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Making the Perfect Salmon, Plank by Plank

Published Jun 23, 2016 • Last Updated 12:54 pm, April 20, 2017

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I discovered the joy of planking fish a few years ago. I had picked up a few beautiful salmon fillets at my local market, and my eye caught on a small display of 6x14" cedar planks. I asked the fishmonger about them and was told that cherrywood planks would give my fish a rich, bright flavor. I was quickly convinced that I must try grilling my fillets on these planks. I purchased two planks and headed home.

Grilling with planks is relatively simple but the biggest thing to remember is that the planks need to soak in water before you put them on the grill. Planks can be soaked for two to six hours or, even better, overnight. Some directions will call for soaking the planks in salted water and others will suggest using just warm water. I've done both and have noticed no difference between salted water and unsalted  water. You can soak planks right in your (clean) kitchen sink or drop them into a pot full of water and put the lid on. If you soak your planks in the sink, you'll want to weigh them down a bit. Place a mug over top of them to keep them submerged.

If you're interested in other uses for planks besides fish, consider planking vegetables like asparagus or summer squash. Soak the planks, rub them with olive oil, and grill the veggies with a light coating of salt and pepper.

Cedar Planked Salmon

2 cedar planks (6 by 14 inches)

2 salmon fillets


Freshly ground black pepper

6 tbsp. Dijon mustard

6 tbsp brown sugar

1 orange sliced into thin slices (optional)

Soak the planks in warm water for at least two hours, drain them, and wipe off any dripping water. Rub a thin layer of olive oil on the plank and sprinkle some seat salt over the oiled plank. Preheat grill. Remove skin from salmon fillets and remove any remaining bones. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the fillet with salt and pepper. If you choose to use the orange slices, place them on the planks edge to edge.

Transfer the planks to the grill and place them over direct heat. Allow them to heat for five minutes. Lay the salmon what was skin-side down on the oranges, if used, or on the plank. Spread the mustard over the top and sides. Place the brown sugar in a bowl and crumble with  your fingers, sprinkling it over the mustard. To create a glaze, you can simply increase the amount of brown sugar. The plank may begin to smolder. Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to spray down any flames that may catch on the plank. The fish should cook for about 15 minutes or until flaky with an internal temperature of 135 degrees.

Remove the planks from the grill and transfer them to serving dishes. Serve the fish while still on the plank.

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