May 26, 2016

Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Sugar & Black Pepper

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
I like to serve the salmon still on the cedar plank so that everyone can take chunks of the salmon and pick at it for a more rustic style dinner.

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This easy salmon recipe is so easy to make and can be cooked either on the grill on in the oven. The rub for the salmon is made simply from brown sugar and cracked black pepper. As the salmon cooks it’s infused with a smoky flavor from the cedar plank and the sugar caramelizes over the salmon for a sweet and tangy entrée. The recipe can easily be made in the oven as well if you don’t have a grill following the instructions below. Serve with roasted vegetables and a simple arugula or kale salad for a delicious summer meal.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Sugar & Black Pepper

Alaskan sockeye salmon fillet

Cooking with Cedar Planks

It’s important to soak the cedar plank before cooking the salmon on the grill. You need to soak it long enough otherwise it will catch on fire, and then things just get messy. The goal is to have a nice smoky flavor and finish to the sweet, peppery salmon, not to eat charred wood.

Cedar planks for cooking can be found online here or at Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table. Do not use a piece of cedar plank found at a hardware store for cooking, it may be treated and can add unwanted chemicals to the food. Soak the cedar plank in a bowl of sink filled with water for 2 to 4 hours.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Salmon – While the most common type of salmon sold in stores is Atlantic salmon, there are many other varieties. Atlantic salmon is much fattier and thicker so it takes a bit longer to cook. Sockeye salmon is much thinner and less fatty and will take much less time to cook. I used the Copper River Coho variety in this recipe. Salmon cooking times can depend on the thickness of the salmon. Choose a piece of salmon with the skin still on. The salmon skin will stick to the cedar plank but the meat can easily be pulled away. If using sockeye salmon, or a thinner fillet, lower the cooking time to about 10 minutes.
  • Brown sugar – I use light brown sugar in this recipe which refers to the amount of molasses in the sugar. Light brown sugar contains about 3.5% molasses. Dark brown sugar can be used in this recipe if that’s all you have – it doesn’t make that much of a difference here.
  • Black pepper – I recommend using freshly cracked black pepper in this recipe for a more distinct pepper taste to complement the brown sugar.

How to Make Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Butter & Black Pepper

soaked cedar plank for cooking
Step 1: Heat grill and prep cedar plank.

Prep the cedar plank if needed. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat to prepare for indirect grilling.

brown sugar and black pepper blend
Step 2: Make spice mixture. 

Mix the sugar and pepper. In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and pepper.

brown sugar and black pepper spice mixture
Step 3: Spread sugar and spice mixture over salmon. 

Place the salmon skin-side down on the cedar plank, then spread the brown sugar and black pepper mixture all over the salmon.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Sugar & Black Pepper
Step 4: Grill the salmon. 

Place the plank in the center of the hot grill grates, away from the heat. Cook until salmon is thoroughly cooked through and opaque, about 12 to 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the salmon). The salmon is done when it easily flakes with a fork.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Sugar & Black Pepper flaked with a fork
Step 5: Serve. 

To serve, cut the salmon into desired portions or serve the salmon on the cedar plank.

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

How to Make this Recipe in the Oven

This salmon recipe can easily be made in the oven. Soak the cedar plank and prep the salmon according to the recipe below. Then place the cedar plank on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. You can also forgo the cedar plank entirely if you don’t have one and opt for just baked brown sugar and black pepper salmon. Bake the salmon at 400ºF (200ºC) until just cooked through, about 16 minutes.

How to Cook Using Individual Salmon Fillets

While I prefer making this recipe family-style with a large half of salmon, it can also be made individually. Cut the half of salmon into individual filets and add to either 1 large cedar plank or individual smaller cedar planks. As a general rule of thumb, grill or bake salmon for 4 to 6 minutes per 1/2″ thickness.

Variations on this Recipe
  • Garnish the brown sugar and black pepper salmon with a bit of lemon zest for a bright finish.
  • If you don’t use a cedar plank you can finish the salmon with a bit of smoked sea salt to recreate some of that smoky flavor.
Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Sugar & Black Pepper recipe

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this cedar plank salmon recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Cedar Plank Salmon with Brown Sugar & Black Pepper

Print Pin
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 15 mins

Equipment:

  • 1 cedar plank meant for cooking, soaked in water for 2 to 4 hours*

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds salmon fillet, skin on
  • ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

  • Prep the cedar plank if needed. Preheat the grill to medium-high to prepare for indirect grilling.
  • In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and pepper.
  • Place the salmon on the cedar plank skin-side down, then spread the brown sugar and black pepper mixture all over the salmon.
  • Place the plank in the center of the hot grill grates, away from the heat.
  • Cook until salmon is thoroughly just through and opaque, about 12 to 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the salmon). The salmon is done when it easily flakes with a fork.
  • To serve, cut the salmon into desired portions or serve the salmon on the cedar plank.

Notes:

*Note: Cedar planks for cooking can be found at gourmet grocery stores, Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table. Do not use a piece of cedar plank found at a hardware store for cooking, it may be treated and can add unwanted chemicals to the food.

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