How to Grill Salmon Using Cedar Planks
Last week I told you about a dinner party for some friends where my wife chose a menu from one of our cooking magazines and we prepared it in its entirety. I shared with you the Grilled Eggplant Caponata and now I’d like to share the Salmon Steaks with Lemon and Dill cooked on the grill using cedar planks that give the salmon some of the natural flavors from the wood plus a little smokey flavor. You start this recipe by coating the salmon with a salt mixture (curing) and then marinating in sake, a Japanese beverage made from fermented rice adding to the texture and flavor.
I’ll be honest with you; this is not a weeknight meal when you are pressed for time. The steps are not difficult but they do take time. I’d save this meal for the weekend especially if you are having friends over for dinner. You can count on a full 3 hours of prep time, and should probably allow a little bit more to be safe. It’s much easier to season salmon steaks, toss them on the grill and cook them in less than 10 minutes but the extra steps described in the recipe are well worth the extra time.
The original recipe from my June 2012 edition of Food & Wine was for 8 people. I cut it the recipe down to serve 4 but you can double everything if you want to serve 8.
Grilled Salmon with Lemon and Dill
1/2 cup kosher salt
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup dill, chopped plus 4 sprigs
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated plus 8 lemon slices
4 - 8 ounce center-cut salmon steaks, with skin on
1 cup sake
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Two 8-by-7 inch cedar planks
How To Prepare At Home
To keep the cedar planks from burning as soon as you put them on the grill, you need to soak them in water for at least 2 hours. How you keep them submerged can require a little creativity. (We used a deep pan and held them down with a pineapple.) When done soaking, remove and reserve for cooking the steaks.
While the planks are soaking, combine the salt, brown sugar, chopped dill and lemon zest in a bowl. Coat the salmon steaks with this mixture (rub) and place them on cookie sheet in one layer. Try to coat them as thoroughly as possible. Cover the salmon with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour and 30 minutes. You are starting the cooking by a process called curing.
After the 90 minutes of marinating, remove the salmon from the refrigerator and rinse off all the salt mixture. Place the steaks into a container large enough to hold them, not necessarily in a single layer. Pour the sake over the filets, cover and put back into the refrigerator for 1 hour. After 30 minutes, give them a turn.
If you are using a gas grill, light it and let it warm up for 10 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, get it started and let it get hot. It always takes a little longer to heat up a charcoal fire than turning on a gas grill so plan accordingly.
This recipe is going to have you use your grill like an oven with indirect heat. Rather than cooking the salmon directly over the fire, you are going to cook the salmon steaks on the cedar planks using indirect heat. You do this by turning half the gas grill burners off, so that one side is hot and the other side is not. You cook the salmon on the “burners are off” side.
With a charcoal grill, once the fire is hot and the coals are white, you push them over to once side of the grill and cook the fish with indirect heat on the other side.
When the salmon steaks are done marinating in the sake, remove and pat dry. Coat the steaks with a little extra virgin olive oil and place two filets on each of the soaked planks. Place lemon slices on top of each salmon steak and then top that with a sprig of dill. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top.
When the grill is ready, carefully place the two planks (4 salmon steaks) on the cooler side of the grill, cover and grill ( I might say we were roasting but that’s me) for 25 to 30 minutes or until the salmon is cooked to your liking. If you like it more well-done, give it some more time. Be sure to rotate the cedar planks halfway through the cooking process so they cook evenly.
When the fish is cooked to perfection, remove and serve. This is an amazing way to cook salmon or any firm fish for that matter and will be as tender as you’ve ever tasted. I think you’re going to enjoy this.
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