Ask The BBQ Grail: Wood Grilling Planks

This question is about using a cedar plank to cook salmon etc on a grill.  Does the plank need to be one of those expensive hummers one can buy at Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond or Lowe’s for the express purpose of cooking on it or can it be a normal fence board type of cedar?

I have heard the cedar fencing might have a chemical or something in it which would preclude one from wanting to eat anything cooked on it. Got any advice? — Bob Sheets


The infusion of unique flavors to your food is the biggest reason for using wood planks.  Store bought fence boards are perfectly okay to use.  However, since it’s the infusion of flavor and not chemical toxins you want it’s important to make sure you select a fence board that is untreated.  If you can’t easily determine from signage in the store if the fence boards are untreated make sure you ask a store employee.

You can normally buy a 6 foot long fence board for under $5.00 which is a much more cost effective alternative to wood planks that are cut and packaged specifically for grilling.  If you don’t have the ability to cut your fence board down to size the lumber store will normally do it for you for a minimal fee or sometimes for free.  When cutting your planks down to size you need to consider the size of the meat you’re cooking, the size of your grill and the size of the sink or bucket you are going to soak your plank in before use.

2 Comments on Ask The BBQ Grail: Wood Grilling Planks

  1. Go one more — use other woods, particularly those more food friendly like Oak, Hickory, Mesquite, etc. Build a tray of apple, pear, cherry twigs to cook on over low direct heat….

  2. SmokeJumper // June 13, 2010 at 8:51 am //

    That’s a great idea for low cost cedar planks that will save me some $$. Now if fences were just made of alder…

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