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Rockin' Ronnie Shewchuk is never far away from a grill, whether he's leading workshops or on the competitive barbecue circuit cooking up a storm. A self-proclaimed barbecue evangelist, Shewchuk is the author of the best-selling books Barbecue Secrets and Planking Secrets. Food & Wine magazine named Shewchuk one of America's greatest grillers.
I have seen the future of backyard cooking, and planking is going mainstream.
A highfalutin statement, I know. For many years plank-cooking has been an obscure technique practised by restaurateurs, anglers and nerdish foodies. But, thanks to the growing availability of quality cooking planks and exposure on network television, hundreds of thousands of people across North America have been discovering this easy, delicious grilling technique.
For a generation that has grown up on flavorless propane and gas grills, plank-cooking is a simple way to add the classic taste and aroma of wood smoke to meat. And, as you'll find out in this book, it also happens to be a great way to prepare vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and even cheese.
The basic technique couldn't be simpler: soak a cedar or hardwood plank in water. Place it in a hot covered grill. When the plank starts to crackle and smoke, put whatever you want to cook on the plank and cover the grill. Soon you'll have juicy, perfectly cooked food infused with wonderful flavor.
I'll admit there's skepticism in some circles about planking. My friend and longtime mentor Bob Lyon is a correspondent for the National Barbecue News and a true barbecue purist. He says the popularity of cooking with planks--particularly in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, where cedar-planked salmon is a restaurant staple--is fueled by "misinformation for tourists and local gullibles." And another old pal, food writer and barbecue queen Kathy Richardier, says "it's a waste of perfectly good wood. The only wood I advocate for food cooking is long sticks stuck with hot dogs or marshmallows over a campfire."
Unlike my curmudgeonly chums, some backyard cooks are attracted to the idea of plank-cooking but are reluctant to use planks on their grills, perhaps fearing the unknown or worrying about potential flare-ups and fires. The concept can be a bit daunting.
Well, I'm here to challenge the skeptics and calm the concerns of cautious grillers. With Planking Secrets I aim to tear down the Cedar Curtain and make plank-cooking safe, easy and fun for all backyard grillers. As you try out the techniques and recipes in this book, I'm convinced you'll quickly understand just how versatile planking can be, and how it can produce some of the most succulent dishes you've ever tasted. From classic planked salmon with whiskey-maple glaze to planked mushrooms with tarragon vinaigrette or planked pears in a pool of rhubarb compote, there's something in Planking Secrets for every taste and skill level.
So, read on. I predict that once you've had a good planking of your own, your backyard cooking will never be the same.
Yours forever in smoke,
Rockir Ronnie a.k.a. Count Plankenstein