First I should mention that this is not my recipe, but it is the only way I've ever cooked a rib roast. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks -- Ron Shewchuk's Planking Secrets.
When it comes to grilling, I've learned most things from three folks:
- Steven Raichlen. He's probably the most popular author of grilling books, he has a TV show, and he hosts BBQ University each summer in Colorado. When I bought my first grill, I also bought a copy of How to Grill and nine years later I still use both on a regular basis. I don't watch cooking shows on TV because they make me hungry, but I do have several of his books and we had a great time at BBQ U! His Barbecue Bible site features a regularly-updated blog section and a popular forum for chatting about live-fire cooking where the subject of holiday rib roasts was a hot topic.
- Meathead. He created the Amazing Ribs website and I'm sure it's the most comprehensive source of grilling knowledge on the internet. BONUS: It's free. They tend to take a scientific approach when determining what works and why, so in addition to learning specific recipes and techniques you can also absorb plenty of information that will help in your own cooking experiments. Who in the BBQ world keeps a physicist on retainer? Meathead! That's too cool. I certainly look forward to his upcoming book.
- Rockin' Ronnie Shewchuk. I first learned about Ron's books from the Amazing Ribs site on a page about plank grilling. Ron seems like an interesting character to me because here in Kentucky we're familiar with the southern ways of slow & low BBQ, and Ron is a successful competition cook known as an expert in the slow-smoked style of pulled pork that we love. Thing is, he's located in Vancouver of all places! It's not the first spot I would look to find a southern-style BBQ expert, but that shows what I know and if you try a few of his recipes you'll be a believer.
The best way to keep up with Ron is to check his Barbecue Secrets website. There you'll find plenty of good advice, good recipes, and a most interesting podcast. He also happens to be a communications consultant, so his podcast is very professional and features thoughtful conversations about outdoor cooking. I particularly liked the last podcast of 2013 where the guests included Meathead, my friend and KY BBQ Book author Wes Berry, and another Canadian BBQ champ who shined some light on the latest competition techniques.
We've loved every recipe we've tried from the 'Planking Secrets' -- meats, seafood, vegetables, and fruits. This rib roast recipe was my favorite of all. It's something special around here because we don't usually purchase an expensive roast like this, but after trying it once I knew we'd do the same recipe the next time. I guess prime rib is a favorite Christmas recipe for a lot of folks, so the grocery stores tend to stock up on rib roasts at the end of December. If you go searching a day or two after Christmas, you just might find a nicely discounted piece of meat like we did this time.
When it comes to using wooden planks on the grill, there are different strokes for different folks, and I've tried several different techniques over the last few years.
|Cedar-planked Salmon at BBQ U.|
The plank is at the top of the grill on indirect heat, and Steven is cooking the skin separately.
Perhaps the most popular method is to soak the plank and use it on the grill with indirect heat. This tends to produce more steam than smoke and I like this method for cedar, which I find to be a bit strong when it starts smoking too much. A steaming plank can add a bit of flavor to more delicate foods like seafood or fruits/vegetables, but oftentimes other smoking wood is used for flavor. There are benefits to his method. While a big piece of fish can be hard to handle on the grill, it is easy to maneuver a big plank. You can serve your food directly on the plank, and that tends to impress guests. You can probably also get multiple uses out of one plank. I'm not sure that's safe, but I've often used the other side of the plank a week or two later if it's in good shape, and it hasn't killed me yet.
|Planked Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles and Pears w/ Walnuts & Blue Cheese from 'Planking Secrets.'|
The 'Planking Secrets' method says to soak the planks and then preheat them over direct heat to get some smoke rolling before you start cooking. I love this technique for oak or hickory planks, because I prefer that flavor over cedar smoke. And it seems to me that if you're gonna cook on a plank, you shouldn't need to add other wood for smoke. If your plank is smoking, you don't need to.
|Plank-Roasted Prime Rib.|
The first time I tried the plank-roasted prime rib recipe, my planks flared up big-time when I opened the lid to add more charcoal. Awesome! I don't know much about how other grills work, but with a Weber kettle the flames go out as soon as you replace the lid so that's not a problem. I liked the flare-up and the extra smoke that was produced, so I started thinking maybe I didn't need to soak the planks in the first place?
The thing about preheating dry planks is that they can easily be overheated, if you will. Might be a good idea to keep a water bottle, a water hose, and extra planks handy!
|Hickory-Planked Spatchcocked Chicken.|
This was our favorite chicken of 2013 and it was cooked on dry planks. It cooked fast and it had a great smoke flavor along with a nice crisp skin, which I don't always get when I slow smoke a bird. I didn't expect the smoke flavor to be so strong at these high temps, but I think the burning plank and the fact that it was spatchcocked helped. Anyway, it convinced me that I could quit soaking my planks. I'm thinking of it as direct-contact smoking.
Downside? Planks don't last long!
|Planked Pizza Oven Burgers.|
These planks weren't soaked, but they were quickly consumed without even catching on fire. I still don't understand how that happened -- this was an experiment where I expected to lose three planks and three burgers, but the planks and the high heat created some of the best cheeseburgers we've ever cooked.
Now, on to the 2013 Rib Roast...
This one had the bones. You can probably tell that we're going to make a mustard-rosemary paste here.
More often than not, I learn something new when I fire up the grill and this day was no exception. Lesson #1: Wooden planks make a fine cutting board for chopping things like rosemary, and that cuts down on the number of dishes that need to be cleaned up.
|Mise en Place.|
We love smoke-roasted potatoes. I always try to throw some on the grill with ribs or anything that'll be cooking for more than a few minutes. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and smoke...
|Preheating the planks...|
|...provides plenty of time to hook up the iGrill probes.|
It only took two or three minutes to get these planks going.
|After about 1:30 it was time to add more fuel.|
Lesson #2: Those planks are poorly positioned for adding more charcoal.
|Oak-Planked Rib Roast.|
These iGrill charts are cool. It's obvious where we opened the lid to take a quick peek, and then when we took the lid off for several minutes to add more charcoal (and move those planks and snap a picture or two). I pulled this one when the iGrill and the Thermapen both agreed on 123 degrees.
I didn't try to drop the grill temperature as much as Ron suggests in the book, but at about 1:45 the total grilling time was right in the middle of the expected range.
|One and done.|
Half of the beef plank decided to stay behind.
|Lesson #3: Burning planks will add character to your wooden cutting board, and maybe try to burn your house down.|
|The obligatory Corvette or motorcycle pic that has nothing to do with nothing.|
A 1,300 HP Lingenfelter Z06 sits among friends at the National Corvette Museum.
|Oak-Planked Prime Rib.|
After resting for 30 minutes it looked just like I hoped it would. I would have liked to make some twice-baked potatoes during that time, but I grilled up some chicken for my wife instead. She really doesn't know what she's missing...
|Planked Prime Rib and Smoked Potato.|
For a meat & potatoes guy, this is pretty much the perfect Sunday meal! That mustard-rosemary rub and the smoke flavor make for a most delicious slice of beef. I hope we can do the same thing a few days after Christmas next year, and if we do I'll be following Rockin' Ronnie's recipe again. Thanks, Ron!
|LEFTOVERS: Prime Rib Sandwich and French Onion Soup.|
Sometimes the leftovers are as good as the first meal. We've been making a lot of French onion soup lately, and this time I used beef stock we made from the rib bones which provided a good smokey flavor so it was the best batch so far. We start with this recipe for Ale & Onion Soup, so it's also a good reason to crack open a beer or two and the blue cheese croutons are crazy good!
|Soup & Salad.|
In closing, I should point out that Meathead isn't a big fan of plank grilling these days. He explains why in this article from a few months ago that I just noticed. His points are valid (of course). But I'm still a big fan and I'll keep using the planks, primarily because our results keep getting better and better. And also because it's somewhat like cooking pork chops on shovels at BBQ U or cooking a steak directly on the coals -- it's OK to do something different for fun's sake, especially when you are hanging out with friends and cooking a meal on a fire. Just try to not burn the house down or overcook/undercook the food and everybody should be pretty happy! I always am...