Walk the plank
I’ve been on an absolute high of late. Copper River Salmon smoked on a cedar plank - it just doesn’t get much better than that. And since the Copper River salmon season is about to end, we’ve been cedar-planking like crazy. I just can’t seem to get enough! Like most any American household, dinner at our house in the summertime comes from the grill much of the time. My husband is always willing to “man-up” out there, so introducing him to cedar plank smoking seemed like a really smart thing to do. Lucky for me, in just 4 easy steps, he’s got dinner on the table and I catch a break: Soak Once you’ve purchased your untreated cedar planks (these are available most every where now – larger supermarkets, gourmet specialty stores, hardware stores, etc), you’ve got to get them soaking in order to be ready to grill at the designated time. Since we like to soak our planks overnight (or 6-8 hours) to ensure total saturation and no flare ups on the grill, this technique does require a little bit of planning. Though I can’t prove it, I’m told that initially soaking the cedar planks in warm water helps the pores of the wood open, so we always start off that way. It brings me great pleasure to arrive home and find my roasting pan on the kitchen table, cedar planks soaking, wine bottle perched on top to keep them submerged - all signs of good things coming my way! You can soak your planks in any container that works – the kitchen sink, a bucket fitted with a lid, whatever. The important thing is that you have something heavy on hand to keep the planks submerged. Boost Here’s where more flavor comes in. Before your salmon can “walk the plank”, you’ve got to prepare the surface. I like to pat ours dry a bit, then liberally coat the top of each plank (we are usually doing at least two) with olive oil, followed by a good sprinkling of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Rub your fillets with your favorite spice blend or marinate ahead. Place your treated planks onto a preheated grill (10 minutes with lid closed does it nicely) over medium - medium high heat (350 - 400 degrees F) for 5 minutes. You’re ready to begin smoking your salmon on the grill! Grill Place your salmon onto the prepared planks (skin side down if not skinless), then rub the top of each fillet with your favorite spice blend, or marinate fillets ahead of time in your favorite concoction. We often baste our salmon with a really flavorful CHIPOTLE sauce at this point (see my recipe included). Now comes the hard part: Close the lid and keep it closed – NO PEEKING! Keeping the grill lid closed ensures you’re capturing the smoke and maintaining the correct temperature inside your grill. There is no need to turn your fillets – keeping the grill lid closed also ensures your fillets will cook completely. If you’re cooking over medium high heat, here are some approximate cooking times:15 minutes for rare, 20 minutes for medium and 25 minutes for well done. Cooking times vary with every grill. Here’s my recommendation: Grill for 18 minutes over medium high heat, remove planks from grill, cover with foil and let salmon rest for 5 minutes. At this point, check fillets with a fork at center – if fillets are easily flaked with your fork, they’re perfect – it’s time to eat. If they’re not easily flaked with your fork, return planks to the grill for just a few more minutes. If you’re testing the fillets with an instant read thermometer, here are internal temp guidelines: rare:120°, medium: 125°, well: 130°F. Be sure to insert thermometer at thickest part of fillet, coming in from the side. Serve As always, timing is everything. Make sure your side dishes are coordinated around the grilling time for the salmon, not the other way around. I’ve found that removing the fillets from the plank to the serving platter is tricky business, especially if you don’t have an extra set of hands available to help you. Instead, simply place the planks with fillets directly onto your serving platter. This is a great conversation starter for your guests - they will love the opportunity to learn about your adventure at the grill.
See for yourself how incredibly simple this cedar plank technique is – the results are moist and delicious, totally worth it. If you “walk the plank”, I’d love to hear about your experiences – please email me:chefalli@chefallis. com. Also, Copper River Salmon is the Cadillac of salmons (in my opinion) but farm-raised salmon is still wonderful smoked on the plank. Now You’re Cookin’, Chef Alli P. S. Just a few more tips you’ll want to know: Soak your planks ahead of time and store them in a freezer bag in your freezer. When you’re ready to grill, simply thaw your planks in hot water for a few minutes. If you don’t have time to soak your planks thoroughly before grilling, be sure to keep a water bottle on hand during smoking to extinguish any flame ups. Remember that you don’t want to keep your plank from smoldering, (this is infusing the flavor) you just don’t want your plank on fire inside the grill! Depending on how charred your planks get, you can generally reuse them at least a second time – just be sure to clean and sanitize them in between uses. And here’s my favorite recipe for cedar plank salmon: Chipotle Glazed Salmon 6 Tbs. adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo 6 Tbs. dark brown sugar Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 Copper River salmon fillet, skinned
Season salmon fillet with salt and pepper to taste. In a small bowl, combine adobo sauce with brown sugar, then baste HALF of this mixture over fillet. Place fillet onto soaked cedar plank and grill as instructed above. Just before removing salmon from grill, baste with remaining half of adobo mixture. Serve.