cedar-plank salmon

Cedar-plank salmon: Nearly naked is the way to go

Cedar-plank salmon

Wild salmon. Just hearing the phrase makes me yearn for it. 

For fish lovers, wild salmon is one of the most delicious things on the planet. But all too often, people fussy it up too much, or cook it too aggressively. In my kitchen, I love best to poach it gently, or cook it slowly skin-side down in a pan with just a few drops of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Often I give it a quick turn to cook the other side for just a moment, then finish cooking it skin-side down. Cooked gently like this, it stays delicate and tender. And there's a bonus: It's easier to control exactly how done you'd like it.

When salmon on the grill sounds like the greatest thing possible, I reach for a cedar plank. The internet is giddy with recipes for cedar-plank salmon gussied up with honey-mustard glazes or citrus-ginger marinades or herb-and-garlic oils. You know what? They can keep 'em. To my palate there's nothing like the flavor of the wild fish enhanced only by the fresh woodsy cedar, salt and pepper and a little smoke. It's such an incredible luxury. 

And it's incredibly easily accomplished. Soak the plank two hours in water. Lay the salmon skin-side down on the plank, season with sea salt and pepper and set it on a grill over white-hot coals. Cover and wait 20 minutes. 

Remove the cover, transfer the fish to a serving platter or wooden board, and prepare to swoon. You can serve it with lemon wedges. Or not. 


One other thing: If you're nervous about the done-ness, you can use a thin knife to check the progress after about 15 minutes, gently separating the flesh at the thickest part. You want it still a little translucent in the center, and opaque on the edges. But you know what? In my experience, 20 minutes has always been exactly right.