Cook everything from tuna to tenderloin on a wood plank for extra-smoky flavor.

May 12, 2008
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Plank cooking is so simple it's almost foolproof. Planks suited for grilling are widely available, conveniently packaged, and sized to fit a standard grill. Food cooked on a plank stays moist and tender because of the damp smoke that wafts from the wood plank.

Alder: perfect for mild foods and a is good match for seafood–especially salmon.
Cedar: most aromatic wood that adds a deep but gentle flavor. Works well for spicy dishes as well as pork.
Hickory: offers an intense smoky flavor that pairs well with beef and chicken.
Oak: has a moderate flavor that blends well with a variety of meats, poultry, and fish.
Birch, Pine, and Poplar: avoid these as they impart a bitter flavor.

• Soak planks before using to help keep the meat moist. A soaked plank produces maximum smoke and is less likely to burn. Submerge it in water for at least an hour.
• Use the soaked plank right away since the wood will start to dry out quickly.
• After placing the plank on the grill, immediately cover the grill so that smoke quickly surrounds the food.
• Food that touches the wood takes on more flavor, so arrange it on the wood plank in a single layer.
• Use oven mitts to remove the plank and place it on a heatproof serving platter. The edges of the plank may be charred and smoldering.