If you enjoy the smoky flavor your food gets from grilling over cedar planks, you can save yourself a few dollars by reusing the same cedar planks several times. Cooking over cedar planks is a great way to add a little extra, natural flavor to your food, and is especially popular as a method of grilling fish.
In order to get the most use out of all your cedar planks, you’ll need to properly care for and clean the wood after each use. Properly cared for, you can get at least three or four uses out of most cedar planks, sometimes even more.
Step 1 – Cleaning the Charred Side
First, you’ll have to clean off the charred side that has been directly exposed to the flames. To do this, you’ll need either a coarse wood file or a planer. Use either of these to scrape the charred sides of the planks to remove any cinders and leave a rough surface. Having this rough surface exposes the natural wood oils that are responsible for the smoky flavor that makes cedar grilling worthwhile.
Step 2 – Cleaning the Food Side
You can clean the food side of the wood just as you would any cooking instrument, except for the fact that you won’t use any dish detergent. Dish detergent can end up cleaning away the very oils in the wood that give you the smoky flavor. Instead, simply use a scouring pad to scrub the food side of your plank as you run it under warm or hot water to remove any of the remains from your last meal.
If you absolutely must use dish detergent to clean off the wood plank, it is best to be done when the wood has very minimal cracking (cracking will occur more and more with each use). Also, go over the charring side of the wood again with the wood file or planer after you’ve cleaned your cedar plank, to make sure the oils are exposed.
Step 3 – Soak Your Cedar Plank
You will always need to soak your cedar plank in a bucket of tap water for at least an hour before use. The thicker the plank, the longer you should soak it, though generally you shouldn’t need to go beyond two or three hours. Soaking will help the wood to not only last through the cooking process, but will help it to start smoking better while cooking.
Step 4 – Adding Flavor
As a side note, when you reuse your cedar planks, you can opt to add a little extra flavor by soaking your wood in different substances. For example, some recipes call for soaking the wood in various types of wine, or even such things as apple juice, which will give your meat a milder, sweeter taste.
Whatever the case, if you follow these basic cleaning steps, you shouldn’t have any trouble reusing your cedar planks at least two or three times. That means you'll have more money to buy the fish to grill!