Cedar plank salmon adds a layer of flavor to this fish that is smoky and wonderful. Make it for dinner tonight!
Do you love the flavor of smoked meats? I know I do! My favorite recipe for the smoker is this Hickory Smoked Pulled Pork, and this Smoked Beef Brisket recipe illicits some love around these parts too. But sometimes I just don’t have all day to smoke a pork shoulder or brisket. On those days, I often turn to cedar planks. Grilling on soaked cedar planks provides a delicious and wonderful smoked flavor with relatively little work.
Of course, not all meats are appropriate for plank-style grilling. One of my all-time favorites is the classic salmon filet. Although salmon cooks relatively quickly, I’ve found that it still absorbs the smoky flavors of the cedar plank rather nicely.
Plank style grilling is interesting in that the soaked cedar plank releases steam as it heats, thus steaming the salmon ever so slightly while it’s on the grill. The result is a piece of smoked salmon that is moist and delicious enough to eat either by itself or over a salad!
The key is grilling with a cedar plank is soaking the plank for at least 2 hours before placing it on the grill. These planks are often somewhat large, and I’ve found that the kitchen sink is actually the easiest place to soak them.
You can certainly soak the planks in water, but I often soak them in a half water-half apple cider mixture or even half water and half wine. The extra flavor in the cider or wine really boosts the flavor of the salmon.
Cedar planks are commonly found in the BBQ section at your local market or hardware store. Make sure to use a plank that is designed for use on the grill! Cedar is the most common version, but I’ve also come across cherry and hickory planks, too. Cherry provides a bright, intense flavor on the grill while hickory lends a deep, smoky flavor. As I noted above, cedar is the easiest to find and also the most common type of plank to use for salmon.
Once the plank is soaked and ready for the grill, it is very important to keep your grill at a medium to medium-low temperature. Anything higher and you might come back to find your plank completely gone. (Yes, I have indeed done this!)
Similarly, another tip is to keep a spray bottle of water handy in case the edges of the plank try to catch fire. A little fire is not necessarily a bad thing as long as you catch it before the entire plank goes up in flames. The plank will smolder and smoke quite a bit, but this is ok! You just want to prevent the plank from going up in smoke… literally.
Cedar planks can definitely be reused a couple of times. Just clean them as you would clean your grill utensils. (Take care to use very little soap when cleaning since the soap will soak into the wood and affect the flavor next time you use the plank.) After a couple of uses, the planks will become cracked or just too charred to clean. (You’ll know when it’s time to replace them.)
Once that happens, you can break the plank into smaller pieces and then use those as wood chips next time you grill. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that cedar plank grilling is easy enough to do a weeknight (just start soaking the plank in the morning), but it packs the flavor of a weekend-style meal.
Enjoy! (And if you enjoy the flavor of smoked salmon, then check out Emily’s post for Smoked Salmon Dip.)