Grilling salmon on a cedar plank is genius. If you haven’t tried it, let me tell you, you need to. Since the salmon cooks slowly, cedar plank salmon is ridiculously tender, incredibly moist and so flavorful.
We go for a sweet citrus rub that works beautifully with the woodsy cedar smoke the salmon soaks up from the plank below.
You May Also Like our Oven Baked Salmon recipe inspired by Joanne’s mother. It’s very simple, calls for lots of lemon and dill and is perfect for busy nights.
Why You Need to Make Cedar Plank Salmon This Summer
It was only recently that we actually took the time to try cedar plank salmon for ourselves and wow, were we glad we did. Grilling salmon can be a little tricky so finding this practically no-fail way to cook salmon on the grill was a blessing.
How We Make Our Go-To Salmon Rub
The rub we use is incredibly simple: Brown sugar, lemon zest, salt and smoked paprika.
We first tried it without the lemon — that was good, but not nearly as tasty as when we added it. Salmon, brown sugar, lemon and smoked paprika are such a great combination! We got the idea for adding lemon zest from Alton Brown’s broiled sockeye salmon recipe — he was definitely on point.
Joanne uses her fingers to gently massage it into the salmon then she sets the salmon aside for 15 minutes or so to let things marinate a bit.
While the salmons sits, we get the grill ready. You are looking for medium-high heat.
Since the salmon only takes 15 to 20 minutes to cook, we like putting the previously soaked cedar plank on the grill for a few minutes before adding the salmon. This way, the plank gets a little color and begins to smoke.
Cedar Plank Salmon Tip: I should point out at that you really should use cedar planks that have been submerged in water for at least 2 hours.
Once the grill smells like smoky cedar (amazing, by the way), we flip the plank, add a few sprigs of fresh thyme and then lay the salmon right on top.
You’ll also notice lemon halves to the side of the plank. If you’ve never roasted or grilled lemon, you are missing out. In the time it takes for the salmon to cook, the lemon halves become lightly charred and sweet. They are absolutely perfect for squeezing over the cooked salmon.
The salmon should take anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on what type of salmon you choose and the thickness. The salmon in the photos were a treat — we found fresh Copper River salmon.
Copper River salmon is some what of a star in the salmon world usually available late May into June and I have to say we think it’s pretty special. If you find it, try it.
We were so happy we did and to be able to cook it slowly on a cedar plank (another nod to the Pacific Northwest) was pretty amazing. The salmon is tender, incredibly moist and so flavorful. The sweet citrus rub on top works so nicely against the woodsy cedar smoke.
Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered if putting a wood plank (even if it’s soaked in water for 2 hours) can result in a flame up every once in a while. It can.
Don’t worry though, all you need is a little water (either in a cup or mister) to put it out and you’re back on track to the most wonderful salmon ever. Enjoy!
p.s. If you’re looking to buy cedar planks for yourself, we found this pack of 8 on Amazon for around $20: Buy Your Own Planks for Cedar Plank Salmon.
Hands-on time for this recipe is pretty low, the extra 2 hours called for in the prep time is for soaking the cedar plank in water.
- 1 cedar plank (6-inches by 4-inches)
- 1 pound skin-on salmon, cut into four, 4-ounce, fillets
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 to 4 thyme sprigs, optional
- 1 lemon, halved
- Soak Cedar Plank: Soak cedar plank, completely submerged in water, for at least 2 hours.
- Make Spice Rub: Stir brown sugar, lemon zest, salt, smoked paprika in a small bowl.
- Prepare Salmon: Rinse salmon with cool water. Pat very dry. Scatter spice rub over the salmon and gently massage into the fish. Swipe the skin-side of the salmon through any spice rub that’s fallen to the cutting board. Set aside 15 minutes to marinate.
- Prepare Grill: Prepare a grill, with heat medium and rack about 4 inches from the fire.
- Cook Salmon: When ready to cook the salmon, place the cedar plank on the grill over direct heat, cover and leave it there until you can smell smoke, about 5 minutes. Turn the plank over, scatter thyme sprigs over plank then place salmon on top of the thyme. Cover the grill and cook until salmon is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.
- The salmon is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 135º F.
- A+J Cedar Plank Tip: Check the plank occasionally, if the edges start to catch fire, mist with a little water (or, pour a little out of a glass over the singed area of the plank) and move the plank to a cooler part of the grill with more indirect heat.
- Roast Lemon: Once the salmon is on the grill, place lemon halves, cut-side-down, onto grill grates and cook until softened and lightly browned around the edges. Serve alongside salmon.
The salmon should take anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes, depending on what type of salmon you choose and the thickness. Keep an instant read thermometer close by to check doneness -- you are looking for 135º F.
Salt: We use coarse kosher salt in our kitchen. If you don't have it on hand keep the following in mind: 1 teaspoon fine sea salt = about 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.