In Spain, cooking a la plancha—grilled on a metal plate–is a time-honored technique for preparing fish. Although free-form metal sheets were regularly used in the past, and sometimes still are, cast-iron griddles with a smooth surface are a better choice. I have a well-seasoned, large rectangular griddle that fits over two burners of my gas stove top and also works well on my outdoor grill. It is great not only for fish and seafood but also for vegetables that tend to fall through the bars of the grill grate and for flatbreads. It measures almost 20 in [50 cm] long and is 10 in [25 cm] wide and is the perfect size for a whole side of salmon. When the surface is smoking hot, the skin on the salmon sizzles the moment it touches the pan.
1 whole side of salmon, about 3 lb [1.4 kg], skin on and scaled, pin bones removed
1/4 cup [60 ml] extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
2 Tbsp vodka
Grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
You will also need
Plancha (large, rectangular griddle)
Remove the salmon from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling to bring it to room temperature. Pat dry with paper towels.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vodka, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill, salt, and pepper and mix well.
Place the salmon side, flesh-side down, on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Rub the skin generously with olive oil. Turn the salmon over, flesh-side up, and pour the marinade evenly over the top. Set aside while the grill heats.
When the grill is hot, place the plancha on the grill grate directly over the fire and cover the grill. After 10 minutes, the plancha should be smoking hot. (If your plancha is well seasoned, there is no need to oil the surface. If it is new, brush it with oil to be sure the skin of the fish won’t stick.) Uncover the grill, transfer the salmon fillet, skin-side down, to the plancha, and re-cover the grill. Cook the salmon, without turning it, until it is almost opaque throughout but still very moist, or an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 115º to 120ºF [45º to 49ºC], 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
Using two long spatulas, transfer the salmon to a warmed platter. Serve the whole side of salmon on the platter family-style, or cut the salmon into individual portions and transfer to warmed dinner plates. Serve immediately. (I let the plancha cool down in place, or use tongs, heatproof gloves, or the spatulas to move the plancha to a heatproof surface to cool down.)