Cooking salmon on wood planks dates back to the native people of the Pacific Northwest, who cooked salmon over open fires on planks of cedar and alder. As the wood plank smolders over the fire, it imparts a woody, smoky flavor to the fish, plus gives it a platform to cook on without breaking apart; there is no need to flip it.
Before grilling the salmon, I gave it a quick and easy dry brine of 50/50 kosher salt and brown sugar. The brine “cures” and seasons the salmon perfectly and really intensifies the salmon flavor. After a 1 to 2 hour brine, simply rinse the salmon under cold water and pat dry. It’s ready to go at this point. However, I let it sit uncovered in the fridge for another couple hours to develop a pellicle – a sticky coating on the surface of the fish which will help any smoke coming from the plank to flavor the fish. This whole process – the brining and developing a pellicle – are totally optional, but you’re gonna be missing out.
While cooking, the salmon is glazed with an easy glaze of maple syrup, bourbon, and a touch of English mustard. The result is a wonderfully aromatic, slightly smoky, sweet, moist and flavorful piece of salmon. So easy and so delicious!
Tips for grilling fish on wood planks: Prepare the plank by soaking it in water for at least one hour to prevent it from burning on the grill. If a plank is being used for the first time, season it by placing it on a preheated grill for 2 minutes, turning once. Lightly toasting the plank on both sides will intensify its smoky flavor and prevent warping. Lightly brush the side of the plank that the fish will sit on with a little oil to help prevent sticking. Place marinated the marinated fish directly on the plank and keep the grill’s lid closed as much as possible to maintain temperatures and maximize smoking. Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy so flames can be extinguished if the plank starts to burn.
- 1½ to 2 pounds center-cut salmon fillets with skin
- ⅓ cup kosher salt
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup real maple syrup, preferably Grade B
- 2 tablespoons bourbon or other American whiskey
- 1 teaspoon dry English mustard (Coleman's)
- Zest from ½ of an orange
- 1 or 2 wood grilling planks soaked in water for at least 1 hour; over ½-inch thick, soak 2 hours
- Cut the fish into serving potions and place in a shallow dish just large enough to hold the fish. Mix together the salt and brown sugar and coat the tops and sides of the fish, cover and place in the refrigerator to cure for at least a couple hours. Remove the fish from the cure and rinse with cold water. Optional: to develop pellicule, set fish uncovered in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Set up grill for direct heat over medium-high heat. Stir together the maple syrup, bourbon, dry mustard and oranges zest until mustard has dissolved. Toast the planks as described above.
- Place the salmon on the planks and close the grill cover. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes brushing with glaze every 5 or 6 minutes. Stay near and check from time-to-time to be sure the plank has not ignited. Keep a squirt bottle of water on-hand just in case. Start checking the salmon for doneness at about 12 minutes. The salmon is done when it is uniformly pink in the center.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!
Allan Short says
Jeff – I made this last night & I think there’s an error in the recipe. I mixed as directed – 1/3 cup kosher salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup syrup, 2 tbsp bourbon, fresh grated orange peel, and dry mustard. What I ended with was a thick salty granular sauce that turned into a hard shell over the salmon when grilled. If you tried to eat this shell with the fish it was like drinking saltwater.
Ultimately we were able to salvage dinner by scraping off the salt crust, and what was left was still saltier than ideal but at least it was edible and I could see the potential in the recipe.
Where did we go wrong? Maybe the amount of salt is incorrect?
Jeff Parker says
Hey Allan –
Thanks for writing in. I can imagine it was super salty! I think you may have missed a step. You cure the salmon with the salt and brown sugar. Once the salmon has cured, you rinse the fish before cooking. The glaze is only the maple syrup, bourbon, dry mustard and oranges zest.
I hope you give it another try, Allan. Please let me know how it turns out.
1. Cut the fish into serving potions and place in a shallow dish just large enough to hold the fish. Mix together the salt and brown sugar and coat the tops and sides of the fish, cover and place in the refrigerator to cure for at least a couple hours. Remove the fish from the cure and rinse with cold water. Optional: to develop pellicule, set fish uncovered in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
2. Set up grill for direct heat over medium-high heat. Stir together the maple syrup, bourbon, dry mustard and oranges zest until mustard has dissolved. Toast the planks as described above.
Allan Short says
Hi Jeff, you’re absolutely correct. In my haste last night I missed that. Oops! I’m sure next time it’ll turn out MUCH better. 🙂
Jeff Parker says
Let me know how it turns out! Please feel free to write me anytime. Cheers