Plank grilling is a tradition in the Pacific Northwest but maybe not a technique as well known among most of America’s grilling public. Our cedar plank salmon recipe is a simple introduction to this style of grilling. It showcases the purity of the flavor plank grilling imparts.
Using cedar planks for grilling
The technique using wood planks for grilling can be used with a variety of proteins and even veggies. You can also use a variety of hardwood planks beyond cedar. Other popular hardwoods for cooking on the grill include maple, hickory and cherry.
But for our demonstration of this simple and sensual grilling technique, we’ve chosen cedar paired with the aphrodisiac of wild salmon. After all, salmon is a nutritious protein source offering nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids to improve mood and lean protein for energy.
How to cook cedar plank salmon
You can cook cedar plank salmon in the oven but you won’t get the same sort of smokey, outdoorsy flavor that you get from plank grilling. However if you don’t have a reliable grill, plank cooking in the oven is a fine alternative. Whichever way you cook your salmon, though, you’ll need to do a little preparation.
Preparing the wood for cedar plank grilling
In preparation for cooking salmon on a cedar plank, you want to make sure your wood planks are clean and splinter free. (You can purchase planks specifically sold for grilling from a wide variety of retailers, including Sur la Table and Amazon.) If necessary, give the wood a brush with sandpaper to get rid of any splinters.
Before you can grill on a cedar plank, you have to soak the wood, completely submerging it in water. For the best results, soak the wood for 3-4 hours, turning occasionally. Remove the wood from the water and lightly pat dry when you’re ready to start the recipe below. (Some cedar grilling recipes call for charring the plank before grilling. We prefer showcasing the sweetness of the wood rather than emphasizing char, so for this plank salmon recipe, skip that step.)
Choosing wild vs farmed salmon for your plank grilled salmon
For this easy cedar salmon recipe, any fresh salmon steak will work. But we recommend using wild salmon over farmed. You might be surprised to learn that there are both flavor and nutritional differences between wild and farmed salmon. That’s because farmed salmon are raised in a controlled environment and given feed that works to produce the largest fish possible. As a result, a farmed salmon steak has a third more calories and twice the fat as the same amount of wild salmon.
Of course, that means that farmed salmon offers more Omega-3 fatty acids. But that’s about the only nutritional edge it has over wild salmon. The wild fish is higher in zinc, potassium, calcium and magnesium than its farmed counterparts.
In addition, any chef will tell you that the flavor is more intense, more complex and simply more salmon-y in wild salmon than that which farmed salmon can offer. Its color is more intense, closer to orange than pink and even the texture is different.
Because of the high fat content, farmed salmon tends to have a more fatty, slightly mushier texture. The good thing about that is it’s hard to mess up cooking farmed salmon. The high fat content makes it hard to dry it out. But if you just fine tune your fish cooking skills and use both your recipe and your eyes as a guide, you’ll be making flavorful, tender, cedar grilled salmon with wild fish in no time.
Sweet Hot Cedar Plank Wild Salmon
- cedar grilling plank soaked for 30 minutes
- 1- 1 1/4 lb wild samlon filet , skin on
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp grape seed oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Preheat you grill to medium indirect heat.
- Rinse salmon and pat dry. Arrange skin side down on plank.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, oil, salt and peppers. Spread over salmon.
- Place plank on grill rack. (If you are using more than one plank, leave space in between for air flow.) Cook, with grill covered for 15-20 minutes or until just cooked through. Smaller fillets will cook faster.
- Serve with a side of lemon wedges. (The fish can be served right on the plank if so desired.)
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