American Canadian Main Course Recipes Seafood

Salmon on a Cedar Plank

Salmon filets are rubbed with seasings, marinited then cooked on cedar planks that smolder on a barbecue to impart a delcious smokey flavour to the fish.

Plank cooking originates with the indigenous people of North America in the region that is now the U.S. Pacific Northwest, Alaska and British Columbia, Canada.  Tribes living near the mighty rivers flowing from the coastal mountains to the Pacific, traditionally enjoyed their abundant natural resources. 

A migrating Pacific salmon near Seward, Alaska, USA. Photo: Drew Farwell

Migrating Pacific salmon were often caught with spears then placed on locally available red cedar planks to cook over a fire pit.  The wood and smoke, from this method, impart wonderful subtle and natural flavours to the fish.  As the region developed in modern times, this traditional method was shared with settlers and tourist and later evolved into this popular barbecue recipe.

Preparing for plank smoking

First, pick up some fresh salmon filets with the skin on (one side). Next confirm that you have all of the marinating ingredients on hand. You can either use a store-bought barbecue rub or make the homemade version in the recipe below. If you’re chooing among the plethora of rubs on the market, I would suggest something geared for seafood. I found a smokey habanero rub that worked well, then added a tablespoon of brown sugar as I rubbed it on the slamon.

You’ll need to purchase some food grade cedar planks. The average size is about 7 inches by 12 inches by ½ inch thick. You should find them at most grocery stores, department stores or kitchen and home outfitters. Don’t use treated wood or used construction wood since it may be contaminated. You’ll need to soak the planks in cold water for at least two hours. If they will fit, just put them in your kitchen sink. To prevent them from floating, use a pot, filled with water to hold them under water.

Just before you’re ready to start cooking on the grill, remove the planks from the water, then sprinkle them with sea salt. Have a spritz bottle filled with water on hand beside your barbecue to douse flare ups on the planks. The trick is to get the underside of the planks to smoulder. This creates the wonderful cedar smoke that gives this dish its flavour. Keep the barbecue lid closed to keep the smoke in and deprive the smouldering wood from oxygen.

salmon cedar plank

Salmon on a Cedar Plank

Kevin Lamoureux
The wood and smoke, from this method, impart wonderful subtle and natural flavours to the fish.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Canadian, Indigineous
Servings 4 people
Calories 488 kcal


Salmon and Topping

  • 1 salmon filet about 3 lbs.
  • 1 cedar plank
  • 1 tbsp barbecue rub Make your own (see below) or use your favourite store-bought rub.
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice about ½ a lime
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Sea salt for spreading on the plank

Homemade Barbecue Rub

  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds ground
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds ground
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp dry dill
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 0.5 tsp sea salt
  • 0.5 tsp fresh ground pepper


  • Soak the cedar plank in cold water for at least 2 hours.
  • Mix the barbecue rub ingredients together in a small glass jar with a lid. As you will be using about 1 tbsp per salmon filet, the rest can be stored and used the next time you make this recipe.
  • Wash and dry the salmon, then coat with the barbecue rub.
  • Prepare the topping and spread over the salmon.
  • Preheat a barbecue to 500° F.
  • Sprinkle the plank with sea salt, then place the salmon on the plank, skin side down.
  • Have a spritz bottle of water on standby in case you need to douse any flames that break out on the plank. The key to getting the right amount of smoke is to have the plank char and smoulder.
  • Put the plank with the salmon on the barbecue grill (about 6 inches above the flames) and cover the lid. Cook for about 12 minutes for a thinner filet, 15 minutes for medium thickness and about 18 minutes for a thicker piece. Do not turn or move the salmon on the plank.
  • Keep an eye on the barbecue as the salmon cooks. You want to make sure the planks don’t break out in flames but still smoulder to create smoke. Move the plank away from the direct flame if necessary.
  • When done, turn off the heat (gas), open the lid, and cut the salmon into serving portions. Use a spatula to remove the filets from the plank and serve immediately.


The key to moist, tender and flakey salmon is not to over-cook it. You want to catch it just as the flesh becomes flakey and looses its pearly appearance. Use only untreated wood that is usually available in grocery stores or from home and kitchen suppliers.
Refrigerate any leftover salmon then use it for lunch the next day.
Cedar Smoked Salmon Spread
For a delicious lunch that is so much better than sandwiches made with canned salmon, try this: remove the skin from the leftover salmon, and break up the chunks with a fork in a bowl. Stir in a little mayonannaise, some fresh chopped dill and pepper. Spread on toasted artesan bread and serve.
Per serving
Calories: 488kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 17g | Iron: 6mg
Keyword Cedar, Plank, salmon

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