Is a cedar plank safe to use in the oven?

Cooking with cedar planks may seem trendy and relatively new, but according to NPR, culinary aficionados have been cooking steaks and seafood on wooden planks since the early 1900s. So does President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who is said to have enjoyed “planking” his salmon and drizzling it with a white sauce. But the actual story digs much deeper, with the custom thriving in Native American communities centuries ago, especially with fish such as salmon, whitefish, and shad. Traditional cedar pastry in the Pacific Northwest involved slow-cooking whole salmon over outdoor fires spread over wooden planks, Marzetti explains.

The technique is much simplified today, usually using an outdoor grill instead of an open fire. Packaged food-grade cedar shelves populate grocery stores, upscale kitchen stores and countless online venues, making it easy to pile on seafood, meats and veggies for an earthy, smoky, flavorful platter of deliciousness. It’s healthy too, as the flavor comes naturally from cedar wood and smoke, with little need for added oils or fats. WebMD shared how plank-grilled salmon is easy to prepare and low in calories, saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates.

But what if grilling isn’t your thing, or it’s raining and cold outside? That’s when your oven comes into play, prompting questions about the safety of cedar planks in indoor settings. You’re certainly not the first to wonder if cooking on wooden planks can move into your kitchen without a 9-1-1 call from the fire department.

Baking on wooden shelves in traditional ovens

It seems to be a fairly universal consensus that wood plank cooking works just fine in traditional indoor ovens. In fact, the wood is much less likely to catch fire without the flickering flames of an outdoor grill, and it requires less soaking time, Wild Alaskan Company notes. While planks destined for the grill need to soak for at least an hour, the same planks only need to be soaked in water for 15 minutes before baking. It is important to completely submerge the wood in water to create the woody, aromatic steam that is characteristic of cooking on cedar planks. A soaked shelf also helps retain moisture and prevents food from drying out. You can also experiment with other liquids, such as wine, cider, or fruit juices.

Many commercially available cedar wood cooking boards come with instructions, and many recommend seasoning the wood with cooking oil before first use. Wild Alaskan simplifies the concept by applying a simple coat of oil directly to the shelf before adding your food. Temperatures are more manageable in an oven than on a grill. Wildwood Grilling recommends heat levels of 350 to 450 degrees F, depending on the recipe, and placing the plank on the top oven rack. Other tips include placing a baking tray on the bottom rack to catch spills and crisping the meat, fish or vegetables under the broiler for a few minutes before removing the shelf.

Choose cedar baking boards

Some manufacturers of food grade wooden boards distinguish between grill boards and baking boards, but it’s more common to find universal boards that work in both applications. High-quality boards can be reused up to three times, according to Wild Alaskan Company, as long as they are free of excessive char and can be cleaned without soap, which could seep into the wood. Several types of wood are available for planks, including alder and oak, but cedar is the gold standard for most chefs. Wildwood Grilling recommends using Western Red Cedar for its smoky flavor, aroma, and non-toxic properties.

Commercially available cooking boards can be pricey, but the Seattle Times reveals a more cost-effective way to incorporate shelves into your culinary world. Go to your local lumberyard and ask for an “untreated” cedar board, which is free of any chemicals that can get into your food. Aim for at least ½-inch thickness for stability. Choose something even thicker for longer life (multiple uses). Avoid boards with excessive knots that can trap hot oil while cooking.

You can ask the lumberyard to cut the plank for you. In a YouTube video on how to make your own cedar planks for cooking, InnerBark Outdoors suggests buying a 4×4 piece of untreated cedar planks for about $15 to $20, which can make up to 20 or 30 cedar planks for cooking, depending on how you cut them.