No matter how many weird and exotic things I cook on planks, the definitive recipe is and will always be Wild Salmon Planked on Western Red Cedar. And the Copper River Salmon are running, so it's time to fire up the grill. The grocery list for this recipe is short...
An Wildwood Grilling Outlet Cedar Grilling Plank
Copper River Sockeye Salmon
Salt + Fresh Ground Pepper
So, how does plank cooking actually work? The salmon is cooked and picks up the cedar flavor in two ways:
Steam: When the soaked planked is placed on the hot grill, it releases the moisture along with the aromatic oil that it picked up from the wood during the soak. This cedar-y steam helps cook and flavor the fish while infusing it with moisture.
Smoke: Wood + Heat = Smoke. In this case, it is spicy, fragrant cedar smoke, which helps cure the outside of the fish, which further helps lock in the moisture. The end result of planking salmon is perfectly cooked fish- lot's of flavor without over-drying.
So, here are the do’s and don’ts on cedar plank grilling… First, the don’t (there's only really one).
Don’t oil the plank. There is some bogus advice floating around out there about oiling the plank before you cook with it. Well, I’m going to come right out and say I’m against it. Oiling the plank makes for unneeded extra calories and negates one of the best parts of cedar planked salmon- the clean and painless removal of the fish skin. When the fish is done, you can just slip a spatula between the meat and the skin and ta-dah!
That's it for the don'ts.
So now the Do’s
Do soak your plank. We used to suggest eight hours of soaking time, but since then we've decided one hour is enough to get just the right amount of moisture.
Do occupy the plank! Forget about Wall Street. Occupy the plank, man. This means cover as much of the cedar plank's surface area as possible with your fish. If your salmon fillet is approximately 4 inches by 10 inches, go for a tight fit and use a 5x11 plank.
This helps prevent flare-ups during the grilling process. But flare up often happen anyway. Wood + hot grill = fire. Not that fire is the end of the world. Keep a spray bottle on hand, spray flames when necessary and keep on plankin’.
Do brine (if you want to): Dissolve ½ cup salt in 6 cups of water, then add your fish to the solution for 1 hour. The brine helps prevent the fish from “weeping.” You know, the white stuff that seeps out of the fish during the cooking process.
Do season. There is a nice alchemy between salmon, garlic, and brown sugar. So keep the seasoning simple. Just rub the fish with freshly minced garlic, then pack the top with a bit of brown sugar. The brown sugar caramelizes the fish and helps bring out the red orange color of the fish. Salt + fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Grill: Once your plank is soaked, your fish is brined, and the seasonings are in place, it’s time to put it all to the heat. Place your plank with the seasoned salmon on the grill at 450 degrees. Cook with the lid closed (to keep in all that flavorful smoke) until the fish is done to your liking. If your salmon fillet is an inch thick, this process should take about 20 minutes.
Enjoy: Remove salmon from the grill, garnish with fresh herbs and lemon and enjoy!