CEDAR PLANK SALMON
"Cooking Quality" cedar plank (usually 5" x 15" size but get the largest available) soaked for 30 minutes by placing in a sink half full of water with a pan on top, or other heavy item, to weigh it down and keep it submerged. DO NOT rip a piece of your fence down or rifle through a nearby construction site. Treated wood has chemicals that are not "good eats".
You can find these cedar planks in the BBQ section of most hardware stores (Lowe’s or Home Depot), and in many grocery stores or BBQ specialty stores. You can also find "Alder Planks" and those are really great for doing similar cooking with milder fish (trout, red fish, flounder, etc), so grab a package of those while you are there and experiment with that too.
1.5 to 2 pound salmon filet – figure about ½ to ¾ pound per person and you may need to cut a large filet to fit on two planks if it hangs over too much depending on plank size available, but don’t worry if it hangs over just a bit.
The best salmon is "fresh wild" which is line caught from Alaska or other Pacific Northwest areas, focusing in order of species preference to King (also called Chinook), Coho, Sockeye or Atlantic. If at all possible, try to avoid the "farm raised" versions of any species as they tend to not have the best quality and taste since they tend to swim in high concentrations of mercury (their waste) and are a bit fattier which has a tendency to absorb and hold onto more PCB’s from their provided feed than wild salmon. You can "google" [farmed vs wild salmon] and find a lot of info, but suffice to say it is far better to get wild every time you can. It’s just better for you and better tasting and a much preferred consistency/texture.
You are looking for a filet with firm texture and vibrant pink color. The flesh segments should not look mushy or separated.
- BBQ (gas or charcoal are fine)
- "Oversized" spatula (you can usually find these in the same location and store as you found the cedar planks and they REALLY come in handy for this event)
- Second spatula of any size
- 2 to 3 large lemons sliced into thin circles for covering/cooking
- 2 large lemons sliced into wedges for garnish
- 1 package of fresh dill (stems on)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (regular, not virgin or extra-virgin so it doesn’t overpower the taste)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt (adds great texture vs regular table salt)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- (optional) ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or blackened seasoning
Heat the grill (charcoal or gas grill) to a high temperature of 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with direct heat under where the plank will be placed and the ability to cover for even heating.
Rinse the filet under cold water and place skin side down on the soaked plank. You may remove the skin if preferred, but it comes away easily after cooking as well.
Rub the top of the filet with olive oil, covering it generously.
Rub in the salt and pepper evenly across the top of the filet, seasoning to your personal preference. You may also wish to add a very small amount of cayenne pepper or blackened seasoning if you prefer a spicier tasting fish.
Cover the entire top of the filet with the fresh dill, leaving the stems just hanging in place (usually over the side if the dill portions are large) completely covering the filet (as much as possible).
Slice the lemons across working from end to end to produce round slices about 1/8 inch thick. One lemon should produce about 8 to 10 round slices. Spread these over the top of the dill completely covering the dill and filet.
When the grill is at high temperature (400 to 500 F), place the plank over the hot part of the grill and close the lid for 5 minutes to get a quick sear. Then reduce the temperature to about 300 if using a gas grill, or just move the plank over for indirect heat for 20-25 minutes. The plank will likely smoke and catch fire at some point, but don’t worry, that’s what gets the wonderful smoke flavor into the salmon. If you have a large flare up, you may need to spray down the plank with a mixture of water and vinegar (50/50) to knock it into submission. At the end, the plank should look pretty charred. Just keep an eye on the salmon temperature. It should be ready in about 20 to 30 minutes, and if you have a food/meat thermometer to test the center of the fish, it should read 135 degrees Fahrenheit when ready. If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can check the center of the filet after about 20 minutes and see if it is flaking through. Pull it off the grill as soon as it flakes through but still seems juicy.
Using an oversized spatula, along with another spatula of any size as support, carefully remove the fish just above the skin (which should stick somewhat to the plank), or just grab it all off the plank and place on your serving platter or cookie sheet and wrestle with the skin later while serving. Leave the plank outside unless you want to set off fire alarms!
Place the platter on the counter, and allow to cool and rest for about 5 minutes.
Remove all of the lemons and dill (into the trash with them), leaving just the salmon filet on the platter. Small amounts of the dill will stick to the filet (and that’s great!), but remove any excessive clumps in a lightly scraping manner to clean it up for serving.
You may wish to add small amounts of additional seasoning if you prefer, or just leave it be. I typically sprinkle a very light amount of blackened seasoning (or Emeril’s "Essence") to add a bit of taste and presentation color.
Garnish with lemon wedges.
Serve and enjoy.
- Wild Rice
- Green Beans or Asparagus
- Pinot Noir (slightly chilled to about 50 degrees F)
- Texans jerseys for everyone!