Oak, salt & lamb - a smoking combination

This is one of my favourite cooking party tricks, not to mention that it tastes pretty good too.  Lamb or pork fillet smoked on an oak plank on the BBQ, it is so simple to do, uses natural resources and the flavour is second to none.  The oak we have available at the moment came from our woodland at the farm.  Several years ago, a large tree fell in a storm, the gnarly branches made for good logs, but with some of the other straighter pieces I had it planked at a local sawmill.  These thin oak planks make for an incredible medium for adding rich smokey flavour to meat on the BBQ.

Firstly, place the plank in a container of water, the oak is well seasoned and the water will prevent it from burning on the BBQ but also as it heats up the water in the wood will steam the meat.  Then cover the lamb fillet in around 150g of pure dried vacuum (PDV) salt in an empty container, we enclose a sachet with each plank purchased.  Leave the lamb in the salt for at least 30 – 50 minutes.  The salt is drawing out moisture from the lamb, but it also makes the tannins in the wood smoke permeate the meat more readily.  Use this time now to light your BBQ and heat to around 180c. 

After the allotted time thoroughly rinse all the salt off the lamb fillet then pat dry with kitchen paper.  Take your plank out of the water and place it face down on the BBQ for around 10 minutes, while the plank is heating replace the lid on the BBQ.  After 10 minutes turn the plank over and place the lamb fillet onto the scorched side and replace the lid.  I use a meat thermometer which takes the guesswork out of cooking, for this cook I wanted my lamb to reach a core temperature of 60c, which would be reasonably pink once rested and the latent heat in the lamb is left to finish the cook.  If you do the cook while your dinner guests look on they will inevitably be intrigued by the wooden plank, it is also remarkable how much smokiness the lamb takes on in a short time and in spite of being left in salt it’s not oppressively salty at all.

In total, it took 18 minutes to reach temperature then I left the lamb to rest for a further 5 minutes before slicing.  Smoked lamb or pork goes beautifully with salty sweet or spicy flavours; feta cheese, chili or pomegranate seeds are all good bedfellows for this dish.  Give your plank a good wash after the cook with clean warm water and no soap, leave it to dry and it will be good for a second outing a least!

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