Get ready for a flavor-filled paleo seafood adventure on your grill when you combine two of my favorite things growing up in the Pacific Northwest – cedar trees and wild-caught salmon.
Putting a piece of wood between hot coals and pricey fish may seem a bit strange to some. But let me tell you, when you combine the smokiness of cedar wood with fresh salmon you may never want to grill your fish naked again.
In the northwest, using a small, thin cedar plank is a very common way to cook fish with very little fuss. Because most of the flavor comes from the wood smoking in the grill, you only need to sprinkle a little bit of seasoning on your fish. I just used salt, pepper, a little garlic, lemon slices, and some fresh rosemary tossed on halfway through.
First, you need to locate some cedar planks. You can get them in different sizes; 4″ x 7″ is about right for an individual filet, or there are larger ones out there about a foot long and around 6″ wide that’ll hold two or three pieces of fish. Most will be about 1/4″ or so thick. Make sure you get planks that are untreated and free of chemicals or machine oil – most planks manufactured specifically for grilling are food grade quality.
Amazon.com carries a wide variety, and some grocery stores sell them too. The big box hardware stores usually have them in stock – look in the grilling supplies section.
To prevent a mini-bonfire inside your grill, you need to soak your planks in water first. An hour or two should be enough time. Just stick them in a shallow pan of water or fill up your sink. Put a weight of some kind on top to keep them submerged. For even more flavor you can squeeze a lemon or lime into the water, or even add a little garlic for the wood to soak up.
And by the way, there are other planks out there besides cedar – you can also try alder, hickory, maple or cherry wood to name a few.
Once your planks are thoroughly soaked, you need to pre-heat them before the fish goes on. First heat your grill up to about 350ºF (medium to medium-high heat). Next place the wet planks on your grill’s grate directly over the heat source for about 5-10 minutes, or until they start to smoke and char a little. Then turn them over and place your seasoned fish skin side down on the lightly charred side and you’re good to go.
It’s your choice if you want to remove the salmon’s skins or leave them on. I think you get a little more smokey flavor with the skin removed, but either way works. Grill the fish for about 15 minutes – you can either move your plank away from the direct heat and let it cook longer, or just let it ride over the hot coals – either way you may want to arm yourself with a water bottle or squirt gun just in case the board flares up.
There’s no need to turn the fish over – just let it sit and sizzle away until it’s a cloudy pink color and flakes fairly easy (or if you’re using an internal thermometer, it reaches 135º F). The filet should still be wet in the center – avoid overcooking these babies!
And that’s it! You can eat directly off the plank if it’s not still smoldering (place the planks on something like a serving platter or you’ll have a big sooty mess). Or you can just gently remove the filets with a spatula and place them on plates.
Serve with a veggie of your choice on the side and enjoy the best-tasting paleo grilled salmon meal you’ve ever had!