For those of you that have not tried plank cooking…try this! Plank cooking dates back to the native people of the Pacific Northwest, who grilled salmon over open fires on planks of cedar and alder wood. The plank serves two purposes. The fish does not fall through the grill and the wood smoke flavors the meat. The technique is really easy and there is no mess but a smoldered plank when you are done.


  • 2 cedar grilling planks
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds skin-on salmon fillets

Preparation Method

First of all you need to pre-soak the planks. They need to be soaked at least 2 hours, but overnight is ideal. You can soak them in water, but any type of wine, sake, or apple cider will lend unique flavors to the dish, and is a lot more fun. A glass baking pan is ideal. Lay the planks in the dish and add enough liquid to cover them. Place enough weight on the planks to keep them submerged. A wine bottle works great!

In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Place the salmon fillets in a large zip-lock bag and add the maple sauce. Making sure the fish is well coated, remove as much of the air from the bag as possible and seal. Let stand at room temperature as you prepare the grill.

You can use either a gas grill or charcoal. I really like the charcoal for this as I think it emphasizes the smokiness, and hey, it is just fun to get the plank smoking over hot coals! If you are using gas use the medium high setting. You are aiming for about 400 °F. On the charcoal grill, get the coals going, and spread them evenly. Open the top and bottom vents.

Drain the planks and wipe the excess moisture off. Place them on the grill for a few minutes to get them warmed up. Put the salmon skin-side down on the planks and drizzle the remaining sauce over them. If you want to get really fancy, you can add thin slices of an orange or a lemon under the fish. Cover the grill and cook for 13-15 minutes. Do not flip the salmon during cooking, it will cook completely on the one side. Resist the temptation to constantly check the fish, as the smoke that builds under the cover and provides the wonderful flavor will escape. The planks will tend to smolder start to burn on the edges. As long as it doesn’t reach the fish and create an inferno, let it go, it is all good. If it get out of hand, tame it down with a spritz of water. Check for doneness by separating the thickest part with a fork slightly. It should still be a touch rare in the center. If you have a meat thermometer you are looking for around 125 °F in the center.

You can either remove the fish to a serving tray at this time, or place the planks with the fish still on them in a baking tray and serve them that way. Serve with a side of wild rice and a green salad with vinaigrette. This meal pairs well with white and red wine. My pick would be a creamy Chardonnay for a white, and a nice Pinot Noir for a red. Cheers!