The Potential Downside Of Grilling Fish On A Cedar Plank

Grilling fish is a finicky business. As they are a meat source with very little fat, especially when compared to beef, they very often stick to the grill. This is due to the fact most fish don't have enough to render and lubricate the grill grates. Naturally, there are ways around this issue. To start, picking the right fish is important. Fish with tighter connective tissue, like swordfish, mahi-mahi, or salmon, are going to interact with the heat of the grill a lot better than delicate fish like cod, haddock, or flounder. The fish with the tougher flesh will be easier to handle without necessarily falling apart.

You could always get one of those fish grilling baskets that hold large filets or smaller whole fish like trout. This doesn't necessarily solve the problem of sticking, but it is a step in the right direction for easier grilling.

However, one of the most effective methods of grilling fish is to do so on a cedar plank that's been soaked in water. Not only does the plank provide a level, intermediary surface for the fish to sit on, thus negating sticking woes, but the cedar will also start to smoke, which will add a beautiful additional level of flavor to whatever fish you're grilling. It's a nearly foolproof method that has little to no downsides ... except one.

For crispy skin, ditch the plank

One of the joys of grilling fish directly is the potential for crispy skin. This is a matter of preference, but let's face it, fish skin just isn't appetizing any other way. Who wants flaccid skin? Nobody, that's who.

Grilling fish on a cedar plank does have the disadvantage of missing out on crispy skin. As the plank itself is blocking and therefore tempering much of the heat from the grill, the fish skin is never going to get that direct heat interaction it needs in order to become crispy. The steam created by the water-soaked cedar will gently cook the fish to delicate perfection, but won't do the skin any favors in terms of crisping.

Is this really a downside though? Yes, fish skin is loaded with additional nutritional goodies — like vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids — and tastes like a crispy fish chip when cooked correctly, but is it worth the effort if the meat falls apart? To avoid this grilling stress, you have two options. Either you take the time to dial in your grilling technique until you get it right OR take the easier route and soak a few cedar planks. The choice is yours but, if we're honest, we'd go with the latter.