Nothing pairs better with the rich flavor of fresh caught salmon as grilling it on a cedar plank. Some of the best salmon feasts I’ve ever had were prepared by friends that place salmon on a soaked cedar plank on a hot grill. It’s a simple concept, but the best grill masters spend years to get all the little details just right.
One of our Riptidefish friends sent us an email with a great write-up on how he does it. And I must say, although the photos alone will make your mouth water, his step by step instruction really make this something that I think anyone can follow. Creating a great meal for the family! Chris Berlin hails from Brookings, Oregon and fishes all the time. Obviously he’s quite the chef as well. Thanks Chris for sharing with us!
Hi Andrew… I have seen your website off and on over the years. Nice job. I live in Brookings, Oregon and fish all the time. I fish to eat. Love Lings! I wanted to pass on a few things for you to try if you haven’t already.
After 40 years of bbq salmon I finally tried cedar planks and am never going back to conventional bbq! For ease I will copy past instructions I sent to a non cook who wanted to try my recipe.
Why Grilling Salmon on a Cedar Plank is Amazing
Salmon grilled on a cedar plank gives you a meal that has a very nice barbecue taste with the aromatic undertone of smoked cedar.
Cedar Plank Salmon Baste
Make the baste in a small sauce pan, briefly on high heat and mix it all up, then let it rest until it’s time to use. You want it bubbling on the cook top, but don’t you dare burn it!
- 4 parts olive oil
- 1 part melted butter
- As much freshly chopped garlic as you want
- 2 to 3 splashes of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/4 capful of Wrights Liquid Smoke. Usually ends up being 1/3 cause it’s hard to pour a 1/4… but not too much!
- Half a lemon’s worth of juice
- Salt and pepper
Lemon Piccata Sauce
If you want to get fancy, you can make a finishing baste. My favorite is Lemon Piccata Sauce. My wife makes it and then thickens it at the end with a bit of cornstarch in an immersion blender. Served hot in a bowl and spooned on top of the fish at the table. If you prepare the Piccata Sauce, then leave the lemon juice out of the baste. Lemon Piccata Sauce Recipe. Drizzle on the Piccata after it has been removed from the grill.
Citrus Reduction Sauce
Another nice one is a Citrus Reduction Sauce. It is sweet and really does well to counter the smoky barbecue taste of the cedar plank salmon. I’ll get the wife to get you this one as I never make it, she does! You can drizzle on this during the last five minutes of cooking.
Prepping the Grill and Cedar Plank
You need to soak your cedar plank for 2-3 hours, fully submerged. Gas, charcoal or wood fire, whatever you prefer. Get a nice pile of hot coals from charcoal or wood, or crank up the gas to pre-heat. Put the plank on the grill and once the bottom of the plank starts to burn on the bottom, it’s time to put on the fish. A little flame coming off the cedar plank is a good thing.
Grilling Cedar Plank Salmon
Place the fish on the cedar plank with the skin side down. Don’t touch it until it’s done! The plank will get hotter and will steam the fish. When you take it off the grill, the skin will be soft, but will stick to the plank. I use a pair of large tongs to remove the fish. Grabbing the fillet like you would grab a piece of cake – lengthwise. For a little more flavor, you can take a half lemon and lay some thin slices on top of the salmon as it grills. I used this method when cedar-planking thicker fillets of Rockfish and it was delicious! You can also sprinkle some parsley on it a few minutes before it is done cooking, for added appearance.
With the coals, I use the lid to control the heat and remove it 2-3 times throughout the process to fan the coals. Dripping baste will cool the coals. So remove the lid and fan the coals to kick up the heat and flames. I’ll use a 5-gallon bucket lid to fan, but you can use your grill lid as well. Then close the lid to suffocate the the blaze a little. Temperature needs to be about 350 degrees. It may spike up to 400 degrees, but that’s ok.
Basting Salmon on the Grill
I baste the fish about four times by pouring on a spoonful. I’m not a big fan of brushing it on. After the first time, the salmon will start to get warm and begin to cook. I’ll drizzle some olive oil onto the coals to get them to flare up and reignite the plank.
Try and maintain an even heat throughout the process, no lower than 350 degrees.
Cedar Plank Salmon Cook Time and Temperature
The cook time will vary depending on your coal base, but you can look at the fish and see how it is coming along. I’d say that about 20 minutes is my normal grill time. I use a meat thermometer like in the pic. I like the digital thermometers, as the analog dial thermometers are slow to give you an accurate reading. Get one that gives you a quick reading!
There is a critical temperature that gives you melt-in-your-mouth salmon. It is 135 to 140 degrees. If you pull it off at 140 to 145 degrees it will still be moist and flaky, which is preferred by most. Best to take it off at 140 degrees as it will continue to cook for a little bit after being removed from the grill. If you reach 145 degrees or higher, you risk having a dry product. Here is an important caveat… the internal temperature will creep up fast after it reaches 125 degrees, to keep checking the center of the fattest part of the fillet and plate it fast once you get to 140 degrees.
I got a little wild on the flambe flames! The blackened spots on the salmon are toasted garlic from the grill, but tasted great nonetheless! That’s it. There were a few beers consumed on this batch and we let the temperature get up to 142 to 145 degrees, a little hotter than I normally like but still delicious!
Grilling Cedar Plank Halibut
When I catch a Halibut, I will grill it with the same method. The plank keeps the white flaky fillets moist and keeps it from getting overcooked or burned from the bottom of the grill.
Chris, I’m sure everyone who reads your how to will get motivated to try this awesome recipe! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to give your other recipe a try and will get it posted soon!