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Jan 29, 2009 07:52 AM

Grilling (salmon and other fish) with cedar planks ... many questions

Ok, I've started to grill salmon with cedar planks (and other wood planks as well, like alderwood, etc.)

But I have a few questions I'd like to throw out to the grilling savants out there, as well as solicit any advice that might be useful.

1. How long to soak the plank?
I usually do it for at least 4 hours. Should it be more or less?

2. What to soak the plank in?
I've been using just regular filtered water. Should I use something else?

3. Can a plank be reused?
As in soak, grill, soak and grill again?

4. When to place the fish on the plank?
Do you put the soaked plank on the grill to pre-heat before putting the fish on? Or do you put the fish and plank on the grill simultaneously?

Any other tips?

Bear with me, still new to this, so thanks for any advice.


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  1. I don't eat fish, but my mom grills salmon on a plank twice a week in the summer. She buys the planks from Costco and soaks them according to the directions on the box. I think they soak for 3 or 4 hours.

    My mom soaks the planks in filtered tap water- I couldn't imagine using bottled gallons of water would make a difference if your tap water is ok.

    The planks can't really be reused because they burn and scorch somewhat. They do make different sizes though.. so if you're only making one or two pieces of fish you can use the mini planks instead of wasting a giant one.

    Sometimes my mother adds veggies to the planks- but the minute the fish is ready to go on the grill that's my cue to exit since the smell of fish cooking is a horror for me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheesecake17

      On whether the planks can be used, the consensus on this board was yes. See responses to post I made last summer:

    2. Time of soaking doesn't really matter over about an hour or so. 4 is fine, but I'm not sure if it makes more difference than 1 or 2 hours for instance.

      I would soak it only in water.

      The plank can be reused as long as it isn't burn to bits.

      I find it easier to prep the fish and place it on the board and then put everything on the grill at once. You might get stronger flavor if you allow the wood to start smoking first, but the difficulty/convenience is obviously affected. In other words, if you're doing herbs and onion under the fish and a mustard honey glaze on top, it's going to be tricky to get all that put together if the board is already on the grill and smoking.

      There aren't really any other tips I can give you. It's as easy as it sounds! Fish on wood - wood on grill. Cook until done.

      1. I also use the cedar planks from Costco (they're nice and thick, plus cheap). Typically I will only soak mine for an hour in tap water, but I don't think longer hurts anything. I definitely re-use the planks, and can get two or three uses out of each plank before it's tossed.

        One recipe I have recommends soaking the plank in red wine. I really like this idea but haven't found the right size tub to fit a plank in and cover it with the wine - my sink would need several bottles of wine to cover the plank and that's too expensive for me.

        I will put the plank on a hot grill for about 3-5 minutes before placing the fish skin side down on the plank. That way the plank gets a head start on smoking prior to adding the fish. I will also lightly oil the skin side of the fish before placing it on the plank, as this helps it release from the plank after cooking.

        Hope this helps - cedar smoked salmon is wonderful!


        2 Replies
        1. re: Phoo_d

          I have been using this method for some time and people always enjoy it.

          An interesting flavor enhancer is to soak your planks in apple juice, 1 gallon usually does the job, and often can find it on sale for less than $5.

          This method produces a milder seet and smoky flavor.

          1. re: Phoo_d

            I put my planks in a rectangular pyrex baking dish (but use individual size planks for each fillet). That way you don't need to fill the sink.