I've long had a fascination with planking and no, I don't mean the stupid Internet meme. There is something basic and primal about cooking food not just over wood, but on wood. It's indirect cooking with the direct added benefit of smoke. Best yet, it is dead easy and open to limitless possibilities.
Now when it comes to the actual wood planks, I have a confession to make. I'm cheap. I'm so cheap, I've gambled and bought cedar boards and cut them to size. The cedar was untreated and that third eye you see above my right ear is only an illusion. I'm fine, really.
I flat out refuse to buy two small ten inch cedar planks for six dollars, which is why I resorted to making my own. Yes, my own do work, but I really can't be 100% sure the are totally food safe. Besides the whole "will they kill me?" thing, the planks I'm making are fairly low grade cedar. Thankfully, I've found something much better: Outdoor Gourmet.
Started in 1995, Outdoor Gourmet is the original cedar plank producer. Based in Sandpoint, Idaho, they are in the heart of the pacific northwest and the center of red cedar country. Outdoor Gourmet also produces some of the finest planks I've ever used…and I've used a lot.
Having since expanded from only cedar, but to hickory, alder, cherry, red oak, and maple, Outdoor Gourmet also carries the largest plank I've seen. They are 6x12 and they are big enough for something I have in the fridge: beef ribs
I've planked a lot of things, but never ribs and to me, they seem like a great combination.
Planked Beef Ribs
Rack of Beef Ribs
1 T freshly ground pepper
1 T kosher salt
1 t granulated garlic
1/2 t ground cayenne powder
Plank - I went with hickory
Good quality BBQ sauce
The first step is to soak the plank. Figure on at least an hour. Part of the cook will be directly over the coals, so unless you want to ready the garden hose for a dinner killing flare up, make sure the plank is nice and wet.
Beef ribs are rich in flavor compared to their pork counterparts and also carry a whole lot less meat. As such, I go with a more minimalist rub and plan on a shorter cook time.
Prepare the grill for a two zone, direct/indirect, low heat fire (About 225-250F). Again, part of the cook is directly over the coals and part is indirect.
Remove the ribs from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before grilling. Remove the membrane. Place a knife between the bone and the membrane to separate the two. Then, grab the loose membrane end with a paper towel and pull the rest away.
Generously season with rub.
Place the ribs on the plank and place the planked ribs on the grill, directly over the coals.
Instead of adding chips to the fire, I'm adding the plank.
Cook for the first 30 minutes over direct heat. This should be enough time for the plank to start to smolder and smoke the ribs. However, be sure to keep an eye on it. I've had more than one planking accident in my time.
With the plank lightly smoking, move it over to the indirect side of the grill and continue to cook.
Continue to cook for another 90 minutes. Be sure to keep the lid down.
We are looking for a total cook time of about 21/2 hours. Figure 30 minutes directly over coals, 90 minutes indirect, and the remaining 30 minutes back over the coals while applying BBQ sauce.
I love layering the flavors of smoke and sauce.
With the meat pulled back from the bone and the sauce applied, it's time to eat. A word of caution, be careful not to overcook the ribs. As I mentioned before, there is not a ton of meat, so it is very easy to overcook them and have no meat at all. Sad trombone...
The ribs turned out great. As for the hickory plank, it worked perfectly. In fact, it was so robust, even with the smoldering, I think I will get another use out of it.
I think part of the joy of eating beef ribs is wielding around their massive bones. It's dinner and a workout all in one.
Note: Outdoor Gourmet provided me with a wide selection of planks. I will be playing with them for posts to come.