Our friend Holton Rower has been learning about cooking salmon on a cedar plank on his Weber grill through trial-and-error, a method we totally endorse. His first go wasn’t completely successful but it was clear that the cedary smoke is a perfect marriage with salmon. If you don’t have wood coals to cook over, cedar planks are a great way to achieve woodsmoke flavor. Holton learned quickly and his recent try was a huge success. Here’s how he did it (and what he/we learned).
Holton’s mistake the first time around: he didn’t soak the planks long enough. They need to be soaked for at least four hours in water to keep them from burning on the grill. In the latest go, Holton smoked his planks for a full day, ensuring they didn’t burn, but smoked to just the right degree. You can buy cedar planks at kitchen stores, lumber yards (make sure no chemicals have been used on them), and at Amazon..
The other thing Holton learned is that the salmon benefits from salting ahead of time. Sally devised a rub years ago for cast iron pan-smoked salmon that would be perfect:
For 1 1/4 pounds of salmon, mix together 1 teaspoon coarse (Kosher) salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar; rub it well into the fish a few hours before grilling. The salt will draw out some liquid from the salmon. Before grilling, pat dry with paper towels and rub lightly with olive oil. Place the fish on the soaked, dried planks
Holton salted the fish on a home made cutting board designated for fish only. He scrubbed it in the outdoor sink after he put the fish on the grill.
The next rule: the coals should be glowing orange with a layer of ash on them, not flaming. A Weber Grill with a dome makes it easy. Just place the planks right on the grill and cover. The cedar will smoke and scent the salmon. If you don’t have a dome grill, you can place a foil tent over the salmon to enclose them in smoke. Check the salmon every few minutes to see how they are doing. Here the sides are about half cooked:
…The ones below are fully cooked —actually cooked a tad longer than Sally would have — but perfect for the majority at table. Sally’s test for doneness: push a two-pronged kitchen fork straight down into the thickest part. When it meets with no resistance, the fish is cooked.
Because the planks were well-soaked, they only charred on one side. Holton could scrub them clean and use them again.
Of course we’re thinking that there’s no reason you couldn’t cook other things on cedar…
…and we’re mulling more traditional ways of doing it…