Walk the plank

Grilling season is under way, but how can you add a twist to this ancient cooking technique? Grill on wood planks. Local cooking-club members Dina Guillen, Michelle Lowrey, Maria Everly and Gretchen Bernsdorff—who have recently written The Plank Grilling Cookbook: Infuse Food with More Flavor Using Wood Planks—got hooked when Guillen made plank-grilled quail with port sauce for the group. I asked Guillen, who’ll sign cookbooks with her co-authors at the Borders in Folsom (2765 E. Bidwell Street) on June 3 at 2 p.m., about what sets plank grilling apart:

1. On the taste: “The biggest difference is the flavor. To get that kind of smoky flavor, you’d have to use a smoker, which takes hours. [Plank grilling] takes minutes. Also, because the food is cooking on a flat surface, the moisture is retained. … The food just tastes amazing—you get the taste of the wood, the taste of the smoke and all that moisture.”

2. On the technique: “The most important thing is to soak the wood for at least an hour before you grill on it. That keeps the wood from burning right away, and from the moisture in the wood, you get all that smoke. Second, have a spray bottle or hose nearby, because wood does catch on fire.”