The Best Cedar Plank Salmon Recipe
Using Planks to Cook Meat Has Been Around Forever
Man has been cooking with and over fire since the beginning of time. Originally, food was placed directly in the fire or on top of hot coals. As humans evolved and became more creative in the kitchen, we began doing things like placing food on branches, planks, and spits to roast over the fire—meaning your meat wasn’t covered with ash.
Around the globe, different methods of roasting and smoking emerged, including hanging fish or meat over the top of wood fires in order to dry and flavor it. Smokehouses were ultimately built so that greater quantities of food could be smoked at once and the smoky flavor imparted to the food could be controlled.
This is among my favorite salmon recipes. This particular salmon recipe uses a cedar plank because I find that cedar just works well with salmon. Don’t be afraid to try another type of plank. Maple and oak also work, though the flavor is noticeably different.
The prep time noted below does not include the time required to soak the plank. Pre-soaking the plank is absolutely a must so that it won't catch fire on the grill. Please refer to my tips below.
Ready? Let's get cooking . . .
Cedar Plank Salmon Recipe
- 2 salmon fillets, 6–7 ounces each, skin removed
- 2 tablespoons your favorite dry rub for fish
- 1 plank cedar, oak, or maple
- For best results, remove the skin from the salmon fillets. This allows the dry rub flavors to permeate the fish. Your friendly fishmonger may be able to skin the fish for you—no charge. If you are skinning the salmon yourself, start at the “fatty” end (see photo) as it is easier to pull the skin away from that end. You can use a small paring knife to help. If you don’t get it all off, don’t worry; you can always scrape the dark fat and any remaining skin from the salmon before serving.
- Apply the dry rub. Lay the salmon fillets on a plate or some waxed paper. Sprinkle 1 tsp of the rub back and forth over the top of each of the pieces of salmon. Press the rub into the fish to make it stick, and then roll the fish over. Sprinkle another 1/2 tsp on the bottom of each piece and press. Roll the salmon over on its sides to catch the remaining rub. Place the salmon in the fridge uncovered while the plank is soaking—overnight if you can.
- Get your grill ready!
- About 30 minutes before dinner (or longer for charcoal) get your grill started. If using gas, preheat the grill to 500°F then reduce the heat to medium. If grilling with charcoal, wait until the coals turn gray.
- Cook with the lid down to catch the smoke; the trick is to 'smoke' the fish, not simply cook it. I like to set the pre-soaked plank on the grill for about 5–10 minutes by itself, then carefully (it’s VERY hot) place the salmon on the plank. This means the plank has a chance to get smoking a little before the fish is placed on it. ALWAYS have a spray bottle of water nearby and NEVER leave planked food unattended on the bbq.
How to Pick a Plank
The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, which has been around for over 100 years (my copy came from my grandmother) has a recipe for planked steak. The recipe suggests, "the board for planked fish or steak should be of oak, one inch thick. It should be a little longer and wider than the meat or fish to be arranged on it.”
Tips for Perfect Planking
- You can prepare everything ahead of time. In fact, that is best for both the plank and the fish.
- Soak the plank. Soak the plank in water for a good five to six hours—overnight is even better. I use an old square roasting pan to soak my planks. Place the plank in the pan (or clean pail, or kitchen sink, etc.) and cover with water. You may need to weight it down so it remains submerged. I use a small mixing bowl filled with water to do that, but any heavy (clean) object will do.
Note About Cook Time
Because the fish is on a plank and not directly on the grill, cook time is a little higher than usual for grilling salmon. There will be some smoke—don't worry, this is a good thing! If the plank happens to catch fire at the edges, simply spray it with your handy bottle of water. The fish should cook in 10–15 minutes, but this will vary depending on the temperature of your grill and the thickness of the fish. I have seen it take as long as 17 minutes.
Serve and Enjoy!
I usually use the same pan I soaked the plank in to bring the fish, plank and all, into the kitchen to move it to plates. You can also take the fish off the plank right from the bbq if you prefer (this will also prevent a smoky smell in your house).
As with salmon dishes generally, a Pinot Noir goes very well with this cedar plank salmon rub. Try to find an earthier, more robust Pinot—think California or Oregon—rather than a light fruit-forward one like the ones from New Zealand.
The earthy nose and concentrated fruit in a Pinot works well with cedar grilled salmon. Try wines from California's Carneros or Russian River. For something a little bolder, Carabella Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains in Oregon makes a particularly nice Pinot.
Nutrition Figures Using Wild Atlantic Salmon (Other Types of Salmon Vary)
|Serving size: 6 ounces|
|Calories from Fat||90|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 10 g||15%|
|Protein 33 g||66%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|