Welcome back, plankers. In our first thrilling episode we talked about what kind of wood you should select for planking, and where to get it. Today we will discuss two absolutely cruicial concepts: plank thickness, and plank preparation. The two items are closely related and getting your head around both of them is crucial for your planking success. So – in a nutshell, here it is:
- The more delicate the food, the thinner the plank you want – we touched on this briefly in part one, but it is worth repeating on it’s own.
- If your food needs a thick plank, it also needs to be prepped. This is the step most beginners mess up.
So – details. As far as thickness goes, deciding whether or not a food is “delicate” and needs a thin plank can be generally summed up as thus:
Animal flesh = thicker plank.
Not animal flesh (ie: fruit, cheese, Twinkies, whatever) = thinner plank.
If you follow this generally simple rule, you will do just fine. Beef, pork, fish, chicken, turkey, emu … if it ate and pooped, it counts as an animal and goes on the thick plank. Anything else, thin is in.
Now – if you picked the thick plank (ie: the food you are cooking used to eat and poop) then you also need to properly prep the plank the get the proper cooking result. Luckily, the prep part is easy. Soak it (the plank, not the food) and then burn it (again, the plank and not the food).
Soaking is easy – just run a sink or pail or bathtub or some other suitable vessel of water, and let the plank sit in it for 20 or 30 minutes. Clever types among you will have probably figured out that the plank is going to float, so be sure to pile something on top of it (a plate, a brick, your dog, whatever) to make sure it gets submerged.
Burning the plank is also pretty easy. Just before you want to put your food on to cook, and when the grill is nice and hot (and yes, we are talking about cooking over direct heat here, so grillheads rejoice) put the plank on the grill for about 5 minutes. You want to get a surface char on one side, but not dry the plank out. Once you have a char on the bottom of the thing, and some wisps of smoke coming off, turn the plank over and put the food on the charred side. This is the crucial bit that most beginners don’t grok on their own, and it is the key to building the layers of flavour that you want to achieve here.
Thin-thick, soak, char. Dwell on these sage bits of truth for a few days, and in the final installment of our adventure in planking I will pony up a couple of recipes you can try. And yes, there will be Twinkies.