2005 | REGIONAL | EAST COAST
Planked Perfection : Cook Fish On The Grill With
By Lucy Saunders
I arrived at Larry and Angie Bell’s backyard patio
with fish in a cooler, ready to cook with Bell’s brews.
It was all part of a grand experiment in grilling fish on
In the upper Great Lakes, planked whitefish is standard fare,
with filets cooked on wood just as the Anishinabeg Indians
did centuries ago. You can cook fish on just about any slab
of wood, as long as it is untreated and pest-free. Some thrifty
home cooks even use untreated cedar roof shingles. But I chose
prepared planks (from the Sautée Cedar Company) for
the experiment, thinking the planks seemed a bit thicker and
sturdier than a single shingle.
The trick is to soak the planks in water long enough that
the wood will generate enough smoke and steam to cook the
fish. Also, be sure to place the planked fish over a low fire
so as not to ignite the wood but merely give it PGM (pretty
As an experiment, I once tried to soak the planks in a good
quality craft beer, hoping that the smoke would be hoppy and
aromatic. It was not a success, as the malt in the brew caramelized
on the wood and made it sticky. And that circumvents one of
the key advantages to grilling with wood planks. The best
part of cooking fish on planks is that you don’t have
to clean the grill grates. The planks just slide off the grill,
and the fish won’t stick to the wood, as long as the
wood is completely waterlogged before cooking.
After marinating the fish for an hour, we put the wild-caught
Alaskan salmon filet on the cedar plank, and the Norwegian
cod on the alder plank. Fragrant wisps of smoke trickled out
of the covered gas grill in mere minutes, so the fish cooked
quickly. A large three-pound filet was done in just 20 minutes.
Due to its thickness, the salmon was a bit rare, but the cod
cooked perfectly. Try these beer-based marinades with your
next cookout, and make your filets fit the plank!
Garlic and Fig Stout Glaze
2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 ounces fig jam or 8 very ripe fresh Mission figs,
peeled and diced
12 ounces stout (I used Bell’s Cherry Stout)
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth
and use as a marinade for salmon or mackerel. Makes
about 2 cups, enough for 2 to 3 pounds fish.
1/2 cup prepared brown mustard (look for the grainy
1/4 cup amber ale
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of one lemon
1. Whisk all ingredients together and rub over filets
at least 1 hour before grilling. Makes enough to cover
1-1/2 to 2 pounds of fish.
Lucy Saunders edits beercook.com