I feel like I’m going to smell like smoke forever. You know that smell when you’ve been by a campfire and of course the campfire smells but when you walk away you realize everything you are wearing and your hair smell like the fire too? I’ve smelled like that for over 2 weeks now ever since I attended Steven Raichlen’s BBQU. I took my experience seriously and have been grilling and smoking (‘meat’; in Colorado you have to be very careful these days when you tell someone you’ve started smoking everyday as they think you’ve been visiting the local med shed) daily.
There are a number of things I’ve wanted to try to make and today I’m sharing a Charred Cedar Plank Salmon with Lemon and Dill. It’s a very easy recipe, which comes out perfectly. So perfectly in fact, I made a side sauce for it but in the end did not want to hide one morsel of the salmon flavor but saucing it.
Most recipes will instruct to soak the cedar plank (available usually where grilling supplied are sold or at Whole Foods which is where I bought mine) for 2 hours. Steven Raichlen however chars the plank instead, feeling it imparts far more flavor. Now I no longer soak my bamboo skewers or planks. As I learned however the charring process takes some attention. My first attempt was cranking up my gas grill to high, plopping the plank on the grill, shutting the lid and timing the two suggested minutes per side without checking it. I opened the grill to find my plank really charred and then when repeating I found it completely on fire and falling apart.
To char the plank whether over a gas grill or charcoal allow the plank to sit over medium heat just until the first wisp of smoke appears. Check the underside of the plank to see if it has begun to develop grill marks and char spots. If it has, flip it over and repeat (about 2 minutes per side). If not replace it on the grill and continue to check it until it has. Having a spray bottle of water at the ready for flare ups it good as well. The smell of the plank is fantastic as it becomes singed.
I learned two ways to use a plank through this method. The first, as described above, is to char the plank on both sides and allow it to cool before cooking on it. The second is to char on one side for two minutes, add what you will cook on the charred side and allow the second side to char during cooking. I cooked the salmon through the indirect method (when the heat is not direct underneath the plank) essentially allowing it to smoke during cooking and avoiding further flare ups from heat below it.
As with normal planks that have been soaked, charred planks may be washed off (water only) and reused unless they become badly charred. Lightly scrub any remaining fish skin off and rechar them when next using them. There are methods to direct cook on a plank as well however attention must be paid to ensure the plank doesn’t flame up in the process.
It is currently the peak of wild salmon season making salmon readily available and a delicious (easy) option for grilling. Based on the reaction of my taste testers, this recipe will be in frequent rotation this summer!
Charred Cedar Plank Salmon with Lemon and Dill
- 1 large Cedar Plank for grilling (the will fit your salmon fillet)
- 1 large Salmon Fillet (1 ¼ pounds)
- 2 Lemons , cut into slices
- 4 sprigs of fresh Dill , finely diced
- ½-3/4 cup Pinot Grigio wine
- An unused spray bottle
Charring the cedar plank:
- Turn a gas grill to medium heat (250-300 degrees) or over medium heat charcoal, place the unsoaked plank on the grill. Leave the lid open and watch for the first wisps of smoke from the underside of the plank. Check the plan for singing and char marks. Once they begin to appear (2-3 minutes), flip the plank over to do the same on the second side. Set aside.
Cooking the Salmon:
- Heat the gas grill to 300 degrees in an Indirect Method (for a 4 burner grill, leave the outer 2 burners on and turn the inner 2 burners off; or if having fewer burners, leave one side of the grill on and the other side off. For charcoal, build a medium fire and separate the coals on both sides of the grill leaving the middle section free of coals).
- Place the salmon fillet skin side down onto the charred plank. Sprinkle the top with the diced dill and cover with lemon slices. Pour the Pinot Grigio wine into the new, unused spray bottle. Place the plank on the grill over the unheated section of the grill. Spray 3-4 times with the wine (the wine landing on the plank will cause some steaming as well) and close the lid.
- Depending on the heat of your grill (charcoal is a bit harder to control) the salmon will cook approximately 30 minutes (note: since all grill temperatures vary, I recommend checking the internal temperature beginning around 20 minutes and every 5 minutes afterwards). Spray the fillet and the plank with the wine a few times during the cooking to impart flavor and encourage steaming of the plank. When the internal temperature registers 135-140 degrees the salmon is done. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. Cut into 4 portions by cutting across the fillet.