A cedar plank makes an ideal grilling surface for many types of meat, but few meats are more ideal than salmon.
Before cooking salmon, the cedar plank should be soaked in water for several minutes.
Once the fish is cooked on the plank, the moisture helps the wood flavoring become infused into the fish. The fish is left with a smokey taste that is characteristic of cedar.
This article will take a look at cedar plank grilled salmon and how you can make your fish dishes taste their best.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Why Grill Salmon on a Cedar Plank?
- 2 What Other Meats Are Great for Cedar Plank Grilling?
- 3 How Did Grilling Salmon on Cedar Planks Originate?
- 4 Best Cedar Planks to Use for Grilling Salmon
- 5 How To Reuse Cedar Grilling Planks
- 6 Do You Flip Salmon on Cedar Blocks?
- 7 Is Cedar Plank Cooking Healthy?
- 8 Some Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon Recipes to Get You Started
- 9 Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon Recipe
- 10 Cedar Plank Salmon with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary
- 11 Honey Ginger Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa
- 12 Tips for Grilling with Cedar Planks
- 13 Picking the Best Salmon Cuts for Grilling
Why Grill Salmon on a Cedar Plank?
In addition to providing a great taste, grilling on a cedar plank is also best for tender meats, like salmon, that can fall apart easily.
When you cook tender meat on a grill, it can stick to the grill and fall apart diving through the grates to its death. Cedar planks eliminate this issue.
Furthermore, because you don’t have to worry about the meat sticking to the grill, you don’t have to cook with oil. This makes the food healthier and lower in calories.
In general, cedar planks can be used to add flavor to food without the need to use a lot of additional ingredients.
Because cedar blocks are wet before cooking, they continue infusing meats with moisture to keep them from drying out. This can be especially beneficial if you are grilling fish or chicken both of which tend to dry out quickly.
What Other Meats Are Great for Cedar Plank Grilling?
In addition to being perfect for grilling salmon, cedar can also add a great flavor to the following foods:
- Fish and shellfish
How Did Grilling Salmon on Cedar Planks Originate?
The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest were the first to grill salmon on cedar planks. They tacked fish on to the planks and held them close to the fire to grill them. This is a practice that they have been doing for centuries.
However, the first documentation of using cedar planks for grilling can be traced back to 1911, when the method was published in the Boston Cooking School Cookbook. Here the process was featured for a recipe called Planked Chicken and Duchess Potatoes.
The Scandinavian people also are known for grilling a mean cedar plank salmon.
They use a process called loimulohi, which involves attaching salmon to a board with wooden pegs at the bottom. The pegs work to prop the boards up vertically and the bottom of the boards are placed near the fire for grilling purposes.
Best Cedar Planks to Use for Grilling Salmon
When it comes to picking the best cedar planks for grilling salmon, you don’t have to be too choosy. While some people go all out buying cedar planks at a high-end culinary store, you can save money buying a quality untreated board at a lumber yard.
The wood can be smooth or textured but you must be careful not to get one with a lot of knots. Grease can settle in knots making for an uneven cook.
The planks should be at least ½” thick, especially if you are planning on reusing it.
If you prefer to buy your cedar planks at a retail store instead of foraging for it on your own, here are some brands that are recommended:
- Primal Grilling Premium Cedar Planks: These planks measure 12×6” and they are made from 100% Western red cedar. They do not contain any harmful chemicals. They are kiln dried, so they absorb water efficiently, without producing a lot of smoke. At 7/16” thick, they are completely reusable, so you get more bang for your buck.
- Grill Gourmet Cedar Grilling Planks: At 11.5×5” and 1/3” thickness, these are slightly smaller and thinner than the planks Primal Grilling has available. Therefore, they are not ideal for reuse. However, they come in a 12 pack, as compared to Primal Grilling’s five pack, which makes them more economical. They are also made of Western red cedar.
- Wood Fire Grilling Co. Cedar Grilling Planks: These grilling planks are a fun choice, because they allow you to experiment with different kinds of wood. In addition to the 12 pack of cedar planks, there are two free wood planks included, of your choice. You can experiment with alder, maple, hickory, untreated varieties and more. At 11 x 5”, Wood Grilling’s planks are the smallest yet. However, their 3/8” thickness means they can be reused several times if cleaned properly.
If you are foraging for your own wood, you will probably want to emulate these brands by choosing the red Western cedar variety. The Eastern variety is also a recommended favorite.
How To Reuse Cedar Grilling Planks
Cedar grilling planks can be reused two or three times.
If the wood starts to break apart, you can crush it up and make it into chips.
Although you can reuse cedar planks for grilling, it is important to note that the plank will retain the flavor of the food that was last grilled on it. Therefore, it is best to stick to foods that are the same or that taste similar.
Also, some of the essential oils in the wood will be used up after the first grilling, so the flavor may not be as strong the second time around.
Do You Flip Salmon on Cedar Blocks?
Flipping is a part of grilling most meat. However, when you are grilling on cedar boards, flipping is not necessary.
Plank cooking is indirect. Therefore, the food is insulated from direct heat and it will absorb the heat throughout no matter what position it is in.
However, you do want the board to be exposed to the direct heat of the grill, so it can smolder.
Also, because the salmon will grill on indirect heat, it will take longer to grill. Count on it taking twice as long as it would for other salmon grilling recipes.
Is Cedar Plank Cooking Healthy?
Because you don’t have to add oil or a lot of ingredients to make the food tastier or nonstick, there is less chance that unhealthy additions will be in the dish.
Some Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon Recipes to Get You Started
Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon Recipe
- 6 x 14” cedar plank for grilling
- 2 salmon filets 1 ½ lbs. total
- Pepper freshly ground
- 6 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 6 tbsp. brown sugar
- Soak cedar plank in salt water for 2 hours and drain.
- Remove skin and bones from salmon and run it under water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Season salmon with salt and pepper. Then put it on the plank with what was the skin side down. Coat top and sides with mustard. Then sprinkle with brown sugar.
- Set grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high.
- Place salmon on the cedar block and place it in the center of the hot grate away from the heat. Cover until heated through, 20-30 minutes. The fish should achieve an internal temperature of 135 degrees. You can also tell it’s ready when you can flake it with a fork.
- Remove from heat and serve directly on the plank.
Cedar Plank Salmon with Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary
- Cedar plank for grilling
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper freshly ground
- 2 tsp. lemon zest from 2 lemons
- 1 ½ tsp. rosemary freshly chopped
- 1 ½ tsp. thyme freshly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 4 6 oz. salmon filets with skin removed
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Fill large bowl or sink with water and soak cedar planks for at least 2 hours.
- Combine olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme and garlic in a bowl large enough to hold the salmon. Mix well.
- Add salmon and coat with ingredients. Leave in refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat grill to medium high heat (400 – 450 degrees).
- Pat soaked planks dry and put salmon on top. Place on grill and close cover. Allow to grill for 10 or 15 minutes or until salmon is done to your liking.
- Serve salmon right off the plank with lemon wedges on the side.
Honey Ginger Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon with Avocado Salsa
- Cedar plank for grilling
- 1 2 lb. wild caught salmon with skin on
- 1 lemon zest
- 1 inch fresh ginger grated
- 1 clove garlic grated
- Black pepper
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. chili paste
- 1 nectarine chopped
- 1 ear grilled corn kernels removed
- 1 avocado diced
- 1 jalapeno seeded and diced
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Juice of ½ lime
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 tbsp. fresh basil chopped
- Soak cedar plank anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours. Heat grill to medium heat.
- Lay salmon on cedar grill skin side down. Rub salmon with lemon zest, ginger, pepper and garlic.
- Place on grill and close grill. Grill 15 to 20 minutes or until salmon is grilled to your liking.
- Combine soy sauce, honey and chili paste in small bowl. Brush over salmon during last five minutes of cooking.
- Use spatula to remove salmon from grill.
- Mix all salsa ingredients to make salsa.
- Spoon salsa on top of salmon and serve.
Find more delicious Cedar Plank Recipes here!
Tips for Grilling with Cedar Planks
Here are some additional tips that will help your salmon and other meats achieve perfection.
- Soak Planks for 12 Hours Before Grilling: Most recipes will advise you to soak wood for a few hours before grilling, but the longer the better. Soaking the wood for 12 hours will keep it from burning and it will keep the fish moist during the grilling process. Make sure to weigh down the planks with a bowl or another heavy object to ensure it stays underwater while it soaks.
- Soak Planks in Fruit Juice: While many people soak cedar planks in salt water before grilling, fruit juice is a great alternative and it will add zest to your flavors.
- Brush Planks with Oil: Although oil is not necessary for grilling salmon on cedar planks, it will ensure there will be no chance the filets will stick to the planks. However, some argue that the oil stops the salmon from fully absorbing the flavor of the wood.
- Cure Planks Before Grilling: You can cure cedar planks by sticking them on the grill for two minutes on each side with the lid closed. This will enhance the flavor of the planks and it will keep them from warping. The planks will be ready for grilling when they start to smoke and crackle a little.
- Use the Proper Heating Methods: If you are using a charcoal grill, place the planks over ash-coated coals. If you are using a gas grill, preheat to high and cook on medium.
- Allow More Time for Cooking: Remember, wood will take more time to heat than metal. Therefore, your salmon will need more time to cook on cedar planks than it would if it was cooking on a gas grill. The salmon will also continue cooking after it is removed from the grill so be sure to figure that into your cook time.
- Clean the Planks: Planks can be reused several times. For best results, scrape the plank clean and soak it in warm water without soap after use.
Picking the Best Salmon Cuts for Grilling
A salmon filet that feeds one person will typically be 6 to 8 ounces. Center cut pieces are preferred, as they are thicker and more uniform, ensuring an even cook.
Now that you know all there is to know about grilling salmon on cedar planks, how will you be using this method to take your fish to the next level?