Grilling: Meat Rubs with Spices and Herbs

Guest Blogger Sean Vander Veer shares how to spice up your life, with delicious blends of spices and herbs for meat and veggies.

Time to spice it up! Spices and herbs offer an easy way to add tons of flavor to any recipe or food item.

Many spices and herbs can complement a dish and each other, but we need to be selective in their combinations and avoid using too many at one time. Bottled grill seasoning blends are often expensive, heavy on the salt and preservatives and lacking in the flavor department. When you make your own, you control the ingredients and the flavor profile. Basic blends include salt, red and black peppers and additional flavor from garlic salt or onion powder. Chili powder, dried herbs and spices like cumin, cloves and cinnamon can turn up the volume big time!

Be sure to also check out this blog post – Healthy Grilling Marinades!

What spices work best with what foods?

Here are some basic principles to follow when it comes to making homemade spices that will help you limit your sodium intake. All of these basic blends/seasoning combinations are made without salt.

  • Chicken: ginger, marjoram, oregano, paprika, poultry seasoning, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme.
  • Fish: curry powder, dill, dry mustard, marjoram, paprika, pepper
  • Beef: bay leaf, marjoram, nutmeg, onion, pepper, sage, thyme
  • Pork: garlic, onion, sage, pepper, oregano
  • Rice: chives, green pepper, onion, paprika, parsley
  • Squash: cloves, curry powder, marjoram, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, onion
  • Potatoes: dill, garlic, onion, paprika, parsley, sage

Application of spices and herbs

The general rule of thumb is to use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of dried spice or ¾ to 1 teaspoon of fresh herbs per pound of meat. Timing is very important when it comes to cooking with spices and herbs so be sure to add your fresh herbs near the end of the cooking time (usually when you have 15 minutes of cooking time left) as prolonged heating can cause flavor and aroma losses. If your spice blend consists of whole spices (whole peppercorns and or Bay leaves) it’s a good idea to add them when you have around 1 hour of cooking time left. Also, be sure to crush those dried herbs before adding them to your foods to ensure the flavor is released and you can enjoy all the benefits of that particular herb.

For uncooked foods, add spices and herbs several hours before to allow flavors to blend. Also, important to remember is to remove those whole spices and bay leaves at the end of cooking. I use a tea bag to secure them during the cooking process and allows for easy removal.

Using those blends is easy – just sprinkle your homemade blends on fish, steaks, chicken and pork or mix with oil for an instant marinade. Don’t forget the veggies! Be sure to choose sturdy ones that’ll hold up on the grill like squash, onions, eggplant, peppers, corn on the cob and mushrooms and use a variety of blends from the spices listed that suit your taste buds the most!

Recipes for tasty blends

I usually mix up 3 different spices at a time and use color coding to differentiate between them making application even easier. I like to have 3 basic blends, a garden herb blend, a spicy blend, and a lemon and garlic blend available at all times. Whether you’re grilling salmon, skinless chicken breast or juicy steaks, grab that spice blend and get to work. Here are my favorites for beef and pork.

Beef Seasoning (Steak or Burgers):

Spicy Montreal Mix (makes 1 cup)

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup granulated onion
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

Here is a recipe that incorporates the seasoning listed above.

Kristen Ziesmer, Sports Dietitian - Grilling - Meat Rubs with Spices and HerbsSteak and Roasted Vegetables

Preheat the grill to 500 degrees (nice and hot!). While the grill is pre-heating, take your 8 oz strip steak and apply your seasoning on both sides using the recipe above. Let that steak rest while you combine the following vegetables into a pan that you can place on the grill such as asparagus, corn, bell peppers, onions, and eggplant.

Instead of using olive oil in the pan, break out the peanut oil which has a higher smoke point which will help it hold up longer during the cooking process. Place your vegetable pan on the grill for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. After the 5 minutes is up, place your steak on the grill and cook to your desired temperature of doneness all the while stirring your vegetables every 3-4 minutes for even cooking. Simple as that you have a great meal consisting of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein. It’s all about balance!

Looking for other meat ideas? Be sure to check out this blog post – Healthy Charcuterie Board.

Sean Vander Veer RD, LD, CPT

Sean Vander Veer RD, LD, CPT

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Commenting area

  1. I so enjoy your site and your recipes. Would you please consider adding a print option so we can enjoy your recipes a little more easily. Thank you.

  2. Fantastic recipe!!! Did not change anything in recipe. Tastes wonderful!! This is my new go-to chicken recipe! Thanks!!!

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