Grilled Maple Salmon on a Cedar Plank

SalmonI’ve always found grilling fish to be a bit challenging. Lots of things can go wrong. Pick a fish that’s not firm enough and you are likely to lose it through the grates. If you don’t oil the grates enough, the fish sticks, falls apart and then slips into the flames. I seem to end up with more fish incinerating on the coals than on my plate.

There is always the old tinfoil stand by, but I don’t see the point. True, it is easy and fool proof, but if I’m going to cook in foil, I’ll opt for the convenience of my oven.

I was very happy when my sister-in-law, Tori, gave me a great way to grill fish.

Tori is an avid Facebook user. She often posts photos of their cute twin girls, passes on the latest funny videos and every now and then to my great pleasure, she throws in a recipe.

This from Tori:

Making dinner for friends involved a quick trip to Home Depot for some untreated cedar fence slats, which I soaked then threw on the grill to make some brown sugar cedar smoked salmon. Why pay $20+ at Williams-Sonoma when you can be resourceful and buy a $1.47 piece of lumber?

Then after my request for the recipe:

Easy peasey: soak the slats for about two hours, put them on the hot grill until they smoke, turn them over then immediately put on some salmon (skin side down) on which you’ve put some dijon mustard and heavily coated with brown sugar. Close the lid, turn down the heat and, voila! in 15 minutes you have a tasty dinner.

If you are shopping at the hardware store for the cedar planks, be sure to get untreated cedar slats. Ask to make sure. Nobody wants to cook chemicals into their salmon. If you want kitchen-grade cedar, I’ve seen the planks everywhere from fancy kitchen stores to Walmart. Yes, there now are cedar cooking planks for the masses.

We happened to have a cedar plank in the junk drawer in our kitchen. I picked it up at a food show a couple years ago but never used it. After making this dish, I have no idea why I haven’t.

The cedar gave the salmon a smoky, subtle flavor. The smoky cedar aroma was also nice to have wafting though our house.

If you have already printed out your handy pocket guide to sustainable seafood, then skip the next two paragraphs. If not, read on.

I know I’ve said it before but I’m a big fan of the pocket guide to seafood put out by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I particularly like the “Super Green” list of seafood that is both healthy for you and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. To make the list, fish must have low levels of contaminants, a minimum of 250 milligrams omega-3 fatty acids and be well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways.

Sadly, there aren’t a lot of choices on this list. According to the guide, as of May 2010, the Best of the Best are Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia), Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.), Mussels (farmed), Oysters (farmed), Pacific Sardines (wild-caught), Rainbow Trout (farmed), Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska).

Luckily, the delicious sounding recipe from my sister-in-law called for salmon. She didn’t specify, but of course, I like to seek out Alaskan wild-caught salmon. It’s not hard to find, I’ve seen it at several local grocery stores.

I altered Tori’s recipe by using maple syrup rather than brown sugar. Brown sugar is something I only have around if I’m baking. Maple syrup is something I make a point to keep stocked.

I’m not going to return our cedar plank to the junk drawer just yet. We still have weeks of grill time and I have a few more things to try. Sea scallops are up next!

Grilled Maple Salmon on a Cedar Plank

1 cedar plank (large enough to fit the fillets)
2 medium-sized salmon fillets
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Soak the cedar plank in water for a couple of hours.
  • Mix, mustard, maple syrup and lemon juice and brush mixture on the top of the salmon (not the skin side). Generously salt and pepper the fillets and set aside.
  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat. Place the plank on the hot grill. Leave it until it starts to smoke. Turn the plank over and place the fish on top, skin side down. Brush again with mustard/maple syrup mixture.
  • Cover the grill, turn the heat down to medium and cook for about 10-15 minutes. I like my salmon medium rare, so I pull it off after 10 minutes. Keep it on the grill if you want it cooked more. Keep in mind, that it will continue to cook on the hot plank.

Ps. If the edges of the plank start to catch fire, mist with water.

Serves 2

One Response to “Grilled Maple Salmon on a Cedar Plank”

  1. susan says:

    Looks great!

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