Grilling year-round is a way of life for us here in the Pacific Northwest. And we have a plan to help you get into the habit of grilling called the 30-Day Planking Challenge – more on that later.

January. The New Year. Resolutions. Many people use the beginning of the new year to try something different— whether it’s revisiting a forgotten habit, like exercising, or renewing old acquaintances or trying something for the first time ever, like skydiving or speaking Chinese.

The 30-Day Planking Challenge Backstory

A few months ago at Wildwood Grilling, we were talking about the New Year. We asked ourselves how could we make 2016 the “Year of Grilling with Wood.” Everyone we meet loves grilling with wood – the experience, the flavor, the beauty of the food – but most people only do it for special occasions.

Once upon a time grilling with wood was the only way to cook. How do we make that once-commonplace and now “occasional activity” more of a habit?

We discussed how all of us at Wildwood have grilling with wood in our DNA. We regularly grab whatever is fresh in the market or in our gardens and bring it into the office to grill and share with others. At Wildwood Grilling we experiment with ingredients, pair them with different species of wood, and try new techniques to unlock the holy matrimony between the hearty flavor of wood, smoke and food.

So once again we asked ourselves: “How do we share what is commonplace to us with the rest of the world?”

And that’s when we came up with the idea for the 30-Day Planking Challenge. And no – it’s not that kind of Planking Challenge. But we just couldn’t resist using that name.

Here’s the low-down on our version of a 30-Day Planking Challenge – Wildwood Grilling style. We know that new habits – like cooking with wood and fire – take time and effort to be established. We wanted to help facilitate that process. So first we researched how habits are formed.

Building Habits: What the Science Says

I found a great post from Gregory Ciotti talking about ways to build habits that stick. Greg came up with 5 suggestions (which I’ve paraphrased here):

1. Make “micro quotas” and “macro goals”

Greg suggests that you need both, a big, long-term macro goal, and short little “micro quotas.” For example, if you big goal was writing a novel, your micro quota may be writing 1000 words each day.

So what’s the macro goal for grilling with wood? For some of us at Wildwood Grilling, it’s a desire to cook healthier. For others, it’s a way to reconnect with the outdoors on a daily basis. Still others want to bring authenticity into their meals and some folks are trying to bring new flavor and diversity into their cooking repertoire.

What’s your macro goal? Let us know on Twitter.

Throughout the 30-Day Planking Challenge, we set up the micro quota for you: Grill one food item each day using a plank.

2. Create behavior chains

Greg also suggests, “Creating sticky habits is far easier when we make use of our current routines, instead of trying to fight them.”

So for our challenge we want to take a habit that you already do – cooking for yourself and family – and add to that already-existing habit by resolving to grill one item on a plank.

Simple, right?

3. Eliminate excessive options

Quoting the Harvard Business Review, Greg states, “if you want to maintain long-term discipline, it’s best to identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane — and then ‘routinize’ those aspects as much as possible.”

So we want to take out as many options as we can to make your habit of grilling with wood become as regular as breathing:

  • We created a recipe for each day.
  • Recipes focus on one menu item – a starter, an entrée, a side dish or a dessert – so we’re easing you into the grilling world.
  • We’re only using planks. We’ll save cooking with chunks, chips, wraps and skewers for another day.

4. Process plan (visualize but don’t fantasize)

Many people fantasize about reaching their goal – like learning Chinese – but sometimes those fantasies actually are detrimental to creating a new habit. So Greg suggests that we visualize the process to get to the end goal – instead of the end goal itself. Here’s how this works for the 30-Day Planking Challenge.

  • Review how to cook with planks on our website and imagine each step in the process.
  • Read through the recipes beforehand and visualize each step to reduce anxiety.

5. Eliminate “ah-screw-its”

Quoting Greg, “New habits are often very fragile, and it is for this reason that we must eliminate any source of friction … where you find yourself saying, ‘Screw this, it’s not worth the effort!'”

You can eliminate the “ah-screw-it” of grilling a plank item every day by:

  • Buying a month’s worth of the planks in advance.
  • Buying a week’s worth of recipe ingredients.
  • Put out the non-refrigerated recipe items early in the morning so they are waiting for you after work.
  • Create a ritual where you soak the planks before you start prepping dinner.

Getting Started on the Planking Challenge

As you try these recipes, please check back in and let us know what you think – what recipes did you love? Which ones didn’t cut it for you? Why? Did you notice the flavors that different wood species infused in the foods? Let us know if you have any questions – either about the recipes or the grilling techniques or both? We look forward going on this journey with you and – hopefully – making grilling with wood a part of your everyday cooking habits.

Listen to our podcast Forest to Grill and find out how you could get the month’s worth of planks for free!

I’ll check back at halfway through the month and share feedback we’ve gotten so far. Happy grilling!

Hi. I’m Katie Bradish from Wildwood Grilling and I’ll be your blogger for January. My job is to show you that grilling with wood can be easy, intriguing and fun.