Cedar Plank Whole Fish

Recipe by Tournant

This is an easy, delicious and visually stunning way to prepare whole fish. It works best with fish such as trout and salmon but can be modified to suit just about any fillet so long as the skin is still attached. Planking on cedar or other aromatic wood adds a subtle earthiness to the dish which we love. 


  • 1 whole fish (trout, salmon, bass, etc) head and skin on
  • A board long enough to accommodate the fish. 2.5 times as wide as the fish and 6-8 inches longer than the fish. Preferably cedar and untreated. Soaked for an hour or longer.
  • A handful of 1-2in nails. Iron or stainless steel (not galvanized) with a ¼ in head.
  • Sea salt
  • A couple fresh cedar branches ½ in thick. Peeled.
  • A clean hammer


Start a nice fire and prepare a coal bed. Using spikes, rocks or green branches create a sufficient lean-to apparatus that the board can securely lean against at or near the coal bed. You’ll want to test it’s durability before you attach the fish to the board. Ideally you’d be able to lean the fish over the coals at roughly a 60 degree angle then lean it back vertical (or to 120 degrees) to monitor it safely during cooking. Experiment. It’s fun to figure this part out with what is available at hand.

Attaching the fish:

Splay the fish out on the board, skin side down, with the head towards the top of the board leaving 4-6 inches at the bottom and at least one inch on all other sides, including the top. You may need to cut one side of the rib bones to make it so the fish is as flat as possible to the board. Using the nails pin the head and tail to the board. Then, taking care not to tear thru the skin, securely nail every couple of inches along the edge of the fish. Next we like to strap the fish down with a few thin branches of green cedar either in an “X” or in horizontal lashings by tapping nails thru the ends of the branches on either side of the fish.  

Test how it holds by picking it up gently and leaning it slowly. Observe any slipage, tearing or other insufficient holds and adjust with more nails or lashings as needed.

Season liberally with sea salt and gently lean into the fire on your lean-to. Keep a low fire and watch for flare ups as the fish cooks. We keep a spray bottle of water on hand to douse any flames. Depending on the size of the fish and the heat of your fire the fish will cook in 20 minutes to an hour. Take care leaning it in and away from the fire as you adjust the coals and test for doneness as the skin can soften as it cooks. The fish is done when it flakes and has taken on a bit of color from the fire. When it is nearly done we like to lean it close in on the coals to encourage more caramelization and crust.  We enjoy simply serving from the board allowing guests to help themselves, just being sure to make them aware that the nails are there securing the fish (if nailed properly the nails will not easily come out during service). Enjoy!


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