A couple of months ago friends took us out to a fun new local restaurant in Rowayton, CT called Sails. There were lots of tempting dishes on the menu, but I quickly spotted my entrée—Cedar Planked Salmon.
I had developed a couple of cedar-plank salmon recipes in the last few years, but it always bugged me that I had to pay so much for a piece of wood that, after one or two uses, I’d eventually throw away.
I also wondered how much I really needed to soak the plank. Most recipes suggest a couple of hours up to overnight. Did it matter? My experience with those little bamboo skewers was that it didn’t. Whether I soaked them quickly or overnight they still charred. So did I really need to think a day ahead to soak cedar for an impromptu weeknight dish like cedar-plank salmon?
I got a great tip from the friend who took us to dinner. He knew the chef and said he used inexpensive cedar shingles from the lumber yard to cook salmon at the restaurant. That was all I needed to get me on the cedar-shingle salmon trail.
I headed straight to my local lumber yard where I did, in fact, purchase a bundle of untreated undercourse shingles for $25—enough to grill about 65 whole sides of salmon.
But did it work? Yes! The wood is thinner than the typical cedar planks designed for grilling, and I found that as long as I ran the boards under running water until thoroughly saturated, they did not need soaking.
Lots of on-line recipes cook the salmon over indirect heat, but I found cooking the salmon quickly over high direct heat, then turning off the heat and letting the residual heat from the grill finish the cooking was the quickest, most efficient way. I also believe the skin, in fact, might prevent the smoke from fully penetrating the salmon (plus who eats wet skin?) so I remove it before cooking.
You can, of course, grill individual fillets or steaks, but these shingles are the perfect size for grilling a side of wild salmon. I also that found grilling a whole side—even for two people–works very well. After a cedar-planked salmon dinner, there were enough leftovers for David and me to serve as a picnic main course, add to creamy pasta with broccoli, and toss in a first-course salad. Plus pre-dinner nibbles—twice!
So find a fellow foodie or two in your area and buy a bundle of untreated cedar shingles. It’s one of the best, quickest ways to get a summer dinner on the table. Who needs a $3.00 plank when a 35-cent shingle does the job?
Sandy Oldfield says
david is just now in alaska, fishing for our salmon dinner. we are also fortunate to live near lots of cedar, making it plentiful and cheap. i’m looking forward to trying this, prepared in our new kitchen and feasted upon on our new deck! you and david are welcome to join us anytime!
This looks delicious, Mom! I think you should make this on Sunday when I’m in town 🙂 Healthy, fresh and a new (to me) approach to grilling. Plus I absolutely LOVE salmon!
Thanks so much for the cedar shingle tip. I love grilling cedar plank salmon even just for myself. However it kills me to pay 3-5.00 for a single use. Just found your blog from Ree’s and I love you already! Thanks
Hi Pam. Great tip about getting the shingles from the lumbar yard. So much cheaper. I think the soaking is important with the thicker pieces of cedar that they sell in supermarkets and gourmet food stores. I had a relative once set them on fire because she had only soaked an hour. I think it wasn’t a long enough amount of time to penetrate the thicker piece of cedar. Anyway, your idea is far easier. Can’t wait to try it.
Cindy H says
I have been the last holdout to try cooking Cedar Planked Salmon. After trying your fabulous version, I know why! None of the other recipes sounded good. On my own, I decided to have the filet skinned, and then read you recommended that as well. Your grill times were perfect. And, like you and your husband, after the salmon dinner, my husband and I enjoyed salmon salad lunches and pre-dinner nibbles. I received a free plank from my fish market, but next time will try your money saving tips. Also, important to the success of this dish in my opinion is the use of Wild Alaskan Salmon, as opposed the Atlantic variety.