Fresh salmon that's been rubbed with herbs and grilled slowly over wine-soaked cedar planks? Let me tell you, this right here is some of the best salmon you'll ever put in your mouth. Guaranteed. This is such a simple and elegant technique for cooking salmon. The fish steams gently in the heat of the grill, staying incredibly tender and moist. It also picks up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with whatever was used to soak the planks. So good.
You can use plain water to soak the planks, but it's much more fun to soak the planks in something like wine, sake, or cider. The heat is low enough that you don't need to worry about the alcohol in the soaking liquid catching fire. Find the planks themselves at grocery stores with well-stocked grill sections or your local hardware store.
There's also no hard-and-firm rule for how much fish you cook. If you have a small grill or are just cooking for yourself, it's fine to grill a single fillet on one plank. Or you can cook for a crowd, as we did, and pick up a whole side of salmon to grill at once. Small fillets will cook slightly more quickly than the larger cuts.
What You Need
Salmon fillets, ideally with the skin on
Olive oil to coat
Lemon juice and zest (optional)
Minced fresh dill (optional)
Wine, sake, or cider for soaking the planks
Several cedar planks
1. Soak the Cedar Planks: One to two hours before grilling, soak the planks in wine, sake, cider, or water.
2. Heat the Grill: Heat your gas or charcoal grill to about 350°F or a medium heat-setting.
3. Lay the Planks on the Grill: Arrange the planks on the grill in a single layer so they are in contact with the grill grates. Allow a little space on the sides for heat and air to flow.
4. Lay the Salmon on Top: Season the salmon and lay it skin-side down in a single layer on top of the cedar planks. Cover the grill.
5. Cook for 12 - 15 Minutes: Start checking the salmon for doneness after about 12 minutes. Small fillets will cook more quickly than larger cuts. The salmon is done when it is uniformly pink in the center.
6. Remove the Skin: Transfer the salmon on the planks to a cutting board or baking sheet. Use a thin spatula to gently separate the skin from the salmon. The skin should stick to the boards and separate easily.
7. Cut into Portions and Serve: Use a sharp knife to cut the salmon into portions and serve immediately.
• Cedar planks can be re-used until they become overly charred, cracked, or impossible to clean. Just scrub off the skin as you would any other dish and allow them to dry until their next use.
• If desired, you can run the cooked salmon under the broiler for a few minutes to give the top a burnished color.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)