Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Superior Planks : Back To Nature

Nothing is quite so fine as the aroma of smoldering, sweet, sugar maple curling from your grill on a cool summer’s eve. With the 20130629_200508_edit0Black-capped Chickadees in flight, showy white Egrets milling on the pond, and golden sunbeams awash over a freshly cut lawn, we keepers of the pit revel in the ambiance of such. It is our token porthole to tranquility in a land otherwise wrought with haste, and bumper-to-bumper traffic. Indeed, that might be half the reason why we grill year-around in the first place, to re-acquaint ourselves with the natural realm, to feel the sun again on our face, and if they’ll have it, to hear the tweety birds sing so sweetly, where the smoke gently rises.

One of the best means of re-kindling with the out-of-doors, via the grill, is planking. If you have not tried it yet, you’re missing something out of your grilling career. Cooking on planks is nothing new, as the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest were doing it long before any of our ancestor’s ancestors knew what a plank was even. But here lately, planking has really caught on in the grilling arts, and let it be said, because its true, it is a very fine means of procuring one’s supper over the open flame. Just set your meat on the plank, position it over direct heat, put the lid on your pit, and leave it alone. The less you touch it, the better. You need not even flip the meat over, tho instinct may barter otherwise.  In return, your chosen spoils get intimately acquainted with the smoldering plank below, as the steam and smoke and some natural tree oils permeate your meaty affair. It works. And it does so exceedingly well.

Superior plank logoEnter Superior Planks. Superior on a multiple of levels, and I’ll tell you why. First the obvious. These planks are grown, harvested, and produced by the Eco Wood Company Inc. A family owned business way up north, on Lake Superior. On a quaint little island, known as Madeline Island, which is one of many islands making up Wisconsin’s very own fresh water archipelago, better known as the Apostle Islands. It is here amid the fragrant stands of Cedar, Oak, and Maple, that Superior Planks are born. Let me tell you more.

When I first got into planking, like many of you, I went to the local big box store, and like most men I was drawn by some uncanny tractor beam towards the grilling section. It happens so frequently, it’s just something I have learned not to fight. Anyways, there was a bundle of cedar planks there, of which I snapped up and later that evening, planked up some Salmon. Very tasty it was, giving the salmon a nice woodsy flavor, but I was a little dismayed that my newly beloved Cedar plank had gone way of the unworthy, as it was charred and curled beyond resemblance of its former self, despite soaking it for the recommended hour. I was hoping maybe they’d last longer than one cook, but it was not to be. The end result tasted good, and I guess that’s the main thing, but it would have been nice to be able to reuse the planks a little more. I wasn’t convinced they were worth the money the big stores were charging.

Then here lately,  I contacted the friendly folks at Superior Planks, and asked them to send me some of theirs. And boy what a difference. Their planks were at once a noticeably robust affair. 11 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 1/220130630_191942_edit0 inch thick.  The kind I got at the box store were maybe a 1/4 inch thick, which I suspect attributed to its unsightly, and premature demise. The folks at Superior Planks fancy their planks to last anywhere from 5 to 12 cooks, depending on how long you soak them. The longer you soak, the longer they last. Logical. They recommend two hours for their planks. I was impatient tho, and soaked it only one. And it still survived the fires with ten times the integrity of the cheaper box store planks. I was impressed. Part of the reason they last so long is pretty interesting actually. It has to do with density.

You see, way up north on the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, the growing season is disturbingly short. And tho some might think of that as a bum deal, the folks at Eco Wood Company Inc. see it as something as a blessing. You know how there are rings in a tree, if you look at it from a cross-section point of view?  And each ring equals a year of growth.  Well, the shorter growing season on Madeline Island means the rings of a tree grown there are closer together than trees grown other places more hospitable.  And this makes the wood more dense. And that is why they last as long as they do in the fiery confines of your grill.  The Maple and Oak planks last the longest, at 5 to 12 cooks. The Cedar planks for what ever reason, do their own thing, and only last around 3 cooks. There’s always a rebel in the bunch.

As I read a little more about Superior Planks, they started to impress me on other levels too. Here is a little family owned operationOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA producing top-notch planks, and doing it with a degree of respect for the environment I surely wasn’t expecting. Turns out they were doing all sorts of things, going out of their way in point of fact, to lessen their footprint. For example, the packaging they ship the planks to you in, is all recycled materials, the ink too, and even the plastic wrap! But that is just the beginning for these stewards of the land. Every tree they haul about up there, to make us our planks is done so by a horse. Yup, you read that right. They employ old trigger as a tractor of sorts, to do their bidding. Say what you will, but this makes for some mighty fine conversation around the pit while planking up some dinner. These folks also run their milling equipment off of bio-diesel, which I thought was pretty cool.  Their facility, naturally,  is heated by their scrap wood, in an efficient boiler system.  And so on. You get the idea. As I learned, and now you have to, these folk are not afraid to be different. And in that alone sets them apart. And it sort of dawns on you, the way good things always do, that they are doing so much more than just making quality planks. Bless these guys.

Check them out when you’re in the mood for some quality planking at your next BBQ. The planks come in Smokey Red Oak, Classic Northern Cedar, and Sweet Sugar Maple.

18 responses

  1. Adam

    Never heard of planking before so thanks for the education. And it really is that simple to do? Any other pointers or basic rules? Would love to hear about one of your meat classics using this method. Great post, thanks.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    • Adam, I do declare it is pretty much that easy to do. One of the reasons for its ease is the very wood your meat sits on acts also as a heat deflector of sorts. So you never need worry about your meat burning from below. And when you place the lid of the grill on, it is kind of just like the oven in your kitchen, save for a smokey aroma mingling with your spoils, which in our estimation, makes it better than a kitchen oven.

      A write-up on a meaty classic using this method is soon forth coming.

      Thanks Adam!

      July 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm

  2. I’ve heard of Scandinavians using a similar technique. I’ll give it a bash for sure but alas, I shall have to wait until some decent weather returns…

    July 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    • The heck with decent weather! 🙂

      Yeah man, it is such a cool way to grill foods. You’ll dig it I think.


      July 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm

  3. Liz

    have always wanted to plank, but the inconvenience of having to buy a plank got in my way. (though the inconvenience of having to buy a new pair of shoes seems not to stop me…your bride can perhaps explain that little joke to you if it doesn’t make sense, haha) For real, though, I love buying (necessary and helpful) kitchen toys and the grill is an extension of the kitchen so… And. Your story of Superior Planks makes hunting down a plank more appealing. (Hope they are paying royalties for your post or at least sending you a free plank or two 😉 ) Thanks for the tip.

    Honored to be your chattiest visitor 😉 You are always welcome over at food for fun as well. Perhaps you would enjoy my post about the ding dong trifle if you have not already seen it? And vodka gummy bears will be making their appearance next week. Carry on! And enjoy the heat 🙂 Hope your neighborhood was not affected by the big storms last week.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    • Thanks much Liz. Yes, all is well in the neighborhood. My BBQ Grill was still up right when the tempest passed. No worries.

      Yeah, you for sure ought to give planking a try. Cedar planks are the classic option. A very lovely flavor will be imparted. I’d like to do more of it myself, but yeah, you do have to go hunt them down, and that can be a pain. But at least these Superior planks last a while, least wise the oak and maple do, so you won’t have to go plank shopping much. They do good. And they’re from Wisconsin, so it kind of feels like were supporting the local guys, which is good. And yeah, they sponsored us some planks.More than enough compensation for the fun we had with them.

      My bride has tried to explain the shoe thing to me on occasion. I nodded my head a lot, but in truth, I still don’t get it. There are some things about women that we men are simply not given to understand. Shoes are one of them.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:59 pm

  4. mdprincing

    nothing quite as delicious to me as planked whitefish and a ring of garlic smashed potatoes to fill the rest of the plank while cooking golden brown and all yummy like

    July 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

  5. Awesome as usual my Smoky friend. I couldn’t agree more. I wrote a similar Blog post called “Don’t have a Smoker? You don’t need one !!” back in early June. I am very interested in contacting Superior Planks … thx for the link info. Stay hungry brutha. Your faithful smoky follower.

    July 1, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    • Groovy man! Yeah, I’ll have to wander over there, and go dig up that blog post of yours. I’d like to read it. Thanks!

      You’ll like the planks I’m sure. They’re top notch, no doubt. I’ve been re-using the same sugar maple one all weekend. They kind of just keep going and going!

      Thanks kandee. I’ll stay hungry!
      Take care

      July 1, 2013 at 4:16 pm

  6. Liberty of Thinking

    I can’t remember how I came to hear of your blog, but I slowly come to notice that your posts are not only gastronomica ldelights, but gems of a sound and respectful understanding of what life in its magnificent simplicity should be, in a literary style many should learn.It reminds me of the great Romanian hunting story-tellers of my Northern Transylvanian childhood. You write not for followers, but for the joy of sharing your own joy of what’s to be enjoyed of it. Thank you. I am adding your blog to my humble page of blogs which I am honoured to follow. The honour is truly mine.

    July 1, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    • Well, shoot, that’s one of the nicest replies we have ever had! Thank you very much for that. And really, you nailed it on the head, what this blog is all about. We just want people to feel our joy. Plain and simple.

      Thank you sir!

      July 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm

  7. laurie27wsmith

    You blokes ‘get wood’ with your cooking anyway, a plank seems like a natural extension for your great cooking endeavours.

    July 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    • Haha, thanks Laurie! Planks are a lot of fun, for sure.

      Take care down under!


      July 1, 2013 at 7:45 pm

  8. thick-cut garlic and shiitake stuffed porkchops planked on apple wood = heaven.

    when i head back state-side, i am definitely hitting up superior planks to kick up my barbeque / grilling. thanks for the tip man, i owe you one.

    July 1, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    • That sounds fantastic! Apple planked shiitake stuffed pork chops. Man!!

      July 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

  9. Pingback: one crazy summer | food for fun

  10. Pingback: Rainy Days and Radios: Spicy Cedar Planked Salmon for Dummies | Patrons of the Pit

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