Cedar Planked Mussels

If I had to choose one person to come over to my home and cook for me right now, it would be ted-reader Ted Reader.He’s a madman. And he even looks like one with hair tricked up in directions only possible by riding a rollercoaster with a can of AquaNet and a blow dryer.

But the things he can do with wood, fire and meat tiptoes that fine line between genius and lunatic.


Just crack open Ted’s latest book, everyday-gourmet-plank-grilling Napoleon’s Everyday Gourmet Plank Grilling and you’ll know what I mean.

Man build fire.

Nail big salmon fillet to tall plank.

Stick plank standing up near fire.

Heat from fire cook salmon slow.

Plank give good taste.


Yes, Ted is crazy enough to create an entire cookbook dedicated to the art of cooking food on a plank. Any man who starts a recipe with “build a bonfire” is invited to my house anytime. If you’re like me and live in a gestapo-like community where they send out your neighbors to spy on you, measure your mulch levels and then fine you for improper edging, then maybe building a 4-foot fire pit in your yard probably isn’t a good idea. Thank goodness Ted’s book has 100 other recipes that start on a BBQ grill.


If you’re new to planking, here’s an easy recipe to start with. Make sure you only use wood that’s designed just for cooking  -you don’t want any of that pre-treated stuff. You’ll soak the planks for at least 2 hours for softer woods like cedar and overnight for harder woods like cherry, otherwise they’ll just burn and incinerate in the grill. Ahem, that’s advice based on experience. My favorite planks come from Sur La Table where they sell a package of cedar-plank-mussels 4 planks that include maple, cedar, hickory and alder woods.


How to buy and prepare mussels

When purchasing mussels, ask the fishmonger how long they’ve been sitting there and if they look dried out and sad, just pass. It’s best when your fishmonger selects the mussels one by one for you, but I only ask for that kind of pain-in-the-butt service if there’s no one else in line behind me.

When you get home, immediately unwrap the mussels. Take 2 large bowls – fill the larger of the two bowls 1/3 of the way with ice. Place the mussels in the smaller bowl and nestle that bowl in the ice. Now take a small, damp dishcloth and place that on top the mussels. Place bowl in the refrigerator until ready to cook. You’ll now be able to keep the mussels alive and cold. They can even stay overnight in the refrigerator like this.

Are you ready to start cooking? Inspect the mussels one by one. Scrub the mussels under cool running water and ‘de-beard’ by tugging the stringy stuff towards the hinge. All the mussels should be closed. If they are opened slightly, squeeze the shell closed and then let go. The mussel should stay closed. Discard any mussels that open back up.


Cedar-Planked Mussels Recipe

I like my mussels simply with good sea salt and lemon. You’re welcome to melt some butter and serve warmed for dipping. One medium-sized plank (15″ x 7″) should hold 1 pound of mussels.

Serves 2 as an appetizer

1 pound fresh mussels
1 cedar plank, made for grilling
a small bunch of fresh thyme
good sea salt
1 lemon or lime, cut into wedges

2+ hours prior to cooking, submerge and soak the plank in water. I used a baking sheet and weighed down the plank with a bowl. 15 minutes prior to cooking, pre-heat your grill on high heat.

When the grill is hot and ready, lay the soaked plank directly on the grill grates. Let the planks pre-heat for 5 minutes.

Follow the directions above to clean and de-beard the mussels. With long tongs or spoon, carefully lay the mussels on the heated planks. Scatter fresh thyme on top. Close the lid and cook for 5 minutes.
You can serve the mussels on the plank at the table. Discard any that have not opened. To enjoy, pry open the mussel shell, sprinkle just a bit of sea salt on the mussel and a quick squeeze of lemon or lime.

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Comments 24

  1. maggie

    These look amazing. I’ve never cooked on a plank because I’ve worried that it wouldn’t get hot enough (our grill doesn’t run super hot) but now I really want to try. Great idea to do mussels, I bet it would be good with clams too!

  2. Peter

    Oh yes, you met Ted at Club Med…he’s been feeding us up here for years…give a shout-out for mussels, for J-town (Jaden) and Canadians (Ted)!

  3. Patty

    This definitely is a must-do recipe! I’ve never cooked with planks but plan on experimenting with this! I love shell fish, may try oysters………

  4. Kamran Siddiqi

    Hmm. wondering if that herbed butter that I have in the freezer waiting to be used will be good with this…

    Jaden, great post as always and I love the “Man build fire” part. Made me chuckle.

  5. Simone (junglefrog)

    I learn something new almost everytime I read your blog! I had never heard of cooking on a plank before!! What an interesting way to put something on the BBQ…! Hmmm, you’re giving me new ideas!

  6. David Eger

    We love mussels, we have a stack of cedar planks up to here, we have fresh thyme, we have a kick-ass barbecue! Guess what’s on the menu for this weekend? Yeah, baby!

  7. katiek @kitchensidecar

    so what you’re saying is that ted is a crazy pyro motherf*er who likes to drink whiskey and eat things. I like…

    I am impressed that the flavor can seep into the mussels. Seems like so many barriers against it – what with wood and the calciferous shell.

    The smoke aroma is amazing from the soaked wood. That’s what gives it flavor. The mussels open up after just a couple of minutes and they do get the smoke treatment! Serve on the plank. jaden

  8. Shauna from Piece of Cake

    I am an a la plancha FOOL when I go out, but it never occurred to me to do this on wood at home. What is the matter with me?

    Thanks, Steamy Kitchen, for turning on the little light in my head that is burning a bit dim in all this dreary San Francisco summer fog.

  9. joey

    How my hubby and I would love to do this! But sigh…no grill…no outdoors to speak of actually…not even a window box!

  10. Jill

    I’m so glad you did a post on plank grilling because the hubby, bff, and I are still laughing about my first attempt. 30 minutes of soaking was definitely not enough no matter what the instructions on the packaging for the planks said. At least the wine was good!

  11. Kristin

    My poor boyfriend has been wanting to cook on a cedar plank for a long time and I’ve never bought him one. After seeing these mussels I think I definitely need to get on that… thanks for the reminder!

  12. Dandy

    I’ve never done this on my own but I love the use of cedar plank in cooking. A restaurant near me soaks the plank in different herbs and wine before using.

    Found you on Pioneer Womans site and I am LOVING your blog!

  13. gil

    Hi there, i have been reading your blog for some time.
    I’m from singapore, though i haven try out any of your recipes but i know soon i am gonne let it run through my household. HAHA.


  14. MaryAnn/SoCal

    Wow, these look fabulous. One of my favorite lunches out is the Hotel Laguna where you can sit on the patio overlooking the beach and eat Mussels and Fries, so yummy, full of garlic and butter. Its one of those “who would have thought” dishes…yep, Mussels and Fries! Now I’ll try planked mussels too.

  15. Grifila frondosa

    Instead of going “gourmet” for cedar planks, you could go to Home Depot or Lowe’s and get untreated cedar shingles.

    They work fine and are reasonable.
    Cedar is cedar.

    Just make sure they are untreated.

    I’m going to make this recipe as soon as I pick up the mussels and a few jumbo shrimp to cook on the plank.

  16. Grifila frondosa

    >i dont think i wud know how to eat these, even if i was served them!!<

    Nothing could be easier.
    They open up when they’re fully cooked ready.

    Pick them out and dip in butter.

    PS: You can use an empty shell as a tweezer, and pick out the rest of the mussels.

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