You probably already have a bucket list of things you want to do this summer like camping, enjoying a romantic picnic with your significant other or having a backyard barbecue. Along with those fun goals, summer is a great time to fire up the grill and learn new cooking techniques, like using a cedar plank for salmon.
If you've been intimidated or unsure about incorporating cedar planks into your summer grilling plans, we're here to walk you through this easy, flavorful and ancient cooking method.
There are plenty of good reasons why cedar planks are such a popular grilling accessory. For one, grilling on a cedar plank is one of the best ways to incorporate that alluring smoky flavor directly into your food. Also, it doesn't require much oil so it's a super healthy cooking method. Finally, it's easy and can be and doesn't require big or expensive equipment like a smoker. You can use cedar planks on gas or charcoal grills. And if you're not a salmon fan, you can also use cedar planks to grill other types of seafood, burgers, chicken or vegetables.
Yup! Maple, apple, pecan, alder and cherry wood planks can all be used for grilling. They each have their own flavor, so you can experiment to see what you like best. Just be sure to use untreated wood that hasn't been contaminated; you wouldn't want to use an old floor board, for example (yuck). You can get untreated wood at a lumberyard and cut it yourself, or you can purchase wood planks specifically sized for grilling. Whichever you go with, make sure the wood is at least a half-inch thick.
Grilling with cedar planks is completely safe — if you do it properly. If you just put the boards on the grill they will surely catch fire. So make sure to avoid a major grilling mistake and soak the plank in water for a solid hour before placing it.
Once you have soaked your planks it's time to preheat your outdoor grill. When it's nice and hot, place the cedar planks on the grill until the planks are smoking and crackling.
You can cook the salmon simply, with just some salt and pepper or maybe a few lemon slices. But here we're going to get a little fancy with a delicious fennel topping. While the planks heat up, toss shaved fennel, olive oil, sliced shallots, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a large bowl. A helpful tip while making this recipe is to use a mandolin to shave the fennel and shallots into equally thin slices. But in case you don’t own a mandolin, you can use a very sharp knife to cut as thinly as possible. Then season your salmon fillets with salt and pepper before adding the fennel mixture on top of the salmon fillets.
Carefully brush the roasting cedar planks with olive oil before placing the salmon on them to cook. Finally, cover the grill and cook the salmon until your desired doneness. Serve this delectable salmon with a salad and a wedge of lemon on the side, and you'll learn why this dish is one of the absolute best seafood recipes.
4 cedar planks, untreated, approximately 7-inch-by-3-inch in size
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cups shaved fennel bulb, sliced 1/16-inch thick
3/4 cups sliced shallot, sliced 1/16-inch thick
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
4 (7-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
Step 1: Place 4 untreated cedar planks in a container large enough to weigh them down. Submerge planks in water for 1 hour to prevent them from catching fire.
Step 2: Heat an outdoor grill to medium heat, approximately 325F. Place cedar planks on the grill and heat until the planks are smoking and crackling, about 15 minutes.
Step 3: In a large bowl, combine 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 cup shaved fennel, 3/4 cup sliced shallot, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine.
Step 4: Season 4 (7-ounce) skinless salmon fillets with salt and pepper to taste. Divide fennel-shallot mixture evenly over salmon fillets.
Step 5: Brush the cedar planks with 1 tablespoon olive oil to prevent salmon from sticking. Place salmon fillets on roasting cedar planks.
Step 6: Close grill cover and cook to medium-rare, with an internal temperature of 125F, or desired doneness.