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my local restaurant served me recently some wild salmon (slice) from the grill. It tasted delicious, but was pretty dry.

I'm aware that wild salmon has much less fat. So I'm wondering, is there any preparation or cooking technique for barbecuing wild salmon on the grill to avoid that the fish gets dry?

note: Placing the grill a bit higher, is not an option for a restaurant, where they grill several kind of fish at the same time

P.S.: there is a similar question here, but the answers focus on how to cook farmed salmon

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  • I think this answer from the question you link to applies to your question--probably moreso than it applies to that other question😀. With fish that are less fatty, they are also less forgiving to being overcooked.
    – AMtwo
    Jan 4 at 15:38
  • @AMtwo I'm asking specifically for barbecuing (see tag charcoal), so you cannot just take off a few degrees
    – Vickel
    Jan 4 at 15:40
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    "take off a few degrees" refers to the final internal temperature of the cooked salmon(125-135°F), not the temp over which they are cooked. That said, you certainly can adjust the temperature of a charcoal fire. How you "build" the fire is a key factor in grilling.
    – AMtwo
    Jan 4 at 15:56
18

Cedar planks.

enter image description here

https://www.thespruceeats.com/cedar-plank-salmon-4140628

So easy, so delicious and it works great.

  1. Get cedar planks. You can pay big bucks for cedar planks intended for this use. Or you can buy cedar planks intended for use as siding or building cedar closets for very cheap. I have done both.

  2. Soak plank. If you are a planner aheader, soak it over night. Weigh down the planks with a coffee cup of water. If you are a non planner aheader, microwave the plank and glass pan full of water and the coffee cup for a few minutes. You get the same result.

  3. Put salmon on plank on grill. Salmon does not lose juice from below. It stays moist. And great plank flavor.

  4. Discard plank. Usually this uses up the plank because it is all burned on the bottom. But if you grill on charcoal the fish-grease soaked plank makes great kindling for next time!


My psychic powers saw a comment in the future saying planks for use in construction contain poison and persons should buy the $3 each planks. Yes: do not cook on treated lumber. Part of the thing about cedar is that it does not need preservative. I could not determine that there was anything but cedar in any of the cedar. A 20 lb box of planks from the big box hardware store costs the same as a plastic wrapped set of 4 planks from the fancy cooking store. Do what you are comfortable doing.

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  • Thanks a lot for this great idea, sounds really nice. I've not accepted your answer yet, since I hope some more delicious ideas will pop up and don't want to discourage other users to post more answers
    – Vickel
    Jan 4 at 18:21
  • I've just talked to a friend, who uses banana leaves for that effect, he also said in the Madeira islands the banana leaves are often used to cook a variety of dishes in the oven
    – Vickel
    Jan 4 at 19:04
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    also what about oak planks? Those are easier to get in Portugal, since there are tons of oak trees due to the cork industry. How about the thickness of the planks, it looks like 1/2inch (1cm) to me?
    – Vickel
    Jan 4 at 20:34
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    Also: NOT oak (or pine). Substitute woods that would be OK would be alder, birch, maple, or cherry. Oak and pine are way too strongly flavored and would ruin the fish.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 4 at 22:27
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    @marcelm - crushed in the jaws of cold logic. Salmon loses less juice from below because plank is in the way. Still loses some.
    – Willk
    Jan 6 at 23:38
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The answer to "how do I grill plain wild salmon without it being dry" is both simple and hard: don't overcook it.

Wild salmon fillets are thinner, with less fat, than farmed salmon. As such, They go from "done" to "overcooked" in less than a minute. For a thin tail piece, for example, time on the grill should be only around 3-4 minutes. If you're not sure it's completely done, it's already done.

For this reason, I only order wild salmon at restaurants that are specifically seafood-focused, because I know that more general restaurants will overcook it.

Above is based on my experience as a resident of the US Pacific Northwest with a grill and a subscription to a wild salmon CSA.

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  • thanks for your answer, which is my experience as well. It's just that I'm at this local seafood restaurant, every second day and would like to give them something new to try out, since they only do sardines, salmon, mackerel, sea-bass, bream or cod. And all at the same time. And the poor salmon suffers each time overcooking
    – Vickel
    Jan 4 at 22:19
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    Yeah, leaves or cedar planks per the other answer are going to be more reliable, specifically because they give the cook more error time on the grill, and it's something they can do which isn't "learn how to cook wild salmon properly". I posted my answer mainly for posterity, because your question is likely to get referenced for other, future, wild salmon questions.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 4 at 22:24
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    The other way to manage this is to cook it at a specific (much lower) temperature. If you had a sous vide circulator you could cook all your salmon to 120 and then finish it on the grill before serving. Brief research suggests 120f to be an excellent midpoitn. Jan 5 at 21:57
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    Chris: that's really a separate answer ... add it, for posterity?
    – FuzzyChef
    Jan 6 at 0:08

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