Grilling food on a plank is nothing new. My father used to always bring home that fresh caught salmon and grill it on a plank for extra flavor. I’m sure he was taught by his father too, and so on.
In the old days—don’t let pops hear me say that—getting a plank to grill on often meant cutting your own at the local hardware store.
Unfortunately, many of these planks were probably treated, or you couldn’t be too sure of the exact origin. Things have moved on since then, with many untreated grilling planks now available to purchase already cut.
If you’re looking for the best grilling planks, I have found some of the most popular models on the market today.
Later, I’ll also give a few tips for you if you’re new to plank grilling or you fancy giving it a try. If you’ve never had salmon grilled over hot coals on a plank, you don’t know what you’re missing out on.
Product Name & Award
Top Pick: PRIMAL GRILLING PREMIUM CEDAR PLANKS
Alternative: WOOD FIRE GRILLING CO. CEDAR GRILLING PLANKS
Best Overall: Primal Grilling Premium Cedar Planks
Measuring 12 inches by 6 inches, these cedar planks from Primal Grilling are made from 100 percent western red cedar.
They’re all-natural with none of the harmful chemicals often found if you buy from hardware stores.
Every plank has been kiln-dried, so it absorbs water better and cooks without too much smoke.
These planks are sold as thicker cedar planks which can be reused more often and offer better value.
At 7/16 of an inch thick, you’ll get more smoke flavor from the wood and it’s less likely to bow.
What we really love about these cedar planks from Primal Grilling is the quality of finish and the larger size.
Not only are the planks kiln-dried to prevent mold and provide for better absorption of water, but they’ve also been planed for a uniform shape. The planks are then sanded for a silky-smooth finish that won’t tear food or leave splinters in whatever you’re grilling.
At 12 inches long, they can easily fit into most casserole dishes for soaking before use. The six-inch width is half an inch wider than most planks on the market and will accommodate more food.
And that extra thick cut of 7/16 inches allows the food to cook slower, sealing in more of the fish or meat juices.
Although the planks are wider than most of its competitors, you will still struggle to fit a whole fish on a plank, especially a salmon. If you’re looking to plank grill a whole salmon, you really need an extra-large plank of at least 15 inches by 7 inches.
Some customers have complained about the plank warping, but this normally comes down to not soaking them enough. The manufacturer recommends soaking for an hour before grilling, but I would personally recommend a soak of four hours or overnight.
- Includes a burlap bag for storage—also makes a great gift bag
- Full instructions and a recipe card enclosed
- Etched with Primal Grilling logo—sophisticated enough to be used as a serving board as well
When it comes to plank grilling, cedar really is the king of planks. These natural western red cedar planks are some of the smoothest planks available. The extra attention paid to the finish ensures you don’t get wood shavings or splinters remaining in your food.
They may cost about $5 a plank, but the extra thickness and better quality mean they will stand up to more repeated use.
That thickness will also allow for more of the smoke flavor we all love so much. And the burlap storage bag is perfect for storing the charred cedar wood between uses.
Runner Up: Grill Gourmet Cedar Grilling Planks - 12 Pack
These textured cedar planks are slightly shorter than our top choice from Primal Grilling, at 11 inches long by 5.5 inches wide.
They are also thinner, one-third of an inch, yet still a reasonable thickness.
Again made from natural western red cedar, the main difference is that Gourmet Grill doesn’t recommend using these grilling planks more than once.
The manufacturer argues that reuse can be unsanitary. However, the pack includes 12 planks for a similar cost to many competitors’ five-plank packs.
Price is the main benefit of these cedar wood planks with each plank working out at less than $2. If you intend to use cedar planks in public competitions or at larger parties, these are the ideal choice.
The lack of an etched branding is also preferred by many competitive users, you could even brandish your own logo.
Despite being slightly smaller, you should still have room for a single salmon steak or fish fillet, and enough for some veggies.
Just make sure the planks are soaked properly before using to grill and serve food on. The planks are thick enough to impart that extra smokiness without too much of a charring, if soaked for three to four hours.
It’s always better to buy grilling planks from a reputable supplier like Grill Gourmet, than cut your own from the hardware store. There’s a guarantee that the wood has not received chemical treatments that can add unwanted smoke or flavors.
However, you would normally expect a better finish with smoother surfaces and cleaner cuts. Many customers have found the “textured” finish of these planks to be too rough, increasing the potential for splinters in your food. The ends of the plank are often jagged too, where they have been cut.
- Includes complete grilling instructions with every pack
- Textured for more smoke and flavor
- Perfect for a gift or larger backyard party
Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t bad planks. They’re just not as smooth and good looking as some of the better, but more expensive, cedar planks on the market.
They will get the job done and add that natural cedar woodiness and smoke to your food—just don’t expect to reuse them too often.
The big bonus of these cedar grilling planks is the price. You would find it hard to cut your own planks for less, although you may want to smooth these down a little before use. Textured for flavor or simply rough-surfaced—it’s a matter of debate.
Alternative: Wood Fire Grilling Co. Cedar Grilling Planks Plus 2 Free
If you want to try your hand at plank grilling and experiment with different flavors, this pack from Wood Fire Grilling Co is ideal.
In addition to 12 quality western red cedar planks, you get an additional two free planks of your choice.
You can choose from alder, maple, or hickory, and all of them are untreated.
Measuring only 5 inches by 11 inches, they are the smallest planks we’ve looked at but still large enough to fit two servings on.
If you need to grill an entire salmon on one plank, the Wood Fire Grilling Co also offer oversized planks. They are a reasonable thickness, at ⅜ inch thick, and can be reused several times if properly cleaned.
With the two free included planks, these quality planks work out at just over $1.50 a plank. And the additional two planks give you a chance to try new flavors without laying out for a whole pack.
All the planks are manufactured and packaged in the USA, at a certified food grade facility and using no extra chemicals or additives. The planks are sold with a proven track record and are known to add a better quality flavor than many competitor planks.
The quality of finish is excellent, with rounded edges to prevent splinters as you pull them from the packaging. The planks also have an incredible cedar aroma as they soak and when grilling.
The smaller size of these planks, especially the five-inch width, can make them harder to use as serving boards. Once you have a salmon steak or a piece of chicken on the board, there won’t be too much room for sides.
Some customers have complained about the planks arriving with 75 percent of the surfaces not being sanded. Be careful when removing your foods from the board, not to tear the food or leave shavings in it.
You could sand the planks lightly yourself before use—just be sure to remove any debris or splinters as you go.
- Includes free e-book full of recipes to try
- Juice, wine, or beer is recommended to be added to the boards for extra flavor
- Completely sourced in the USA
For people new to grilling with planks, or just those wanting to experiment more, the additional two free planks are ideal.
While cedar wood is the most popular due to its milder flavor, alder, hickory, or maple will give stronger flavors. Meats like beef will benefit especially from the hickory.
The planks may not be the largest out there, but at just over $1.50 a plank, you’re getting quality USA-sourced cedar wood. You should easily be able to fit a salmon steak or a cut of beef on each, with extra planks for vegetables.
The Craft of Plank Grilling
Plank grilling was originally a cooking method pioneered by the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. It was an easy way to cook fish, chicken, and other meats while adding more flavor.
Put simply, a plank of wood is soaked in water to prevent it from burning and then placed over hot coals or an open flame.
The wood adds flavors and aromas that can further enhance the foods and provide a hint of spice and smoke. Nowadays, you could even use a gas grill to plank grill, as the flavor comes mainly from the woods used, rather than the charcoal. If you are interested in buying a new gas grill, be sure to check out our reviews of the top gas grills on the market!
For foods which often stick to your grilling grate like fish or vegetables, a plank can be a convenient non-stick surface. However, we’re not just talking about any old plank for grilling, it needs to be a food-safe wood. Cedar is the most popular choice.
The Benefits of Cedar Wood for Grilling
While the most common food to grill on cedar is salmon, cedar wood is so versatile it can be used for almost any meat you can think of.
The wood is robust enough for smoking meats at lower heats for long periods. It can also be used at higher temperatures for grilling meats, such as steak, pork chops and game.
Any plank you use should be untreated and have no chemical additives. Natural color extracts, known as tannins or oils, are what gives cedar its unique flavor and color.
Cedar wood, which contains these extracts, will give the most flavor to your food. However, not all cedar is created equal.
Which Type of Cedar Should You Use for Plank Grilling?
Western red cedar tends to be the most popular plank. It imparts a mild, smoky flavor to the food with a hint of sweetness.
White cedar is also safe, but adds little flavor, while the resin-rich Alaskan yellow cedar or Atlantic cedar results in a pungent flavor, too strong for many foods.
You should never use Eastern red cedar, which is poisonous and normally used to make the interiors of closets.
Western juniper can also be poisonous and is more commonly used to fabricate fences. Northern white cedar is not poisonous, but can be prone to a blue fungal staining, while incense cedar is more suited to making pencils.
Basically, some cedar woods are toxic while others are not. The only species of cedar you should really be considering for plank grilling is western red cedar. This is the only cedar that will provide the tasty flavors you are hoping for.
What Can You Cook on Cedar?
Without doubt, the most popular dish to cook on a cedar plank is salmon. You will regularly see cedar plank-cooked salmon on many restaurant menus, often being served on the plank.
As the cedar plank heats up, the moisture—created from soaking the plank—pulls the flavor from the wood and gently cooks the fish.
Chicken and pork can be just as well cooked on a plank, with the fresh wood flavor working well. The plank’s moisture and oils will also reduce the risk of losing essential juices from the chicken as it cooks.
Red meats, like steak or lamb, will also take on board the flavor, although it may be harder to get a sear on your steaks.
Vegetables, including asparagus, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, and mushrooms, will all benefit from the gentle cooking of a plank.
It’s a great way of seasoning your vegetables without adding more calories. Fruit, or semi-soft cheeses with a rind, can also be prepared for dessert on a cedar plank.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Plank for Grilling
Size can be one of the most important considerations when debating which is the best grilling plank for your needs.
If you want to cook a whole salmon or a larger steak, you will need something longer and wider. Many companies offer planks which are an average of 12 inches by 5 inches, but also carry larger planks too.
Consider the quality of the plank and the thickness. Although many people will tell you that a plank should only be used once for grilling, thicker planks may be reused. It’s only when the wood gets too charred you may get some ash, which rarely adds to the flavor.
A thicker plank and correct soaking method may enable a plank to be used two or three times. Finally, consider the meats you want to grill. Cedar may be great for salmon but isn’t always the best choice for other foods.
As a rule, the strong flavor of a hickory plank is better suited to beef, lamb, and wild game, while maple has a more balanced flavor, ideal for pork or bacon. Red oak is one of the most versatile woods and can be used with red meats, chicken, wild game or fish.
Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to try plank grilling. It may be a simple cooking method, but there’s very little more impressive than a whole salmon on a cedar plank in the middle of a table.
Cedar planks are a great place to start, but try experimenting with other combinations of wood and meats. Always take care to follow the instructions of the wood, or a detailed recipe.
Remember, when wood is placed over a fire, it will burn if it is dry. Soaking times for different woods may vary, but placing over an indirect heat is a much safer and gentler way of grilling your foods.
The Primal Grilling cedar planks were our favorite grilling planks, as the thickness offers the facility to reuse them. As long as a plank has wood left on it there’s no reason you shouldn’t clean and re-use it.
Ensure you clean any excess food debris from the plank with water only—soap isn’t an extra flavor you are looking for.