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Cedar Planked Salmon–Why I will never fish for salmon in Alaska

I like fish of all kinds. But I’ve always liked salmon above all.

A few years ago, however, I ruined my salmon experience forever: I shelled out the cash for copper river salmon as opposed to the $6 “Atlantic” (e.g. farm raised) salmon I had previously purchased. Almost deep red in color instead of orange, and full of flavor, this wild-caught salmon is certainly worth it. In season, it’s a steal…at least relatively speaking.

Which is why I almost feel sorry for my brother in-law and sister in-law. Poor babies went salmon fishing in Alaska. I suspect that they will never again be able to eat salmon bought from a store, even copper river. And if they try this, they’ll never eat salmon again until they buy a grill. 🙂

I must admit, when I first heard about this, I was very skeptical: anyone who’s ever roasted marshmallows over a fire with a lot of pitchy pine will understand. But it’s good. Really, really good.

Cedar Planked Salmon

What you need:

Salmon filet
Cedar plank (some people will buy cedar from a lumber store, but I’m concerned about chemicals that may be in it)
Garlic powder
2 Green onions
Salt & pepper

What to do with it:

Soak your cedar about 15-30 minutes in water (start it at the same time you get your coals going). I’ve thought about soaking the cedar in various things such as bourbon, or red wine, but haven’t tried it out, yet.

A quick note on your grill (not your gold teeth, the one with the coals in it): if you don’t have a charcoal grill, get rid of the gas one and spring for a good one, such as the grillmaster smoker–you can adjust the height of the coals, it’s got a large cooking area, and with the firebox, you can try cold smoking your salmon next time!

Place your salmon on the cedar plank, skin down.

Around 5 minutes before you put the salmon on, squeeze 1/2 a lemon on top. Add salt, pepper and garic powder (sparingly), and sliced green onions. Finally, cut off a few lemon slices (little circles). Now, cut them almost in half, but not quite (place the point of your knife at the inside of the rind, and pulll straight back). Now twist the lemon slice–you should have an “S” shape formed by the rind. Place these on top of the salmon (about 1 for every 3 inches of salmon). The lemon juice adds flavor, as well as a little moisture.

Place the cedar directly on the grill (not on the coals).

Cooking is key. I lower the coals to as low as they will go (distance, not heat), and close the lid of the grill. Depending on how many coals I’ve got on, as well as how much salmon, I first check it after about 8 minutes. Once there are little white spots (fat) just outside the middle of the thickest part of the salmon, it’s done. Don’t overcook! If the fat comes up in the middle, all is not lost, but remember that your fish will continue to cook after you take it off the grill. So, if the fat is in the middle, slice your filet quickly so that heat will dissipate.

Try serving this with Maudite Ephemere, a green apple beer. If not, go for a light pinot noir–the salmon is too heavy for most whites, and the fat in the salmon needs a red to cut it.

For sides, go for brown rice, and fresh asparagus, but if you do serve asparagues, try pairing your meal with a viognier wine.