While my husband and I were on our Alaskan cruise in June, I had one of the best salmon burgers I’ve ever eaten at a local brewery in Skagway. It was one of those meals that while you’re eating it you keep saying, “Wow, this is good. No, this is really good!” over and over and over again. About halfway through devouring the burger I came up for air long enough to take a picture of it so that I could recreate the deliciousness in my own kitchen. After sitting down and talking to my grill-master husband, we concluded that the best course of action was to lightly season the fish, then grill it over low heat on a cedar plank to give it some smokiness. And I must say, it was delicious. Whether eaten by itself or in burger form, this method should be the new way you cook your salmon.
- 12-14 oz. fresh salmon, skin on and pin bones removed
- Kosher salt to taste
- fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 2-3 tsp dried dill
- 2-3 lemons, thinly sliced, plus 4-6 wedges for serving
- 2 cedar grilling planks* for cooking (optional)
- 12 oz. light beer for soaking plank (optional)
- 4 good quality, large hamburger buns
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced, for serving
- 2 tomatoes, sliced, for serving
- 4 crisp lettuce leaves for serving (Butter, Boston, or Iceberg work best)
*Inexpensive cedar grilling planks can be found in most grocery stores in the seafood department, or high quality, reusable planks can be purchased online or at most kitchen stores. (The one pictured below is a cheap one, and it worked just fine, although I do want to invest in a nice one that I can abuse with overuse.)
If you’re using cedar grilling planks, start by soaking them in the sink with equal parts water and beer for 30 minutes – 2 hours. Remove from water and pat dry with a paper towel. Lay the salmon, skin side down, on the cedar plank, pat the fish dry with a paper towel, and season all over with salt, pepper, and dill. Cover salmon with a layer of sliced lemons.
Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-low heat. Place cedar grilling planks directly on the grill grates and close the lid. Cook for 10-20 minutes, or until the salmon flakes easily. Note: You’re going to want to stay close by the grill while it’s cooking for two reasons: 1) The cedar plank will begin to steam on the grill and it smells amazing — you seriously don’t want to miss it! and 2) Because combining wood and heat can sometimes lead to a fire, you’ll need to have a spray bottle of water handy to extinguish any flareups. Don’t worry too much about this, just peek under the lid occasionally and spray down any flames that pop up. Carefully remove planks from the grill (they’ll be hot), and place on a heat resistant surface. Allow to rest for a few minutes.
Once the salmon is cool enough to handle, remove and discard lemons, then carefully flip salmon over and, using a sharp knife, cut away skin. Flip back over and cut into 4 equal pieces.If, for whatever reason, you’ve chosen not to use a cedar grilling plank to cook your salmon (even though I told you exactly where to buy one and walked you through the process step-by-step), then pat the fish dry with a paper towel, and season all over with salt, pepper, and dill. Cover salmon with a layer of sliced lemons.
Generously oil the grates of and outdoor grill and set to medium heat (or generously mist a large skillet with cooking spray and set on the stovetop over medium heat). Place the salmon, skin side down, directly on the grates (or in the skillet). Cover and allow to cook, undisturbed, for 4-6 minutes. Once the salmon can easily be lifted with a spatula without sticking, flip the fish and continue to cook on the second side for 2-4 minutes more, or until the salmon flakes easily. Allow to rest for a few minutes.
Once the salmon is cool enough to handle, remove and discard lemons, then carefully flip salmon over and, using a sharp knife, cut away skin. Flip back over and cut into 4 equal pieces.
- ½ cup mayonnaise (regular or light)
- 1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, from about 2 lemons
- 1 Tbsp prepared sweet relish
- 2 Tbsp chopped red onions
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 tsp (or more) wasabi paste, depending on how wasabi-y you want it
- Kosher salt to taste
*Alternatively you could use ½ cup of prepared tartar sauce, then mix in 1-2 teaspoons of wasabi.
Quick Pickled Cucumbers
- 1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ cup white vinegar
- pinch of Kosher salt
To a shallow bowl add cucumbers, vinegar, and salt. Allow cucumbers to soak at room temperature for 10 minutes, or covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours. Remove cucumber slices from vinegar and pat dry before using.
While the salmon is resting, turn grill down to low and toast buns until slightly golden. Slather tartar sauce on the inside of the top-half of each toasted bun. To the bottom bun, add lettuce, tomato, salmon, then onions and cucumber slices. Cover with the top-half of the bun. Serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing on the salmon.