Smoking Fish on a Plank: The Preparation
How to prepare a plank for smoking fish on the campfire
I was recently asked to cook a main meal for 22 scout leaders and so thought I would try smoking fish on a plank. Now, I have read about the Finnish tradition of Liomulohta, I’d never tried it before (let alone managed to pronounce it). But thought this would be as good an opportunity as ever to give it a go. A lot of the information I used for this post and the recipe have come from The Flavour of Finland blog.
Choosing Your Plank
First things first, you need to source your wood. If grilling directly, you’ll want to try to use a hard wood (think trees with leaves) as they’ll be less likely to catch on fire. I’m smoking fish on a plank off the direct heat so it’s not as important. Woods like cedar, apple, maple and hickory will produce a very distinct smokey flavour too. You might decide to be authentic and make your own plank just be careful not to use anything toxic, such as rhodadendron.
The most important thing you consider is whether or not the wood has been treated. Most wood produced for garden centres and the like will be preserved in some way. This is to improve durability and increase resiatance against fungus and insects. If you’re smoking fish on a plank, or even cooking over a wooden fire, you should avoid treated wood.
You can however buy specially produced boards made for this sort of thing. But why would you when you know a scout leader who works in a factory who can get outcuts of untreated wood for free…?
Getting Your Plank The Right Shape
If grilling with a plank, you’ll want at least an inch of board around the outside of the food being cooking. Because I’m smoking my salmon standing up beside the fire, this doesn’t really matter, as long as the fish fits on. It should be no thinner than 2cm (ish) to ensure it doesn’t catch on fire. To ensure my planks were wide enough, I’ve joined two together. Sand the edges down so there is no risk of splinters and wash to remove any saw dust.
I used a hammer and nail to punch holes into the planks
Some articles for smoking fish on a plank that I’ve read suggest you nail the salmon to the board. I don’t really like the idea of the fish being cooked touching nails but that’s just me. I’ve opted for the pinning method. This requires a little more prep. Before you cook, punch holes into the plank in strategic places; prepare a few miniature stakes with your knife or axe and use these to pin the fish to the board. Aim for around the size of a crayon. Hammer them into place using the back of your axe just before you begin to smoke.
I didn’t get any photos photos of the pins I made but if you look at this photo you can see one stuck behind my ear
Soaking Your Plank
You should soak your grilling planks for at least 3 hours in water before use, I did mine over night. You can do this in a river with a stone on top… or in the bath before you go. This not only helps prevent them from catching fire, but the smoke caused by the steam creates a richer flavour. Just make sure they aren’t dripping wet when you’re using them. I’ve also read that you can soak your plank in other liquids such as apple juice or even beer or wine. I’ve no doubt that this would be great… But I can’t bring myself to pour that much beer into the bath!
Give the planks a good soaking before using them.
Smoking fish on a plank
So, you’ve choosen the wood. You’ve made sure it’s not treated. You’ve drilled the holes and commandeered your bath for the night. You’re ready to start smoking fish on a plank. It’s an exciting one and it’s definitely worth an afternoon of your Ventures’ or Rovers’ time.