Grilling food on cedar planks is enjoyable as well as practical. In this guide, we’ll talk more about the process while answering that money-saving question: Can you reuse cedar planks after they’ve already been on the grill?
Can You Reuse Cedar Planks?
It’s fine to reuse cedar planks after grilling as long as you clean them well after each use. On the second or third round, the food that you cook on the planks will pick up even more woodsy flavor. Scrub the top of the plank and give it a good soak prior to each use, and don’t try to use one more than 3 times. After that, it will likely be too burnt.
About Cedar Planks
Never heard of cedar planking? The technique has been around for a while. It involves setting a piece of cedar wood on top of the cooking grate, then grilling the food on that instead of over direct heat.
A cedar plank is an untreated piece of red cedar wood, usually measuring about 15 inches long and 6 inches wide. They’re not very thick—around 1/2 inch at most. The planks are used to impart a rich, smoky flavor to grilled foods, usually fish.
Cedar isn’t the only wood that’s used for this type of grilling. Planks made out of hickory, alder, and maple are available too. Each imparts its own unique flavor, but cedar, with its hearty richness, is the most popular choice.
How To Use a Cedar Plank For Grilling
Your first step is to soak the plank in liquid for 30 to 60 minutes. It needs to be completely submerged in the liquid during this time, so consider weighing it down with unopened cans of soup or something similar.
You might be wondering why I advocate soaking cedar planks when I recommend the opposite for wood chips. The difference is that you want wood chips to catch fire so that they’ll produce clean smoke. If the cedar plank catches on fire, it will char the ingredients.
It’s fine to soak the planks in water, but consider adding some different liquids to boos the flavor (as you would in a brine). White wine, orange juice, and apple juice are all good choices.
Don’t set the plank on the grill until you’re almost ready to start cooking. Preheating the grill with the plank on it will cause the wood to dry out, meaning it could catch on fire more quickly.
Season the plank by placing it on the hot grill for 1 minute per side. This step will bring out the flavor of the wood and prevent it from warping during use.
It’s fine to start the cooking process by setting the food directly on the grill. That way, you’ll get impressive-looking grill marks as well as a flavor boost from the wood. Transfer them to the plank about 1/3 of the way into your estimated cooking time.
Try putting a few sprigs of fresh herbs on the planks to create a more complex flavor profile. As the herbs heat up, they’ll release their oils into the food. Rosemary, thyme, and oregano all work well, depending on what you’re cooking.
How To Clean Cedar Planks
Many folks just throw cedar planks away when they’re done using them. If they’re really blackened on the bottom, it’s a good idea to discard them because they’ll be messy to store. They’ll also yield poorer results, so it’s best to know when to cut your losses.
However, if you do plan to use the planks again, you’ll have to clean them before putting them away. Run them under warm water, scrubbing gently with a plastic-bristled brush to scrape away any lingering food particles.
Don’t use soap to clean wood planks. There’s always a chance that it will leave behind some residue, contaminating the next food it comes into contact with. Even if it doesn’t, the soap could dry out the wood’s natural oils. It’s better to avoid it altogether.
Can You Reuse Cedar Planks? A Guide
You can—but there are a couple of caveats you should be aware of.
I mentioned the first one earlier: Don’t be tempted to save the plank if the wood is really charred. I would also throw it out if I thought there was any chance that it still had traces of food on it. The particles will attract bacteria that could make you sick.
Speaking of contamination, I try to reuse the planks only when I’m preparing the same type of meat as last time. For example, if I used the plank to grill fish, I wouldn’t use it on steak the next time around.
Store the clean planks in the freezer until you’re ready to use them again. Remember to soak them before putting them back on the grill.
Why Reuse Cedar Planks?
There are several benefits to grilling with cedar planks. It’s a fast and easy way to impart a smoky flavor to grilled foods, the planks make cleanup a breeze, and it helps meat and veggies retain moisture as they cook.
Fish like salmon and halibut are more delicate than steak and pork chops. They can split in half when you try to flip them over. When you use a plank, the fish is less likely to stick, reducing the risk of breakage.
Cedar planks are also great when grilling vegetables or other small ingredients like shrimp. I’ve lost count of the number of asparagus spears that I’ve lost to the coals over the years. The plank gives them a sturdier platform.
But are there any benefits to reusing the planks instead of just throwing them away? In fact, there are a few.
First of all, the planks will impart a bolder smoke flavor on the second and third rounds. After the wood has charred a bit, the smokiness will be that much more pronounced.
You’ll also be saving a bit of money by reusing them. Though the planks aren’t expensive, the cost can add up if you use them frequently.
Where To Buy Cedar Planks
Your local grocery store might carry cedar planks. Most stores that do keep them in stock will display them in the same aisle as the charcoal and lighter fluid.
Smaller chains might not have the space to stock cedar planks, especially during the cooler months. In this case, check the hardware stores, and make sure that the planks have not been treated with any chemicals before you buy them.
As a last resort, visit online retailers to find the best deal. Since you’ll have a lot of options, I would recommend doing some research to find out which brands consumers like best.
A Word of Warning
Food takes longer to cook when it’s placed on cedar planks instead of directly on the cooking grate. That’s because the plank acts as a barrier between the ingredients and the heat.
I’ve found that cedar-planked meat and vegetables take about 50 percent longer to cook. By way of example, boneless chicken breasts that usually cook through in 10 minutes will take about 15 when they’re on a plank.
Also, keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby when you’re grilling on planks. The wood shouldn’t flare up if you’ve soaked it properly, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
One more safety tip: If you’re going to serve the food directly from the plank, make sure the wood is no longer burning or smoldering. Allow both the plank and the food to cool for at least 5 minutes prior to serving.
The Bottom Line
Budget-conscious grillers who enjoy using cedar planks will be gratified to learn that you can, in fact, reuse the planks. Eventually, they’ll become too charred to use, but you should be able to get two or three turns out of them before that sad day arrives.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!