Since the salmon cooks slowly, cedar plank salmon is ridiculously tender, incredibly moist and so flavorful. We use a sweet citrus rub that works beautifully with the woodsy cedar smoke the salmon soaks up from the plank below.
Related: We use a similar salmon rub when making this brown sugar baked salmon.
How to Grill Salmon Using a Cedar Plank
It was only recently that we 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.
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!
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 salmon 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: 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 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 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!
Citrus Rub Cedar Plank Salmon
Since the salmon cooks slowly, cedar plank salmon is ridiculously tender, incredibly moist and so flavorful. We love this sweet citrus rub. It works beautifully with the woodsy cedar smoke the salmon soaks up from the plank below. 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.
You Will Need
1 cedar plank that has been soaked in water (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
- Prepare Salmon
1Stir brown sugar, lemon zest, salt, smoked paprika in a small bowl.
2Rinse 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.
- Grill Salmon
1Prepare a grill, with heat medium and rack about 4 inches from the fire.
2When 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 135 degrees F.
3Once 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.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Grilling with a Cedar Plank: 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.
- The Salmon: More often than not, when we buy salmon, there are still pin bones left in the fish. You can use tweezers to remove them while the fish is still raw, but we actually find it’s much easier to remove them just after cooking since they slide out very easily.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the VeryWell Fit recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.
Recipe updated, originally posted June 2015. Since posting this in 2015, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne