How to Grill Salmon on a Cedar Plank

Cedar plank grilling is an easy way to infuse salmon with a lush, smoky, aromatic flavor. Follow these simple steps to get this grilling technique just right.


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If you've never used wooden grilling planks, don't be intimidated -- we'll show you how in four easy steps. To get started, pick a plank-grilled salmon recipe you want to try. We recommend our simple but delicious Lime Barbecue Salmon Sandwiches.

See the Lime Barbecue Salmon Sandwiches recipe

Step 1: Choose a grilling plank

Cedar lends the most intense, aromatic flavor to salmon, but other woods are excellent for plank-grilling, too. Here are some examples:

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  • Alder: Adds a mild, mellow flavor
  • Cherry: Imparts a rich, bright flavor
  • Hickory: Gives food a strong, smoky flavor
  • Maple: Adds a mild and sweet flavor

Tip: Look for grilling planks at specialty cookware stores, hardware stores, and grilling supply outlets.

Step 2: Prepare the plank

Plank-grilling gives salmon the flavor imparted by a smoker with the convenience of a grill. Be sure to prepare your wood properly to increase moisture for cooking and prevent burning. Take these steps to prepare your wooden grilling plank:

  • Rinse the plank with water to remove any dust.
  • Fill a sink or other large container with water.
  • Submerge the plank in the water, placing a weight on top of it. Soak the plank for 1 to 4 hours.
  • Enhance the plank's flavor by adding 1 tablespoon salt to the water. If desired, you may also stir in 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, citrus or berry juice, or flavored liqueur to add more flavor.

Step 3: Prepare the salmon

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Leave the salmon filet whole, cut it into serving-size portions, or use individual salmon steaks. You can add a dry rub, marinade, or herb mixture to flavor the salmon. Apply rubs to the salmon up to 24 hours in advance. Add marinades or herb mixtures to the salmon 2 hours or less before cooking.

Step 4: Prepare the grill for direct grilling

For a charcoal grill:

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  • Light coals using lighter fluid, an electric starter, or a chimney starter. (If using lighter fluid, wait 1 minute before igniting the fire.) Let the fire burn until the coals are covered with a light coating of gray ash.
  • Arrange coals evenly across the bottom of the grill, covering an area 3 inches larger on all sides than the plank.

For a gas grill:

  • To light a gas grill, open the lid. Turn the gas valve to "on" and ignite the grill as directed by the manufacturer. Turn the burners on high. Close the lid and preheat the grill for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium.

Tip: To test the level of heat, carefully place the palm of your hand at the level of the grill rack and count the number of seconds you can hold it in that position. If the heat is low, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for 6 seconds. If the heat is medium, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for about 4 seconds. If the heat is high, you should be able to hold your hand in the position for 2 seconds.

To adjust the heat on a charcoal grill:

  • If the coals are too hot, raise the grill rack, spread the coals apart, close the vents halfway, or remove some briquettes.
  • If the coals are too cool, use long-handled tongs to tap ashes off the burning coals, move coals together, add briquettes, lower the rack, or open the vents.

To adjust the heat on a gas grill, turn the burners to higher or lower heat settings as needed.

Step 4: Time to grill

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  • Place the plank on the grill rack and allow it to preheat for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to crackle and smoke.
  • Lay the salmon onto the plank, cover the grill, and allow the salmon to cook for 18 to 22 minutes, depending on its thickness.
  • To test for doneness, insert a fork into the thickest part of the salmon. If it flakes easily, it's finished cooking.

Tip: The plank should be approximately 8 inches from the heat. If you do not have control over the plank height, closely monitor the salmon while on the grill to make sure it doesn't overcook.

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