Cedar cooking planks produce a sweet smoky flavor in foods cooked outdoors on a grill. The planks are particularly good for smoking and flavoring fillets of salmon, a practice that dates to the native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. The challenge of grilling cedar planks is getting good value out of each plank, which will inevitably char as a result of the grilling process over coals or a propane-powered grill burner. A few cleaning steps will help you reuse cedar planks at least four times or until the wood has cooked so thin it will have to be thrown away.
Scrape the charred side of a cedar plank with a coarse wood file or planer to remove the cinders and create a rough surface to expose the natural wood oils for the next use.
Rinse the food side of the plank and scrub with a scouring pad to remove the remnants of your last barbecue.
Soak the cedar in a sink or bucket for at least an hour before use.
Shake off the excess water and brush on a light coat of olive oil on the side you will place your planked food.
Reuse cedar planks only for the same type of food as grilled previously. For example, plank only salmon on cedar previously used for salmon. The reason is to prevent off-flavors from being absorbed into your next meal. Cedar planks will likely lose most of their natural oils, and thus the flavor and smoky aroma, after three to four uses on a hot grill.
Avoid cleaning the planks with soap or other cleansers that could seep into the wood and leave your food with a nasty taste the next time you use them. Discard planks that are bowed, cracked or become charred on the sides.