish!

Cedar Planked Salmon with Lemon, Garlic & Herbs - Once Upon a Chef


Grilling planks are a great way to up your game at fish grilling. The plank infuses your dish with a smoky flavor and can also be used for other dishes such as vegetables, poultry and pork. As you have seen in this guide, there is a wide variety available to match any type of fish.

When picking out the right plank for you, consider what type of fish you are cooking. Different woods provide different flavors and can accentuate or mask certain flavors within the fish dish. You will want to determine what type of flavor profile you desire for the particular food item before making your purchase.

If using fruit woods (such as cedar), make sure that they are not treated with any form of preservative since these can leach into the food and subsequently cause health complications. Consider ordering pre-treated planks as well, since they take away the additional step of preparing your own planks prior to use.

Finally, when grilling with planks remember that safety is key! Do not leave the plank unattended while grilling; ensure it is well soaked prior to cooking; check that it does not begin to burn nor catch fire; move it further away from direct flame if needed; always store away from heat sources after use; and dispose responsibly after grilling is complete. Enjoy!

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