Beauty comes from different directions in cooking. Our recipe for Cedar-Planked Salmon catches vibes from many of them.
Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter
Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!
The recipe is simple, downright easy, even. Rub four salmon fillets with a mixture of brown sugar, kosher salt, and dill and let them sit for at least an hour while you soak a cedar plank (you can find them near the charcoal in many grocery and hardware stores) in water so that it won’t burst into flames on the grill. Then light your grill (you can cook this recipe on either gas or charcoal—more on that in a sec), heat the plank on it, slap fish down on it, cover, and wait 15 minutes or so until the fish is done.
A quick note on cooking with cedar planks: Make sure to buy planks intended for cooking so that you can be sure that they’re free from paints, stains, and other chemical treatments.
But “done” doesn’t begin to do this salmon justice. The cedar plank provides an aromatic, smoky perfume to the fish that seasons it throughout, and yet is not overpowering or sooty-tasting. It’s at once bold and delicate, if that’s possible. (It’s possible.) I think it’s the best way to cook salmon outside.
I’ve cooked this recipe on both gas and charcoal. For most things, I normally prefer the flavor and experience of grilling with charcoal. But in this recipe, the plank is a bit of an equalizer in terms of the flavor—the salmon tastes equally great on both types of grills.
But a charcoal grill offers a unique amusement with this technique: When you’re done cooking, you can toss the plank into the coals and watch it incinerate. There’s a strange satisfaction in this—you’re not washing the “dishes,” you’re burning them. It tickles the senses: The plank crackles and pops as it burns, it smells great, and it’s fun to watch the flames dance over the burning board.
So buy some cedar planks. Cook this delicious salmon. And toss your “dishes” in the fire.