Why cook salmon on cedar planks
Whether in an oven or on a grill, cooking salmon on a cedar plank gently steams out essential oils infusing them into the salmon adding an amazing slightly smoked flavor, while at the same time protecting the fish from excess heat, and is a great way to prepare salmon with no added oil.
History of cooking salmon cedar planks
Cooking salmon on cedar planks originated with the Native American tribes of the Pacific North West. Originally they would tack or tie whole or filleted salmon to cedar or alder planks then place them upright around a cooking fire to slowly roast. The combination of the fire’s smoke as well as the essential oils from the wood.
Later, in the 1890s, hotels adopted the practice of cooking salmon on cedar planks to give their guests a feel for the local cuisine.
General instructions for cooking salmon on a cedar plank
- Always soak your planks for 2 or more hours before cooking.
- Do not add any oil to your plank.
- Always place your salmon skin side down on your plank
Thin or thick cedar planks for cooking salmon?
Most of the planks you will find for sale are of the thinner variety but there are a few planks that are thicker, over an inch thick and usually about 1 1/2″ thick. The latter are the type that can be reused, depending on how they are used. See the section on reusing cedar planks for cooking down below.
In general, most people prefer the thinner cedar planks for cooking salmon because they are affordable and when they used, they can just be thrown away. There is a certain joy to having one less dish to clean up after dinner is done.
How long to soak a cedar plank
Most instructions will tell you to soak your cedar planks for at least an hour up to two hours. Interestingly enough the people at Wildwood Grilling did some testing and found out that for the standard thin cedar planks, the sweet spot is between 15 minutes and 60 minutes. If you soak your planks longer, then you start to get essential oils leaching out of the wood into the water.
Grilled salmon on cedar plank
One of the biggest problems about cooking salmon on the grill is trying to get it to not stick, or having it fall apart. Yes, you can put down foil, but the salmon can still stick to that and if you are trying to make a nice presentation, it doesn’t work. The answer, of course, is to grill your salmon on a cedar plank. Not only does it help keep you from scorching your salmon, but it prevents it from sticking to the grill grates as well.
Typically when grilling salmon on a plank, you will use indirect heat. You can however, if you need to, use direct heat. If you do that, the general rule is to put your soaked plank on the heated grill for 2-3 minutes, then flip it over and place the seasoned salmon fillets on top of it. Because it is over direct heat, you will need to watch that it doesn’t catch fire, and be prepared to spritz the edges with water if they try to burn.
insert grilled planked salmon recipe
Grilled Cedar Plank Salmon
- Cedar Plank
- BBQ Grill
- 2 salmon fillets 1 1/2 pounds total
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 6 tablespoons brown sugar
- Soak cedar plank in salted water for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours, then drain.
- Remove any remaining bones.
- Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season the salmon with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Lay the salmon (on what was skin-side down) on the cedar plank and carefully spread the mustard over the top and sides. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and crumble between your fingers, then sprinkle over the mustard.
- Set grill for indirect grilling and heat to medium-high.
- Place the cedar plank in the center of the hot grate, away from the heat.
- Place the plank and salmon on the grill, close the lid and cook for 20-30 minutes. Start checking for doneness at 20 minutes, looking for just cooked flaky salmon or an internal temperature of 135° F.
- Transfer the salmon and plank to a platter and serve right off the plank.
Cooking salmon on cedar plank in the oven
One of my favorite things about cooking salmon in the oven on a cedar plank is that the cleanup is super easy, and you get a more outdoorsy flavor without having to fire up the grill. This is great for the winter months when grilling outdoors is not as much fun, but want some of that summer flavor. Consider this as a option for having a salmon centered Thanksgiving dinner.
Cedar planked salmon with Asian marinade
- Cedar Plank
- 1 salmon fillet
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup chopped green onion
- 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 tsp mince garlic
- Soak cedar plank in warm water for 15 minutes hours to one hour
- Lay your salmon out and remove any pin bones
- In a shallow dish combine the vegetable oil, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, ginger, and garlic. Place the salmon fillets in the marinade and turn to coat. Cover and marinate for at least 15 minutes, or up to one hour turning a couple of times.
- Preheat the oven to 325°
Cooking salmon on cedar plank on a Traeger
Cooking salmon on a cedar plank in your Traeger or other pellet grill offers the opportunity to smoke your salmon a little before actually cranking up the heat and cooking it or else just starting out hot and using it like an oven. There are some schools of thought that if you are using a Traeger to cook your salmon, you don’t need to put it on a plank. Personally I think the cedar adds a unique flavor that you can’t get from pellets and gives you a great looking presentation.
Typical flavors of pellet for cooking salmon in your pellet grill are Alder, Cherry, Maple, and Oak.
Basic instructions for cooking salmon on a cedar plank in a Traeger
- Soak you plank as directed above
- Start your Traeger either on smoke or on high head as desired
- Place your salmon in the grill on the plank
- Smoke for 10-15 minutes if desired
- If smoking, remove then crank the heat up to 450°
- Once it is up to temperature, place your salmon back on the grill
- Cook for ~20 minutes, less if you smoked it first
- As always, your fish should be still moist and flaky when done. See my post on the perfect temperature to cook salmon to.
Cedar plank salmon in a Big Green Egg
With a Big Green Egg, you will be going with a direct cooking method. This means getting your cooker up to 400°F then placing the soaked planks on the grill for ~3 minutes to preheat. Then flip them over and place the seasoned salmon on top and cook for 12-15 minutes.
Can you reuse a cedar plank for salmon?
Depending on how you used your cedar plank and how thick it is, you may be able to use it over again. Typically the thinner cedar planks are designed for a single-use, but may be used twice if they were not used over direct coals. Thicker cedar planks can be used more than once if used over indirect heat.
Thin cedar planks that have been charred should be discarded and not reused.
Tips for reusing cedar planks
- Rinse the plank with warm water and scrub salt until all food residue is gone.
- Never use soap to clean your cedar planks.
- Let your plank thoroughly dry or store in the freezer
- Only reuse the plank with the same protein. Some flavors will stick to your plank.
- If you are using your plank on the grill, place it over indirect heat. This will help prevent some of the charring.
- Every time you use a plank it will exhaust some of the essential oils so subsequent uses will impart less flavor.
Cover photo credit: Image by Sabrina St. from Pixabay