Cedar-Planked Salmon with Lemon-Pepper Rub and Horseradish-Chive Sauce

Grilling on soaked cedar planks has a lot of benefits: the planks char lightly, creating cedar smoke that delicately perfumes the food, and fish doesn’t stick to the grill grates because it’s on the planks. Plus, this spice rub—a simple mixture of salt, cracked black pepper, lemon zest, fresh thyme, and a bit of sugar—pairs really well with the cedar-smoke flavor.

And the horseradish-chive sauce is divine! Crème fraîche offers a distinct tart flavor similar to that of sour cream, but it has a thinner consistency. Crème fraîche doesn’t curdle easily under heat, which makes it suitable for cooking and adding richness to sauces and soups. Alas, we had just enough sour cream on hand, so we didn’t bother buying crème fraîche.

If you don’t have crème fraîche, several alternatives with a similar tanginess are equally versatile. You can use low-fat yogurt or full-fat yogurt varieties. Sour cream is another common substitute but it is thicker than crème fraîche, so if your recipe needs a thinner addition use a small amount of heavy cream and a whisk to thin it out. In sauces and soups, you can also use heavy cream but since cream is much thinner, use 1 part cream for every 2 parts of crème fraîche.


Back to the salmon. Because it’s a simple technique, it’s easy to grill two fillets at once and use the leftover salmon the next day in a salad or sandwich. Which is precisely what we did. Our side of sautéed snow peas in a shallot, lemon vinaigrette was a perfect complement to the fish.


Cedar-Planked Salmon with Lemon Pepper Rub and Horseradish Chive Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


For the salmon

  • 1 Tbs. grated lemon zest, minced
  • 1 1/2tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 2-lb. boneless, skin-on salmon fillets (preferably wild and no longer than 15 inches)
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

For the horseradish-chive sauce

  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh chives
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. prepared horseradish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Soak the cedar planks in water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain the planks.

Prepare the sauce


  • In a small bowl, stir the crème fraîche, chives, and horseradish. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate.

Prepare the salmon

  • In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, thyme, sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbs. pepper. Rub the mixture together with your fingers until the zest is distributed throughout.
  • Rub the salmon fillets on both sides with the olive oil and then set each fillet skin side down on a plank. Sprinkle the fillets with the lemon-pepper mixture, dividing it evenly. Gently rub the seasoning into the fillets. Let stand at room temperature while the grill heats.

Cook the salmon

  • Prepare a gas or charcoal grill fire for indirect cooking with high heat: On a gas grill, heat all burners on high; then turn off all but one burner just before cooking the salmon; on a charcoal grill, bank the coals to two opposite sides of the grill.
  • Arrange the planks over the cooler part of the grill, positioning them so that the thickest part of the fish is closest to the heat source.
  • Cover the grill and cook until the thickest part of each fillet registers about 135°F on an instant-read thermometer, 20 to 35 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. The planks may smoke a bit (this is fine) and will become very aromatic.
  • Let the fillets rest on the planks for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
  • Cut the salmon fillets crosswise into serving portions and transfer to individual plates. Serve with the sauce.



By Dawn Yanagihara-Mitchell from Fine Cooking

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