How Long Do I Need To Soak A Cedar Plank Before Cooking With It?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

If you were recently gifted or purchased a cedar plank for cooking, you are probably wondering exactly how to use it. The first question you probably have is how to put the cedar wood in the oven without catching it on fire. This likely leads you to wonder if you need to soak your cedar plank before cooking with it, and if so, for how long?

It is critical you soak your cedar plank before cooking with it. The ideal amount of time varies based on personal opinion, but you should soak the wood for a minimum of 15 minutes and upwards of one hour. The cedar wood absorbs water when soaking, which releases moisture into the wood to prevent it from burning and provides great flavor. Don’t soak the wood overnight, as it can lose flavor in the process.

Cooking food on a cedar plank, especially meals like salmon, trout, and other fish, is an incredible way to elevate your meal. It is also a lovely presentation for those who are trying to “wow” guests without spending a fortune on fine china. But it is essential you soak and prepare your cedar plank properly before placing your dinner on top. Failure to do so can result in a flavorless or overly smokey disaster. Keep reading to learn exactly how long you should soak a cedar plank and the best method to do so.

Do You Have To Soak A Cedar Plank Before Cooking With It?

You most likely have heard or read that soaking a cedar plank before cooking on it is a good idea, but is it absolutely necessary? The answer is yes, for a few reasons.

For one, soaking the cedar plank allows it to absorb moisture, which is then released slowly in the cooking process. If you don’t soak the plank, there is no moisture to keep the wood damp, which then results in the plank heating up rapidly. As you can imagine, this will result in the plank burning and even catching fire significantly sooner than it would if you had soaked it.

Another reason you need to soak a cedar plank is that it helps release the delicious fragrances and flavors from the wood. All that amazing cedar flavor that makes its way into your food gets there through moisture evaporation. No moisture, no flavor – it’s that simple.

How Long To Soak A Cedar Plank Before Cooking With It

Now that you know how important it is to soak a cedar plank before cooking with it, you need to know exactly how long you should soak it before it is ready for cooking. While there is no exact perfect amount of time to soak a cedar plank in water, there are clear guidelines, and some do’s and don’ts.

For one, you should always soak your cedar plank for at least 15 minutes in order to achieve the desired cedar flavors in your food. If you soak the plank for only 5 or even 10 minutes, you might get a little bit of flavor, but you will get considerably more if you soak it for between 15 minutes and one hour.

Soaking your cedar plank for between 15 minutes and one hour is the sweet spot for ideal cedar water absorption, and in turn, perfectly flavored food. While you might have an instinct to think “soaking longer is better,” this is not actually the case with cedar planks.

If you soak your cedar plank overnight, or for more than 24 hours, there will definitely be lots of water absorbed. But this will also result in the plank losing some or even most of its amazing flavors and fragrance. So, try to keep the soaking time to an hour maximum.

Step-By-Step Guide To Soaking And Cooking With Cedar Planks

Step One: Soak The Cedar Plank

Make sure you soak your plank in ample water. Find a large Tupperware container that is a foot deep or so. Keep in mind that cedar will float, so place something heavy on top of the wood to prevent it from staying afloat while it is soaking. This will provide an even soak. Allow the cedar plank to soak for between 15 minutes and one hour.

Step Two: Prepare The Grill Or Oven

You should aim to cook your food on the cedar plank at a temperature between 350 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit. This will cook the food thoroughly without burning the cedar plank. Make sure you have the oven or grill ready to go once you finish soaking the plank. This will prevent the plank from drying out prematurely.

Step Three: Heat The Wood, Then Cook The Food

While in some cases you can put the cedar plank in cold and wet, with the food on, in most cases, the timing will work out best if you allow your wood to heat up a bit first. This will allow your food to cook on the hot wood that has already begun to release its flavors, rather than cooking with the wood slowly heating up.

Four Tips To Help You Make Great Food On A Cedar Plank

Heat The Plank Before Placing Food On It

If you are cooking fish or anything that requires less than 15 to 20 minutes to cook in the oven or on a grill, consider heating the plank before placing the food on it. Heating up the plank first allows the food to start cooking right away, as well as get the splendid cedar aromas immediately. This is likely to result in more cedar flavor than if you put the food on a cold wet plank.

Don’t Soak It Too Long

Go against your initial instincts to soak the plank for a very long time. The wood only requires 15 minutes to an hour to absorb ample moisture. If you are worried about the plank not being moist enough, give it the full hour. Just remember, if you soak it too long, it might lose some of its cedar flavor.

Don’t Use The Same Plank Too Often

Ideally, you should only use a cedar plank for its flavor benefits once, or twice maximum. This is because after a few uses the flavor disappears. You can still use these planks to cook or serve food, but keep in mind they won’t offer the robust flavor they once did. Over time, wooden cookware and utensils must be replaced periodically.

Don’t Overfill The Plank

You might want your entire dinner to have a nice woodsy flavor, but don’t overfill the plank. This is especially true if you are cooking food that sweats or leaks, like some vegetables (squash, tomatoes, etc.) and meats. Too much moisture will prevent the food from getting a nice crispy top and can prevent the plank from heating and evaporating as it needs to in order to give off the intended flavors.

Wrapping Up How Long You Need To Soak Cedar Planks

Cooking a nice meal on top of a steaming cedar plank is a divine way to enjoy a meal. But in order to ensure you safely and effectively get all the intended cedar flavor into your food without burning anything, you need to properly soak your cedar plank. Make sure you soak cedar planks for a minimum of 15 minutes, and upwards of one hour. Don’t soak them too briefly or for too long either. Soaking a plank too long can draw out the flavor into the water, which will take away from the flavor in the food.

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Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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