Simple Cedar Planked Salmon

We have cooked salmon many ways, but planked outdoor BBQ is hard to beat, especially when the weather starts warming up and you don’t want to heat up the kitchen.

This simple planked salmon is low on fuss, but big on flavor.  Because the salmon is planked on a soaked board this cooking method allows the fish to maintain much of it’s moisture making a succulent, smokey meal.

serves 2-4

1 cedar plank cut to slightly larger than filet, soaked

1    2 pound salmon filet with skin

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon coarse salt

Use an untreated board that is 1/2 inch thick and a bit longer and wider than your salmon filet (about an inch perimeter around the fish).  Soak the board in water for at least an hour, weighting it down so it is completely submerged.

The planked salmon is better cooked ‘low and slow’ as opposed to fast and hot.  When preparing your BBQ you may want to consider using fuel that allows a slower, longer burn like charcoal chunks (or wood if you have time).  Briquettes tend to burn hot and die quickly – not the best choice for this cooking method.

Wearing a ‘skirt’ while barbecuing is optional.  Steve is from Africa and in many countries a skirt (in this case a ‘kikoi’) is common – a daring fashion move for someone now living in the Pacific Northwest.  Back to the salmon…

The coals are ready when the temperature is cooler then what you’d cook a steak on, again ‘low and slow’ for planked salmon – you don’t want the plank to ignite for many reasons.

If you hate to waste good heat, throw some veggies or shrimp on the grill before the coals get to the lower temperature as a quick appetizer.

Once the coals have mellowed (about a 5 count hand) place the salmon on the prepared plank and sprinkle about 2 teaspoons brown sugar over the filet.  Place the plank carefully on the grill.

Place a lid over the plank checking the salmon after 15 minutes or internal temperature about 145°.  The sugar should be slightly caramelized and fish should have a good smokey ‘blanket’ of color.

During this particular BBQ, we had an impromptu eating frenzy as soon as the fish left the grill.  I was able to give the filet a little squirt of lemon before Steve nipped at my fingers.

The origin of planked foods is said to have been developed by early Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, although some believe that the method of cooking came from Scandinavia.  Both are probably true.  The early method in the PNW was usually done by tacking the filleted fish to large boards (normally western red cedar) and placing them around a fire pit for slow, smokey cooking.  This preparation was normally done in large quantities during the salmon run.  The volume of smoked fish allowed the villagers to have protein year round, especially important during the hard winter months.