How about some BBQ? But what’s on the menu? Cedar plank steelhead please!
Fish is one of the easiest things to grill. Our go-to favorite has always been steelhead, but if you don’t have steelhead in your area you can substitute with salmon.
Never grilled with cedar planks? No problem! Follow this easy step by step guide and you’ll see how easy it really is.
Soak Your Planks
You can pick up cedar planks at most grocery stores. Or you can make your own. Either way, the first thing you want to do is soak them in water for at least 30 minutes. This does a couple things. First, it allows you to grill on an open flame without the wood catching fire. The wood will still smoke, especially when cooking over briquettes, but this is a good thing. More on that in a minute.
Second, the water raises the grain of the wood which will release that cedar taste once exposed to heat. Yeah buddy! That’s what we’re here for.
Prepare The Fish
After the boards soak, let them drip dry a bit and then spray the top side with olive oil. This keeps the fish from sticking to the wood. Be careful with how much oil you use though, because oil is flammable (I learned that the hard way the first time I did this; I salvaged the fish but not without a few intense moments of profound panic).
Next, lay out your fish. It’s easiest to use filets, especially with steelhead or salmon. Its okay if your fillet is a little longer or wider than the board. Spray a little more olive oil evenly on the fish. You just want enough for flavor; make sure its not dripping off the sides (again, flammable, remember?).
I’ll usually cook two filets and season them both differently.
For the first filet, I’ve gingerly applied seasoning salt (Johnnys or similar). Then I’ll rub a good amount of Sweet N Spicy (cinnamon, paprika, garlic and pepper) grilling mix over the entire fish. This gives a nice, rich flavor that supplements the smoky taste from the cedar. Later at the grill I’ll brush on some sweet chili thai sauce, just before the fish is ready to go. Sometimes I’ll add freshly cut sweet peppers, a few wedges of lime and red onion. When doing this I’ll just grill the veggies right on top of the fish and discard afterward.
On the second filet, I’ve shaken on some seasoning salt like the first. Add a little ground black pepper to taste and then some hot pepper flake mix (red pepper, jalapenio and garlic). This will give the steelhead a nice bit of heat. At the grill I’ll pour on some roasted tomato and pepper sauce (bought at Costco a while ago and love it on fish!) If you want, you could add a few rings of white onion and some freshly cut jalapeno peppers to the top.
Time To Grill
When grilling steelhead on cedar planks, I prefer to cook over briquettes. I mentioned above that the open flame will cause the cedar to smoke a bit, and this infuses the fish with flavor. But if you don’t have time to wait on the briquettes, or you prefer to cook on propane, no worries. I’ve done that too and the steelhead still tastes great.
When cooking over briquettes, the trick is indirect heat. Get your coals glowing and then rake them to the center of the grill, allowing for one plank on either side (if you’re only using one plank, divide the coals evenly to each side of the grill and cook your fish in the middle).
Cook with the lid on to trap in the smoke and to tame the open flame.
Layer On The Sauce
Let the fish cook for about 15 minutes. Then its time to apply your sauce.
As I said before, I used sweet chili thai sauce on the first fillet (sweet heat yumminess!) and roasted tomato and pepper sauce (find it at Costco) on the second. The first fillet will have a nice, even blend of sweat and spicy flavor. The second will be hot, depending on how much pepper flake you put on before coming to the grill.
Feel free to experiment. I’ll usually do something different each time I grill, exploring different seasoning and sauce combinations.
Spread the sauce evenly across the fish and recover. Let the fish cook for another 15-20 minutes (depending on how hot your grill is) while checking every five.
Your steelhead should be flaky when done. With a fork, peel back a chunk at the fattest part of the fillet. If its still dark pink and mushy, or the meat doesn’t separate easily, its not done. If the meat is firm and flakes away from the fork, you’re good to go.
Once its done, remove the fish from the grill, plank and all, and let cool. We serve with baby golden potatoes or rice and a summer vegetable.
If you haven’t already tried grilling on a cedar plank, give it a try and let me know what you think. You won’t be sorry. Even my kids, who are the pickiest eaters in the world, love it. We never have leftovers.