Food & Drink

A Cedar Plank Is The Secret To Grilling And Smoking Fish

Easter is in the rear view mirror and that means that grilling season is here. Even if it is a little cold where you live, it’s time to tune up the grill and get cooking.

When I think of what’s better cooked on the grill, my list is long. And fish tops the list. It is easy and I feel good about eating it. As soon as I write or state that, I can hear all the people saying that “fish is not easy—it sticks to the cooking grates, falls through the grates and is generally really hard to grill…”

Before you even think about it, let me introduce you to my go-to technique for grilling and smoking fish. Use a cedar—or other hardwood—plank. The plank supports the delicate fish as it cooks and doubles as a serving platter. It is a combination of rustic and chic; it looks good and tastes good. Ultimately, it is very practical. The beauty of this preparation is that you can make it on a grill, in a smoker or even in the oven [set inside a sheet pan].

The plank removes the obstacles that people face when grilling fish. It won’t stick to the cooking grate, it won’t fall apart and you don’t have to use that awkward fish basket.

The most common fish to cook on a plank is salmon, but this technique works for all filets of fish. I prefer to grill fish steaks and shellfish directly on the grill but you could certainly cook them on a plank. Just make sure that you soak the plank in water for at least 30 minutes before using it. This allows it to smoke and smolder instead of catching fire.

If you’ve never used a wood plank, you can buy them at the grocery store, cook’s shop or online. If you buy them in bulk at a home store, make sure that you only buy untreated wood. Any of the planks packaged for grilling will be untreated. They are not expensive. Although some people clean and re-use them, I like to clean them and save them for firewood or for adding to a charcoal fire for flavor. The truth is that it’s pretty difficult to fully remove the cooking smells from the first cook and IMO, it’s not worth saving a few cents and compromising your fresh fish.

Slather your Salmon with Barbecue Sauce for a Meaty Fish Dish

I use the plank for a number of recipes, but my favorite is a “barbecued” salmon that is brushed with a traditional barbecue sauce at the end of the cooking time. Not only does it change the flavor profile to something more “meaty” but it gives the salmon a beautiful finish and it is always welcome at the table—often by people who think that they don’t like fish.

Cedar-Planked Barbecue Salmon

Brush a center-cut fillet with your favorite barbecue sauce during the final ten minutes of the cooking time for a simple sweet and tangy glaze that adds a rosy sheen and a burst of flavor. This recipe works for gas, charcoal, pellet grills and even indoors if you don’t have outdoor space.

Serves 8 to 10

Grilling Method: Indirect/Medium Heat

1 salmon fillet, skin on (about 2 ½ to 3 pounds and 12-14 inches long)

½ cup white wine

1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground pepper

1 ½ tablespoons sea salt

Olive oil

½ cup favorite barbecue sauce

Special Equipment: 1 Grilling Plank, cedar or other hardwood (make sure it is about 11-12-inches long and 5 inches wide)

Preheat gas or charcoal grill and set for indirect/medium heat grilling.

In a sink or container large enough to hold the plank, immerse the plank in water for 30 min. or longer (you may need to weigh it down).

Place the salmon fillet, skin side down, on a baking sheet with sides. In a small bowl, mix together the white wine, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the salmon. Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Uncover the salmon and place it, skin side down, in the middle of the plank and brush with olive oil. Place plank in center of grill and close lid.

Cook over medium indirect heat for 25-35 minutes.

Brush fish with barbecue sauce during last 10 minutes of cooking time. Fish is done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork. The internal temperature should be between 140-145ºF depending on desired degree of doneness..

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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