cooking with braai planks

I have been wanting to cook and braai on wood since first seeing this technique on Iron Chef America, one of my favourite cooking shows. Luckily this is now all possible with the introduction of Geobasket’s fabulous braai (barbecue) planks. Also known as ‘grilling planks’, these aromatic pieces of wood come in pure Maple, Alder and Oak.

I asked my friend Fritz from Real Men Can Cook to collaborate with me on this experiment because he is a full on braai expert and I on the other hand am not.

We plotted and planned, set a date, and thought up a few recipes ideas to try out on the planks.

Matching the flavour of the wood to food is similar to a food and wine pairing. We also threw some wine in the mix and soaked the Alder plank in red wine for the steak.

This is how me matched the wood:

  • Alder – Steak
  • Maple – pork
  • Oak – brie and Parma ham
  • Oak – marinaded black mushrooms

You need to soak the planks for at least an hour in water or another liquid. We soaked the Alder in red wine and the maple in apple juice over night to really let the liquid (and flavour) sink in.

These are our 4 recipes:

1. parma ham wrapped brie with thyme and garlic bruschetta

This is my new all-time-favourite starter and was introduced to me by my dear friend Liz Kobilski recently. She did it in her oven (not on wood) and served it with crispy ciabatta as a starter. Outstanding!

Here I added a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves onto the wedge of brie, and then wrapped it in 4 thin slices of Param ham (purchased from Giovanni’s). We put it on the plank and cooked it with the lid of for about 5 minutes and until the cheese was meted and started to ooze out.

Bloody marvelous!

After we removed the cheese we then drizzled olive oil over sliced ciabatta bread and toasted these on the plank until just nice and toasty brown on each side.

When I say this is beyond delicious, I mean it is truly beyond delicious.

2. black mushrooms marinaded in garlic, chilli, olive oil and pesto

black mushrooms with olive oil, garlic, chilli and pesto

This could not be easier and requires simply mixing up a marinade of:

  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 1 T of pesto
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and toss 2 large black mushrooms in the dressing ensuring that you drizzle some of it into the mushroom ‘gills’. Place on the planks with the gills and stem facing upwards to ensure that all the juice stays in. Cook covered until the mushroom is soft and juice but still retains its firmness. You will know when its done.

marinaded mushrooms cooked on oak grilling planks

Before and after shots above.

These are wonderful to serve on their own as a side dish for a braai (barbecue), or for a vegetarian as their main meal.

We popped one into a sesame seed bun which we had cut in half and toasted on the inside. Spread with a little more pesto and rocket leaves, this made a perfect vegetarian burger. Crumbled blue cheese was also a winning combination for these burgers.

The Mushroom Burger

You could also slice them up and top on a toasted garlicy bruschetta as we did with the brie cheese.

3. pork fillet coated in honey and mustard with grilled apples

grilled pork with honey, mustard and apples

The classic flavour combination of honey and mustard worked beautifully with this pork fillet. Paired with slices of apple which we grilled on the plank, left us smacking our lips all over the place.

I soaked the Maple plank in apple juice over night

For this marinade work on a ratio of 2:1 honey to mustard. So 2T of runny honey to 1T of Dijon mustard. Mix. Fritz lightly coated the meat in salt and pepper and olive oil and then briefly seared this on the open grid before placing it on the plank and then coating in the honey & mustard sauce. Cook this until the met is no longer pink. Slice up an apple into wedges and slices and place these around the fillet on the plank and cook. slice the meat into medallions and drizzle the leftover sauce over everything and tuck in.

We couldn’t particularly detect the apple juice flavour in the recipe but this could be a combination of the wood fire smoke and  the strong flavours in the sauce. This may be picked up more strongly if you were to be cooking on a gas braai / barbecue.

We simply had to check out a classic steak in our plank braai experiment.

4. Grilled sirloin steak

plank grilled sirloin steak

Nothing beats a piece of aged sirloin steak cooked to perfection on a fire and Fritz is pretty famous for his. There are a whole lot of variables that go into making the perfect steak and I started my lesson with how to build the perfect fire.

In our collab Fritz took care of all the action/ cooking shots, so you will need to go over to his blog post on it to check it out.

What a fantastic day we had and I am most certainly going to ge busy with cooking on wood in my oven too.

Visit the Geobasket website to see when and where these planks will roll out to. The planks will be available in selected Woolworths food stores from 10 Sept 2012.

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27 Responses to cooking with braai planks

  1. Colleen July 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

    WOW! How interesting to see someone use these. I had heard of them not so long ago and was wondering. All looks lovely! xx

  2. Tami July 2, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    Good grief Sam, I’m trying to stop myself from licking the screen. Awesome photography as always and what an amazing experiment xx

  3. Mary July 2, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    Love planking and your pictures make it even more tempting. Bravo!
    Where are these planks sold in Cape Town?

  4. Sam July 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Mary, the planks will be available in selected Woolworths stores from 10 Sept

  5. Fiona July 3, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Sam these are stunning photos and as always wonderful styling. Interesting to see the 2 different styles of photography.

  6. Sam July 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Hi Fiona and thanks. This is why I love to collaborate as two perspectives will always be different

  7. Zirkie July 4, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    O my word, sam, this looks sooooo delicious!!! The pork fillet with the apple sounds yummy!! I can’t wait to get some of these planks!!

  8. Sam July 4, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Thanks Zirkie, I think it would also be nice roasted in this sauce.

  9. Lyndon July 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    Awesome choice of recipes. Next post kindly supply serviettes to assist with the drool.
    I’ve seen Weber planks at Builders Warehouse – not sure of pricing

  10. Sam July 6, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Thanks Lyndon and how funny 🙂

  11. Jacques Engelbrecht July 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi Lyndon

    Yes , Sam knows her stuff alright….Our Braai Planks will be in Builders Warehouse stores from September as well. Retail will be about a third of the price of the Weber ones ( they use expensive Cedar Wood ).

  12. Henk H July 29, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Interesting.. How many times can you use a plank??

  13. Sam July 31, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Hi Henk, apologies for the late reply, but the planks can only be used once on the braai (you may be able to go a second time round if cooking something like mushrooms as these do not take too long to cook.

  14. hannes August 26, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    hi can anyone tell me can you use the pank more then once

  15. Sam August 26, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    HI Hannes, they are not ideal to use more than once, unless you use it very quickly. get in touch with Jacques with the contact details on the blog post to get clarification


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