Preparations & Procedures

Preservation of Game Meats and Fish

Food Safety Guidelines
Freezing Game Meats
Curing and Smoking Game
Drying or "Jerkying"
Corning Game
Canning Game
Making Sausage
Freezing, Pickling and Canning Fish
The Care of Game and Fish

"How To" Illustrated Procedures

Carving the Roast Goose or Duck
Breasting the Bird and Bringing the Bone
Boning the Duck for a Ballotine
Building the Terrine Maison
Forming the Noisettes of Salmon

Cooking with Planks and Stones
Taken From: Sticks & Stones

This technique respectfully takes its inspiration from the Pacific Northwest Native art of plank-grilling, an ancient tradition of cooking sides of fresh fish – specifically salmon – on alderwood or cedar. The classic technique involved splitting open a salmon, binding it to a piece of driftwood, and cooking it vertically downwind of a roaring open fire. Thought by many to be the forerunner of today's barbecue, this method is the essence of cooking at its most primal, using natural elements to create food imbued with flavor, touched by fire and licked with smoke. The Native peoples also developed hot-stone cooking – heating solid, flat rocks in a fire and fashioning an earth and stone pit oven in which to sear fresh fish and seafood.

We like to think of the methods described as a natural evolution of an original rudimentary cooking style. Plank-grilling fish and other foods on sections of soaked aromatic woods set over a grill is surely one of the most sensual culinary experiences. As the food cooks, almost basting itself in its own oils and juices, it absorbs fragrant wood smoke to achieve a layering of flavors not found in any other form of cooking.

Buying Planks

Use whatever untreated, aromatic wood you prefer (or can readily obtain) for any of the recipes. We do not recommend using Eastern cedar, pine, poplar, or birch. Unless you live on the edge of a forest, you'll probably source your cooking planks at a local lumberyard or building supply outlet. Make sure to specify construction grade, untreated wood, no more than 1 inch thick (5/8 inch is best), 8 to 10 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches long. Although we suggest a specific wood for each recipe (varieties such as cedar, maple, oak, hickory, alderwood, peachwood and applewood), the recipes may be reproduced using any of these woods. Feel free to adopt a mix¬and-match approach. Just make sure the wood is untreated in any way. When buying cedar or other woods for planking, ask the store to cut the wood into 10- to 12-inch lengths. You may wish to purchase several pieces at once — when you become accustomed to this method of grilling, you'll want to do it often.


Anyone who is planning to plank-grill must be prepared for the amount of smoke that is generated. This aromatic smoke, naturally produced when a water-soaked plank is set over a hot grill, imbues the food with a characteristically intense wood flavor. When you grill on wood planks you are in effect cooking with aromatic smoke.
You must exercise caution when lifting the grill lid to baste or check food because planking produces a great deal more smoke than conventional grilling. Be aware too, that opening the grill lid too often will lower the temperature, thereby increasing the cooking time.
This bank also includes planking recipes using a conventional oven. The plank sits in a roasting pan which is partially filled with water, juice or apple cider and preheated in a very hot oven. When you plank-bake in this way you are in effect cooking with aromatic steam. This method works so well — providing flavor through the wood steam and retaining valuable meat juices — that you may never prepare conventional roasts again.


If the planks are not too badly charred from the grill, you may be able to reuse them once. Planks that have been used in the oven, however, can often be reused two or three times.


We cannot overemphasize the vital importance of presoaking the planks for plank-grilling — you simply can't plank-grill with dry wood. On an outdoor grill, dry planks can ignite fully. We recommend soaking wood for about six hours. Even if you are short of time, soak the wood for at least one hour before planking. When we designate a 'soaked plank" at the beginning of each recipe we are referring to either of these lengths of time. We often soak planks overnight weighed down with heavy cans or stones to completely submerge the wood in water.
Presoaking is generally not necessary for oven-planking, since the wood is usually submerged in a liquid in a roasting pan. However, you must be careful to monitor the level of liquid and add more water or juice as necessary (usually every 15 minutes or so) to keep the plank and the pan from burning. There are a few oven recipes here that call for presoaked planks; in these cases the planks are not submerged in liquid in the oven.


The rule of thumb for cooking with stone is never to use porous rocks (such as shale). Porous rocks can retain water and may explode when heated to a high temperature. Look for solid, completely dry, relatively flat stones with no cracks. Rocks that are slightly damp or cracked can also explode dangerously. We do not recommend gathering rocks at the seaside. While we specify readily available slabs of granite or marble for our "stone" recipes, you may use larger solid pieces of these rocks instead. A thicker rock may take longer to preheat than a 1-inch slab of granite or marble.
Why use stones? Because for some foods, such as scallops, oysters, fish fillets and pizza, you want a surface that doesn't impart flavor and cooks very fast. Look for pieces of stone — terra-cotta, marble, or granite — at building supply outlets. You can also buy ceramic pizza stones at kitchenware outlets. You may even have a suitable piece of stone or terra-cotta left over from renovating a kitchen or bathroom. Choose pieces about the same dimensions as wood planks. Obviously you will be able to reuse them for quite a while.

Ted Reader

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