Grilling is a lot of fun… but also a lot of work. You’ve got to ensure your grill is hot enough, and you must keep an eye on the meat, so it doesn’t burn.
And then there’s the seasoning. You can’t just throw stuff on meat and expect it to taste good—you need the right spices and seasonings to make your meal as flavorful as possible. But how do you know what goes where? And what about rubs? Should you use them when you’re grilling? Do they work?
We’re going to answer all these questions for you today! We’ll tell you everything we know about picking spices and seasoning for grilling so that you can spend less time wondering what spices go where and more time enjoying delicious meals with friends and family!
What are Spices and Seasonings?
Spices and seasonings are integral to how we cook, but they’re also sometimes different.
Spices are dried plants that you can use to flavor your food. They come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors, and they’re often used to add an exotic element to a dish. Some common spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, and ginger.
Seasonings are similar to spices—they can be made from plants or artificial (like MSG). But seasonings usually have more liquid content than spices, so they’re often more versatile in how you use them—you can throw them into sauces or sprinkle them on top of salads and use them in cooking. Seasonings can include salt and pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper…pretty much anything that adds flavor without being too overpowering is considered a seasoning.
Why are Spices and Seasoning Used for Grilling?
Spices and seasonings make a grilled meal go from delicious to delectable. And it’s not just about adding flavor; spices and seasonings are also used to add texture and color to your food.
Spices and seasonings can be used as a marinade, rub, or a finishing touch on the grill. They are often used with meat, fish, poultry, and vegetables.
Many types of spices can be used for grilling, such as chili powder, paprika, cumin powder, coriander powder, etc. You can use fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme instead of dried herbs if you prefer!
The best way to use spices is by mixing them together in an oil base such as olive oil or melted butter before applying them directly onto your food before grilling it on the barbecue grill so that they won’t burn off during cooking time, which means less waste too!
Here are some of our favorite ways to use them:
- To add flavor without adding salt: Add herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme, and oregano to your food while it cooks on the grill. These flavors fill up your mouth with deliciousness without making you thirsty from all that salt!
- To add a sweet note, add brown sugar to your marinades for pork or beef. It will caramelize when it hits the grill, giving you an extra layer of flavor that goes perfectly with barbecue sauce (which we’ll talk about next).
- To add umami: Umami is one of those hard-to-define flavors that feels good in your mouth—and it’s often described as savory or meaty. To get this effect with your grilling recipes, try adding soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to your marinades or rubs before cooking.
Tips to Pick the Best Spices and Seasonings for Grilling Recipes
Spices and seasonings can be the difference between a meal that’s just okay and one that leaves your guests craving more. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best spices and seasonings for grilling recipes.
Pick your spices (and seasonings) based on the protein
When it comes to picking the best spices for grilling recipes, think about the protein you’re cooking. Is it chicken or fish? Lamb or beef? It’s important to pick a seasoning that will complement that protein’s natural flavor profile.
If you’re grilling steak, something like rosemary or basil can be a great choice. You’ll want something that will pop against the meat’s rich flavor. But if you’re grilling chicken or fish, something like oregano or garlic powder could be more appropriate.
Another great tip is to consider what flavors come together well when cooked over heat. If you’re doing a lot of grilling and want to experiment with new flavors and combinations, try pairing spices like paprika and oregano together for extra kick-in dishes like grilled chicken skewers or kebabs!
Go beyond salt and pepper
One tip is to go beyond salt and pepper.
When it comes to grilling, you’ll see plenty of other spices and seasonings you can use. You don’t have to stick with salt and pepper—plenty of other options are available!
Try adding a dash of chili powder or cayenne pepper if you’re looking for a spicy kick. If you want something more subtle, try paprika or garlic powder. A pinch of thyme can add some depth to whatever you’re cooking. If you’re feeling adventurous, try mixing in lemon zest or fresh herbs like rosemary or basil when available!
You might be surprised at how much these different combinations can change your meal’s flavor profile without affecting the texture or consistency of your food (unless you overdo it!).
Choose fresh herbs when you can
If you’re looking for the best spices and seasonings for grilling recipes, it’s important to choose fresh herbs when you can.
Fresh herbs bring brightness and vibrancy to dishes that dried herbs can’t match. They also give you more flexibility in terms of how you use them—dried herbs are great for long-term storage, but they lose their potency after being dried out. Using fresh herbs means that you can add them right before serving, giving your dish an extra layer of flavor and texture.
If you’re making a dish that needs to have a more intense flavor, such as something spicy or hot, then choose a spice blend with more of an aroma. If your dish is milder in flavor, then something like parsley would work better.
If you use dried herbs, make sure they’re freshly ground—they should be fragrant, not dusty or stale-smelling. They won’t have any flavor if they’re too old or dry!
Know which spices pair together well
When looking at seasoning blends, look for ones where all the flavors complement each other instead of competing. For example, when using a barbecue rub on meat, it’s best to find one that contains lemon pepper instead of just black pepper—the lemon will go well with the other ingredients in your rub and help bring out some extra sweetness in your dish.
Also, remember that not all spices are created equal! If you’re buying ground spices or powder, make sure they are pure spice (not just ground-up dust or dirt). You want something that will pack a punch when it hits your tongue—that means no fillers or preservatives in sight!
Remember the hot spices!
If you’re looking for a way to make your next grilling recipe stand out, take advantage of the opportunity to add some heat. Hot spices can give your dish an unexpected depth of flavor and that extra kick that will make your guests beg for more.
The best way to get started with this is by experimenting with flavors. Try mixing in chili powder or cayenne pepper into your marinade before you grill it up, or add some dried red pepper flakes and fresh jalapeno slices when you put it all together.
This is especially important if you’re serving more than one kind of meat at once. Suppose you’re grilling chicken, for example, and having people bring side dishes like baked beans or potato salad. In that case, it can be nice to have something spicy as an option for those who want something different but don’t want to take away from the flavor of their main course.
Even if you’re not a fan of spicy food, this is a great way to introduce yourself to new tastes—and who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself craving those spicy flavors again!
Stock up on a few basic seasonings
One of the most important tips for choosing spices and seasonings for grilling recipes is to stock up on a few basic seasonings.
You can never have too much salt and pepper! If you’re going to be using your grill more than once a week, it’s worth investing in a good salt and pepper grinder. You’ll also want to make sure you have some fresh herbs—basil, cilantro, parsley—to throw onto the meat as it cooks (you can even grow your own herb garden if you want).
And remember, marinades! Marinades are easy to make at home; you only need oil or butter, spices or herbs, and maybe a little vinegar or lemon juice. Don’t worry if they’re not as thick as store-bought marinades: they’ll still add tons of flavor to whatever protein you’re grilling.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
When starting out with grilling, it can be tempting to grab your favorite bottle of steak sauce and go. But don’t do it! The world of spices and seasonings is so big and wonderful that if you stick with what you know, you’ll miss out on a whole world of flavor.
Try experimenting with different combinations of spices and seasonings until you find one that works. For example, if you like the taste of cumin but don’t want your food to be too spicy, try adding some paprika. Or, if you love the smoky sweetness of barbeque sauce but want to avoid loads of sugar, try mixing in some mustard or honey instead (or both!).
Know How Spices and Seasonings Work
Spices and seasonings are used to flavor food. They can be used in many different ways. They can be added at different stages of cooking to achieve different effects. Some spices and seasonings add flavor to food when they’re heated up, while others are best when added at the beginning of cooking.
Spices and seasonings are sold in many different forms: whole spices, ground spices, dried herbs, liquid extracts, and oils containing an assortment of spices. Some spices are better used fresh; others should be purchased dried or frozen because they lose their potency after being ground or exposed to heat for too long (this is especially true of ginger).
What are the Basic Spices and Seasonings for Grilling?
Grilling is one of the best cooking methods, but it’s challenging. The key to success is knowing which spices and seasonings go well with what you’re grilling.
Here are some of our favorite combinations:
- Salt and pepper work well with almost anything, especially grilling meat. The salt helps tenderize the meat, and the pepper adds flavor.
- Garlic powder is also great for meat, but beware if you’re using it on fish! Garlic powder can overpower fish’s delicate flavor.
- Paprika is a classic spice for grilled meats because it adds color and depth of flavor. Just be careful not to use too much—you don’t want your food to look like it came from a circus!
- Cumin is another classic spice that goes perfectly with chicken or lamb. It’s also a nice complement to citrus fruits like oranges or limes!
- Allspice combines clove, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger—so it’s like having all four spices in one tiny package! When you grill with allspice, you get a sweet flavor that goes well with fish and red meats.
- Chili powder is great for adding heat to your grilled food. If you’re feeling adventurous, try mixing chili powder with other spices, such as cumin or cinnamon, for an extra kick!
- Oregano has a slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with grilled meats like steak or lamb chops. You can use it as a rub before cooking if you want extra-flavorful results!
If you need more than the list for you. We got you covered! Here is a common list of Spices, Herbs, and Spice Blends.
Most Common Spices:
- Cumin Seeds
- Ground Coriander Powder
- Red Pepper Flakes
Most Common Herbs:
Most Common Special Herbs:
- Curry Powder
- Garam Masala
- Cajun Spice
- Mediterranean Spice Blend
- Chinese Five Spice
Benefits of Using Spices and Seasonings
Spices and seasonings for grilling are like the salt and pepper of your cooking arsenal. They add a unique flavor to your food and make it stand out.
But there’s more to spices than just adding flavor. Here are some benefits of using spices and seasonings for grilling:
Spice Up Your Grilling
When you think of grilling, you probably don’t think about spices and seasonings. But that’s your loss! Spices and seasonings can add a ton of flavor to your grilled foods—and make your grilling experience easier.
Let’s say you’re grilling steaks on the grill. You can use a spice rub or marinade to add flavor to the meat before cooking it. Or, if you’re using fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme, they’ll give the meat an extra kick while it cooks.
The same goes for chicken. You can rub the chicken with a spice mixture before cooking it or add fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme to the mix as well. You could also grill the chicken without any seasoning—throw it on the grill and enjoy!
Adds Flavor and Aroma
The most important benefit of using spices and seasonings for grilling is that they add flavor and aroma to your food.
When you grill, you want to smell your food as it cooks—the aroma makes grilling so fun! Getting that delicious smell into your meal can be hard if you don’t use spices or seasonings. The key is to use just the right amount of seasoning for each dish so that the finish doesn’t overpower the dish itself.
Spices are also a great way to add extra flavor without adding too much salt or fat. That’s why we recommend adding them at the end of cooking when they’ll have had time to release their flavor into the meat but not so long that they become too salty or burned (or worse yet, bitter).
Here are some of the best ways to add flavors and aroma to your food when grilling:
- Spice Rubs: Rubbing spices onto meat before grilling is the most common way to add flavor and aroma. Rubs are easy, tasty, and not at all intimidating!
- Marinades: Marinating your meat in a marinade or sauce before grilling will help add flavor and keep your meat juicy during cooking. The longer you marinate your meat—the better!
- Dry Rubs: Dry rubs are made up of ground spices, herbs, and other ingredients that are rubbed into the surface of the meat before grilling. This method is similar to marinating but doesn’t require much liquid (if any).
Enhance the Taste of Food
Grilling can be a great way to enhance the taste of food. You can make your grilled meat and vegetables taste better than ever using spices and seasonings!
Spices are used to enhance the flavor of food. Spices are made from roots, bark, seeds, berries, and other parts of plants. We use them in cooking to add flavor to our food. Some spices have medicinal value as well. For example, cinnamon is an antiseptic, and ginger has anti-inflammatory properties.
Sprinkling salt or pepper over your meal will help bring out the natural flavors of your dish without overpowering it with strong seasoning. You can also add herbs like rosemary or thyme for extra flavor without using too much salt or pepper.
Adding lemon juice or lime juice to your meat just before grilling will give it that nice tangy flavor everyone loves! The acidity in these juices will break down some proteins on the surface of meats, making them easier to chew on when eating without having chewy pieces sticking between teeth after eating (or worse… falling out!).
Change or Enhance the Color
One of the benefits of using spices and seasonings for grilling is that they can change or enhance color.
This is important because many people look for ways to make their food look more appealing. They want their meat to be a different color than it normally is, or they want to add some color to their vegetables. This is especially useful if you’re serving this dish in a restaurant or party. If you’re grilling something like chicken breasts, which come out white when cooked, you can use red pepper flakes to create a dark red coating that will look appetizing when you serve it up.
You can also use other spices and seasonings to create different colors in your grill masterpieces. For example, paprika will give foods an orange tint. At the same time, turmeric creates yellow hues when used as a seasoning agent on grilled meats such as chicken breasts.
Boost your Immune System
Spices such as turmeric, cumin seeds, and black peppers have been shown to boost your immune system by up to 87%, according to researchers at Virginia Tech University who tested different types of spices on mice over periods ranging from one week to three months. The reason is that they contain anti-inflammatory properties, which help fight against diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Wrapping It Up
That’s our list of the most important things to consider when picking spices and seasonings for grilling. It’s up to you what you want to experiment with next, but we’re confident that this guide will help you find the perfect spice blend for your next meal on the grill.
And remember: don’t be afraid to get creative! While it’s always a good idea to start with a tried-and-true recipe, what comes from experimentation is usually far more interesting and exciting than anything you could ever find in a cookbook.
We hope you enjoyed learning about different spices and seasonings for grilling, how to pick them, and how to use them. We know grilling is a creative outlet, so take your time and be creative in the kitchen—that’s what it’s all about.