Grilling basics: Using cedar-planks

Fish is delicate and absorbs flavors easily from a grill. As a result, it tastes best when grilled over hardwood charcoal and infused with additional glazes or spices. Since many glazes make a fish fillet sticky, and therefore very difficult to remove from a grill grate, we recommend using cedar planks under the meat. Not only does the cedar add a wonderful flavor to the meat, but it also keeps the fillet in one piece when it’s ready to eat.

If you’ve never used cedar planks for grilling before, this is the basic information you’ll need:

Start by getting a food-grade quality cedar plank (if you’re making your own, you need to buy untreated cedar). You can find them online, at your butcher counter (ours give them away free if you ask for them), in kitchen supply stores (though, usually more expensive than anywhere else), and even at some hardware and home improvement stores.

The next step is to soak the cedar planks for at least two hours before grilling. This keeps the planks from burning up while you grill with them.

You can see, we soak ours in a shallow cake pan and we weigh them down with a cup of water.

When you’re ready to use them, pull them out of the water and set the fish fillet directly onto the wet board. The fish should be skin-side down on the wood.

Put the planks directly onto your hot grill, and cover with your grill lid while cooking.

When your fish has reached its desired temperature, remove the whole plank-fish unit from the heat and serve. The fish skin will usually stick to the plank, which makes the eating process even easier.

This particular salmon fillet was coated in a honey-bourbon glaze. To recreate it, mix 3 Tbl of honey with 1/2 cup of your favorite bourbon. Using a pastry brush, spread the glaze over the salmon immediately before putting the salmon on the cedar plank. The garnish is a slice of apple also glazed with the honey-bourbon mixture. This preparation is incredibly simple, and very tasty.

5 comments posted

  1. Posted by Jennifer - 07/13/2011

    Are the planks re-usable? If so, how do you clean them?

  2. Posted by Erin Doland - 07/13/2011

    @Jennifer — Assuming they’re still in decent shape, we run them under water and scrub off the really charred parts with the abrasive side of a sponge. We’ve never been able to get more than a second use out of the planks, though.

    Instead of reusing them as planks, we usually just cut them up after one use and make them into chips to be used in our smoker. They’re nice to combine with mesquite chips.

  3. Posted by Radiomomrhetoric - 07/13/2011

    YUM!!! I love salmon grilled this way–and I also have been able to get 2 uses out of my cedar! It is amazing the flavor it adds!

    ….off to find some cedar!

  4. Posted by Heather - 07/16/2011

    I like the idea of a honey bourbon glaze on salmon, but unfortunately, I don’t have a grill. If I were to make this in an oven or broiler, how would I modify the recipe, and how would I cook it (temp, duration)?

  5. Posted by Erin Doland - 07/20/2011

    @Heather — You could easily cook them in your oven. Do everything the same as above (soak the planks, etc.) but set the planks directly onto your oven rack. The oven should be heated to 400ºF and cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your fillet.

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