Traeger Baked Cedar Plank Salmon Fillets

May 30, 2021

Get your salmon fillets in shape with planks. Cedar planks.

Are you ready to do some planks? No- we mean the good kind. Cedar, loaded with tasty salmon fillets! The Traeger wood-fired grill is a master at baking what many consider the best tasting fish in the ocean. Not snobbing the tuna, snapper, or other fishy fans out there. It’s just that salmon is so widely loved that how could we not treat it to the best smoky goodness out there?

Cooking salmon on wood planks is really simple and relatively quick. The plank is soaked for a while, anywhere from one to twelve hours, and then the food is placed on the plank. The whole thing is then put on the grill, or in the oven, and cooked. The meat can be seasoned however you like (in the recipe below we kept it simple so we didn’t take away from the cedar and natural salmon flavor), and the plank can be soaked in water, juice, wine, or liquor to produce different flavors. You can easily have a healthy and delicious dish ready from prep to plate in about an hour (not counting the hour to soak your cedar planks) using your Traeger Grill. And there is a certain “wow” factor when a beautiful salmon fillet is served on a wood plank.

Which Salmon?

Traeger Baked Cedar Plank Salmon Blog

There are a few types of salmon to consider. Some may be more available in your area than others. but the most common Pacific varieties are Sockeye, King (Chinook), Silver (Coho), Pink and Chum. A note that Atlantic salmon are also very good, but most sold commercially are all farm-raised. That brings up another point.

Buy from a reputable supplier than can be trusted to label its salmon correctly. But buyer beware- you pay for what you get and generally a wild-caught salmon will not only taste better, but also be healthier (because they do planks… well they swim a lot anyway) as opposed to farm-raised salmon. Also, when looking at salmon fillets in your local seafood section, the more white the flesh looks (you may notice the meat looks like Zebra stripes- that’s the fat running between the muscle), usually the more fat content the meat has.

However farm-raised salmon are often fed a synthetic additive called astaxanthin, a naturally occurring compound in carotenoids, to their feed in order to achieve that pink color, so their farmed salmon better resembles wild-caught. Most farm-raised salmon are fed a diet of pellets made out of fish oil and smaller fish, ground-up chicken feathers, poultry litter (yes, that’s poop), genetically modified yeast, soybeans, insects, chicken fat and corn. They also have higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids (not good).

Traeger Baked Cedar Plank Salmon Blog

Here are the differentiators for the main types of salmon. Don’t worry- any of these wild-caught choices will make your mouth water.

King (Chinook) – Generally considered to be the king- no pun intended- of the salmon for flavor. They have a high-fat content and corresponding rich flesh that ranges from white to a deep red color depending upon their diet.

Sockeye – Often referred to as “reds” because of the change in their skin as they head upriver to spawn. They also have bright red-orange flesh and deep rich flavor.

Silver (Coho) – Silvery skin with bright red flesh. A more delicate texture than Chinook salmon, but a similar flavor.

Chum – Also called dog salmon for its dog-like teeth. Also known as “Keta” from it’s species mostly to get away from the negative connotation of “chum”. They have pale to medium-colored flesh and a lower fat content than other salmon. Chum is usually canned or sold frozen to foreign markets.

Pink Salmon – Pink salmon are the most common Pacific salmon. They have very light colored, and light flavored flesh with low-fat content. Pink salmon develop a distinctive hump on their back when they spawn.

Salmon is a very nutrient-rich food and if wild-caught contains high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. Here is a quick breakdown of the fat.

Salmon Species Total Fat
(Grams per 100 g serving (raw))
Saturated Fatty Acids
(Milligrams per 100 g serving (raw))
(Milligrams per 100 g serving (raw))
Coho, Wild 5.93 1,260 45
Chinook (King), Wild 10.43 3,100 50
Pink, Wild 3.45 558 52
Atlantic, Farmed 6.34 981 55
Sockeye, Wild 8.56 1,495 62
Chum, Wild 3.77 840 74
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Which Plank?

Cedar (Western Red Cedar) is the go-to for most salmon recipes and you’ll find hundreds of examples across the internet. Cedar planks allow resins or oils from the wood to soak cook into the salmon giving it a wonderful smoky, sweet and spicy flavor. Caution: Don’t use Eastern Cedar as it has toxic resins. As long as you are purchasing planks specifically packaged for grilling, like these 3pk cedar planks you won’t run into this problem. Another choice is Northern White Cedar. It has a slightly different flavor, but similar to western cedar without as much complexity in taste.

Alder is less well known for grilling planks than cedar. But it can give a stronger, smokier flavor that can also have a hint of vanilla. Alder planks may be more difficult to find, but worth the effort to give some variation to your plank grilling. Either type of wood will give you great results for cooking veggies and seafood, particularly salmon.

Proper Use of Wood Planks
Many wood planks are designed for one-time use. But you can decide once you cook on yours if it will withstand another cooking episode. If you do decide to reuse your plank. Clean it thoroughly without soap to remove food residue. Then bake it in the oven until it’s dry to kill any bacteria that may be hanging onto the wood fibers.

What Flavor of Pellets on My Traeger Grill?

Traeger recommends Alder, Mesquite or Oak pellets for fish. But don’t be afraid to try a cherry, a mix with a little signature blend or another of your favorites.

Traeger Mesquite All Natural BBQ Wood Pellets 20lb

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Traeger, All Natural Hardwood BBQ Signature Pellet Blend, 20lb

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The Recipe

Traeger Baked Cedar Plank Salmon Blog

Serves 2 people

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2- half pound salmon fillets (remove skin if your fillet has skin on)
  • 1- Western Red Cedar plank
  • Olive oil for thoroughly coating fish side of plank
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp kosher or organic sea salt
  • 2 Tsp rosemary
  • 1 Tsp oregano
  • 2 Tsp Honey (top salmon fillets during last 10 minutes of cooking)
  • 1 Whole lemon (one round slice for each fillet and the rest for squeezing fresh onto baked salmon)

Note: If you don’t have a handheld instant digital thermometer you may want to get one. They are extremely useful for checking multiple fillets or steaks on the grill if your Traeger only came with one integrated probe.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Preheat your Traeger grill to 350 degrees
  2. Choose the smoothest side of your plank and oil it thoroughly with olive oil so that it soaks into the wood well.
  3. Soak your cedar plank(s) in water for 1 hour (You can soak for longer if you are cooking longer, but it’s not needed). A fun thing to try is to use a baking dish for soaking and soak the plank in wine. For this it doesn’t need to be fancy. Just a dry white wine of your choosing (takes about 1/2 cup or so and you may need to weight the plank down- soak for 2 hours).
  4. Drain and season the oil side of the cedar plank lightly with seasonings listed
  5. Cut your fillets into 3” wide strips and place- skin side down (but skin removed)- on the olive oil side of the soaked cedar planks. Depending upon the size of your planks you may want to place fillets at an angle to fit them together on one plank like shown above.
  6. Season each fillet with remaining pepper, salt, rosemary and oregano.
  7. Place a round lemon slice on top of each fillet.
  8. Place salmon-loaded plank(s) directly on grill grates and cook salmon for 25 to 30 minutes.
  9. After 15 minutes drizzle 1 Tsp honey on top of each fillet.
  10. Use a temperature probe and remove when the thickest part of the fillet is at 145 degrees.
  11. Remove and serve either on plates or directly from the cedar planks.

Enjoy that tasty salmon, chef! Now you have the basics for trying different twists to your plank salmon adventures. Healthy, attractive, tasty and easy!

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