Alder, beechnut, cedar, cherry, hickory, maple, oak, pecan and walnut are all types of wood used as cooking planks. They are used when cooking many proteins such as fish, chicken and pork over open flames or on grills. Keeping the meat moist and giving it flavor are two common reasons for using the planks. Hardwoods generally are preferred over softwoods, because they can handle the higher temperatures better and flavor the meat better. Some people even use cooking planks to prepare fruits and vegetables.
One of the most common types of planks is made from alder. It is chosen for the slightly sweet flavor that it gives foods such as salmon. Beechnut is a favorite for many types of meat, because it gives a slightly smoky flavor without having it overpower the natural flavors of the meat. Cedar is used for the same reason. Cherry wood provides a sweetness and fruity flavor to meats when used as a cooking plank, with black cherry being the most common type used.
Hickory is very common in the southern United States and is most commonly used for pork, giving it a smoky bacon flavor. A mild smokiness and sweet flavor are given to poultry and pork by maple cooking planks. Oak is popular because it can be found in many areas and gives a nice flavor to many meats. Pecan is provides a more subdued hickory flavor. Red meat and game meat are most commonly cooked on walnut cooking planks because of the stronger flavors they provide.
Properly preparing cooking planks before use is important for grilling or open fire preparation. Boards should be no more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and should be soaked in water for several hours before they are used. This prevents the planks from drying out during the cooking process. It might still be necessary for any flames that spring up during cooking to be doused with water. Many people choose to brush their planks with olive or vegetable oil to help prevent sticking.
It is possible to use cooking planks several times. The lower the temperature that is used during cooking, the longer the planks will last. Washing the planks with soap and water and allowing them to dry also might help extend their use. When the planks have reached the end of their useful life, they will begin to crack. After this happens, the planks could be broken into pieces to be used as wood chips for cooking.