Few dishes are more iconic than cedar plank salmon. The culinary synergy of smoky aromas, flavorful wild-caught fish, and a rustic presentation make cedar plank salmon an unforgettable meal to enjoy.
It’s also a foolproof recipe to prepare, whether you’re a novice or a master at the grill. Grilling wild salmon on cedar planks imparts complex, savory flavors onto the fish in a short period of time, all while steaming the fillets to tender perfection.
The cedar plank salmon recipe below matches up the dish’s inherent smokiness with equally complex North African flavors: The salmon is briefly marinated in a warm blend of spices, then brushed with a sweet-savory-tart pomegranate glaze while on the grill. It may sound like advanced level cooking, but it couldn’t be simpler to make.
Ras el hanout is a dry blend of spices and herbs used in North African dishes, made up of a diverse mix of ingredients. Each ras el hanout blend is different, with no set combination of flavors, but it generally will feature warm spices like coriander, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, allspice, and ginger. You can make your own mix — there are lots of recipes out there for ras el hanout — or buy a premade blend to keep things easy. Keep in mind, freshly toasted and ground spices are always going to pack more flavor and complexity than store-bought blends.
Regardless, using ras el hanout as part of a quick marinade with garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest (and seasoned with salt and black pepper, of course), is a ridiculously easy way to lay the groundwork for depth of flavor in this recipe for cedar planked salmon.
Whether you’re using sockeye or coho salmon, try to use cuts that are relatively uniform in thickness so that they’ll finish cooking at the same time. Otherwise you’ll want to be ready to pull the thinner pieces from the grill early. The robust flavor of sockeye holds up particularly well to a treatment of pomegranate glaze, North African flavors, and cedar smoke, but milder coho is fine to use instead.
To add another layer of flavor to the recipe, you’ll create an easy glaze from tart pomegranate molasses, honey or maple syrup, and soy sauce to brush onto the salmon fillets before closing the grill. The sugars of the pomegranate molasses and the honey/maple syrup will caramelize under the heat of the grill, creating a delicious glaze. Note: You can find pomegranate molasses at any Middle Eastern market; or, you can make your own.
And finally, the smoke that develops and rises from the cedar planks gives the salmon its signature touch of flavor. Using a cedar plank on the grill keeps your fillets protected from the dry heat of the grill while imparting a subtle smoky flavor. Depending on the size of your planks and fillets, you may need to use more than one in order to give heat and air ample room to move around the salmon. Make sure you’re using food-safe, untreated western red cedar; these planks can be reused for another cookout or two, as long as the boards are intact and aren’t too charred.
For a festive flourish, you might want to have some pomegranate seeds on hand to sprinkle onto your salmon fillets before serving.