The Art of Cedar Plank Grilling a Fish
Grilling fish is something that is fairly simple to do. It only takes a few minutes and it tastes great. But did you know that there's a special method of grilling fish that makes it taste even better? It's called cedar grilling. In this method of cooking fish, you place the fish on a cedar plank and place the plank on the grill.
Benefits of Cedar Grilling your Fish
Cedar grilling (also known as cedar planking) offers many benefits when it comes to grilling fish. Those benefits include:
- The fish doesn't flake into the grill. When you grill fish, especially fish fillets, the fish gets flaky. The flakes fall into the grill. Not only does this mean that you lose some of the tastiest parts of the fish but it also means that your grill needs to be cleaned. Grilling on a cedar plank allows the plank to catch those flaky parts and prevent these problems.
- The fish can marinate in its own juices as it cooks. Normally the juices of a fish will fall into the grill as it cooks. This makes the fish dry out quickly. Sure, you can add olive oil or butter to the fish to make it still taste juicy. However, it's a lot better to let the fish actually cook in its own juices. The cedar plank will catch the juices and allow for this.
- It gets a great smoky taste. The best part about grilling fish on a cedar grill is the terrific smoky taste that you get. That's the whole point of grilling on cedar wood. This is fine for white fish but is especially great for darker, thicker cuts of fish. They take on a sweet smoky taste that you just can't get from grilling fish any other way.
The following steps are all that you need to do if you want to properly and perfectly cedar grill a fish:
- Get a cedar plank. You can use an untreated piece of wood that you have or buy. There are also cedar planks for fish available in specialty food markets and in online stores that sell grilling supplies.
- Soak your plank in water. You need to do this every time that you are going to be grilling a fish. That's because the wood would burn on the grill if you didn't moisturize it before grilling. Submerge the plank completely in clean, fresh, warm water. Ideally, you will let it sit overnight. At the bare minimum, let it sit in the water for at least two hours. If you hate the idea of having to plan ahead for planking your fish then your best bet is to pre-soak your planks and store them in the freezer. Then you can just pull them out, thaw them under warm water and use them almost right away. An optional step when you are at this stage of the process is to add some flavor to the water in order to give a subtle flavor to the fish when it cooks. Adding wine or beer to the water is a common choice during the pre-soaking stage.
- Preheat and prepare the cedar plank on the grill. Pre-heat the grill to approximately 400 degrees. Put the cedar plank in the grill and close the lid. Pre-heat the plank in the grill for 5-10 minutes with the grill lid closed. There may be flames at this time if the cedar plank isn't properly pre-soaked. Make sure that you are prepared to deal with this problem if it arises. When the cedar plank is dry, prepare it for the fish. You will want to oil the plank so that the fish doesn't stick to it during grill. Regular or flavored olive oil is a great choice; just brush it on to the cedar plank. You can also add dry seasonings to the cedar plank if you want (salt, etc.)
- Add a bed of fresh citrus to the plank. This is an optional step but it makes for a much tastier grilled fish. Simply slice lemons or oranges and lay them side by side on the plank. Place the fish on top of the citrus. If you want to skip this step, simply place the fish on the plank at this time.
- Cook the fish. Now you're ready to let the grill do its work. You will leave the fish on the cedar plank and close the lid of the grill. It should still be about 400 degrees. Grill the fish for 15-30 minutes. The exact length of time will depend on your cut of fish and type of fish. (Note that the grilling time will be approximately twice as long as the grilling time that you normally use when cooking the same fish directly on the grill.) The longer that you grill the fish, the more well done it will be. A well-done fish is approximately 130 degrees when you use a thermometer to check internal temperature. A rare fish is about ten degrees cooler; if the fish isn't at least 120 degrees then you want to continue grilling. One question that people ask at this point is when they need to flip the fish. The answer is that you don't. Unlike with traditional fish grilling, there is no need to flip the fish over when it is being cooked on a plank. It will cook all the way through from the bottom up with the lid closed.
- Enjoy! That's all that you need to do if you want to properly cedar grill a fish. It's ready to be served and eaten!
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