When it’s too hot to turn on the oven, my favourite summer meal, hands-down, is cedar-planked barbecued salmon, grilled asparagus, hand-crafted tortillas and an assortment of dips.
Although barbecues bring to mind flames and high heat, my preferred method for cooking salmon is over a low gentle heat, anywhere from 275°F - 300°F. The low heat renders the fish incredibly moist and succulent. If your barbecue doesn’t come with a heat gauge, simply place an oven thermometer on the grill. And, if you don’t have a cedar plank, available at most grocery stores, a small baking sheet will do (although without a hint of cedar, of course). The key is to achieve a low steady heat. If you don’t own a barbecue, you can achieve the same delicious results in a low oven.
Either way, you can determine the fish’s doneness by keeping an eye on the milky white beads (coagulated protein) that appear on the surface, first on the tail end and thinner side of the filet.
I prefer my salmon slightly undercooked, so I remove it from the heat, and tent it with foil, before the entire fish is dotted with the milky residue. This way everyone gets to choose their favourite cut: thin opaque portions for those who enjoy their fish well-done, and the thick belly, slightly translucent, for those who prefer their fish medium to medium-rare.
Coho or sockeye are excellent salmon choices,—but steelhead trout, often mistaken for salmon, is especially good when cooked over low heat.
Plan on 200 grams (7 oz) raw salmon per person for an entree and 85 grams (3 oz) for a snack. (Fish shrinks about 20% when cooked.)
■ 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) salmon, skin intact, pin bones removed
■ 1 cedar plank, soaked at least 15 minutes (if not using a cedar plank, use a baking sheet)
■ 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
■ 3/4 tsp kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp table salt)
Bring the fish to room temperature.
Preheat a barbecue (or oven) to 275°F or the lowest setting possible. It’s fine if the temperature reaches 300°F but keep a close eye on it.
Place the fillet on the soaked cedar plank, skin-side down and brush with oil. (If your salmon is larger than your plank, place a baking sheet under the plank when grilling.) Brush the fish with oil and sprinkle evenly with kosher salt.
Place the planked salmon on the grill and close the lid, being mindful to monitor the heat. If the heat starts creeping up, crack the hood open half an inch. (On my BBQ, I wedge a baking sheet between grill and lid to better control the heat.)
If you prefer your salmon slightly undercooked in the center, as I do, remove it from the heat, and tent it with foil, before the entire fish is dotted with the milky white liquid (coagulated protein) that surfaces as the fish cooks. My barbecue cooks a kilo of salmon to medium-rare, at its center, in about 30 minutes. All barbecues are different so keep an eye on the milky residue and test for doneness by inserting the tip of a knife in the thickest portion of the belly: medium to medium-rare is slightly translucent and will not flake as easily as the thinner portions. When in doubt, taste!
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