Grilling salmon on a wood plank imparts a sweet, smoky, slightly charred flavor to the fish. The possibilities for flavor depend on the type of wood you use—alder, cedar, or oak—and the sauce, marinade, or rub you choose. This recipe explains the basics of grilling fish on a plank and gives a delicious flavor combination: herb-rubbed salmon on an alder plank.
Serves 6 to 8
1 untreated alder plank about 15 by 7 by 3/8 inch (see Cook’s Note)
1 (about 3 pounds) whole side of salmon skin on and scaled, pin bones removed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme leaves only
4 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves only
Rinse the cedar plank and place it in a pan or sink filled with water. Soak the plank for about 20 minutes. (The plank can be submerged in water and left to soak all day, so plan ahead and soak the plank before you leave for work.)
Prepare a medium fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on medium.
Rub the salmon with olive oil and sprinkle lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Scatter the thyme and rosemary leaves over the flesh, pressing them lightly so they adhere to the flesh. Set aside while the grill heats.
When ready to grill, place the soaked plank on the grill grate directly over the medium fire and cover. After a few minutes, the plank will begin to smoke and crackle. Turn the plank over, re-cover, and “toast” the other side for about 2 minutes. Uncover the grill, transfer the whole salmon fillet to the plank, and then re-cover the grill. Cook the salmon until it is almost opaque throughout but still very moist when tested with a knife, or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 125º to 130ºF, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. (Keep a spray bottle with water nearby in case the plank gets too hot and begins to flame. Extinguish the flame and continue grilling the salmon, adjusting the heat level if necessary.)
Using 2 long spatulas, transfer the salmon to a warmed platter. Use tongs, heatproof gloves, or the spatulas to remove the plank from the heat and set it aside to cool. Squeeze the lemon half over the salmon, cut into individual servings, and serve immediately. Alternatively, for a rustic presentation, leave the salmon on the plank and place the plank on a large heatproof platter.
Purchase untreated alder, cedar, or oak planks from lumberyards or hardware stores and have them cut to size or cut them yourself. Or, for a slightly more expensive approach, buy precut planks specifically for grilling or baking salmon at gourmet cookware stores or by mail order. A plank can be reused if it isn’t too charred or cracked. Once the plank has cooled, brush it clean with a grill brush, set it upright to dry, and then store it in a brown paper bag. Resoak it before using.