Building your spice rack

Just like a marinade, seasoning can make or break your dish on the grill. A good spice rub can take your flavor over the top. So it’s time to get to know your spice rack a little better, because having a good spice rack and knowing how to use it are key elements in your arsenal of tools to take your grilling to the next level.

While many of us have accumulated spices, dried herbs, and seasonings over time…some people are just getting into or reinventing their spice rack. It can be a daunting and very expensive task! This is where shopping at the big box stores actually can save you some money. Also, the Internet is a great tool to get spices in bulk and get those hard to find specific spices. There is a world full of spices online, so start looking and doing some price shopping. I have used, allspiceonline, thespicehouse, and, just to name a few. With Penzey’s you’ll need to find a store or get their catalog which is worth it.

The great thing about buying individual spices and dried herbs is that (if stored properly) they have a fairly long shelf life. Cool, dark spaces are the best. I know those spinning spice racks on the counter look amazing, but if they’re in direct sunlight, it will shorten the life and thus the flavor of your spices. Another great thing about individual spices is the ability to mix match and explore to get that perfect blend.

If you have the benefit of having ethnic grocery stores nearby, they too carry the spices from their corner of the world, usually for much cheaper than a regular grocery or even big box store. They will also have very hard to find spices so you can transport your meal to that authentic taste from a unique region.

With that being said, I am also a big fan of some pre-made mixtures. I know that some of you may have favorites and there have been some staples that the world has used for years. The only downfall to these is the SODIUM content and other ingredients you can’t pronounce. Believe me, salt is always part of seasoning, I just like to have control of how much I put in.

Pre-made mixtures save time and money, it’s that simple. But you can make a variation on a lot of rubs, seasonings, and dried herb blends with your own spices, too. Do not be afraid to try this; you’ll be rewarded, save money, and lower you sodium content. Below I will list some of my spice rack standards.

Speaking of salt…we all use it and if I can ask only one favor, please kick the table salt. Use kosher salt or sea salt. You will use less and get more flavor enhancement from them, in my opinion. (don’t toss the table salt, it’s good for cleaning coffee pots)

For pepper, it is imperative that you buy a pepper mill if you don’t already have one. Freshly ground pepper is the most pungent and flavorful thing you can add to a dish and it will awaken your taste buds. The taste of pre-ground pepper is not the same. Don’t skip this – do the research and find a decent pepper mill that fits your budget. It doesn’t have to be a four hundred dollar, twenty two inch long wooden one. However, if you can’t justify buying one, get out some wax paper and a heavy pot, meat tenderizer or beer bottle and bash away, though you’ll have a much more coarse pepper. Here are a couple of links below:

Alright, I hope that helps out but I think the lists below will speak for themselves. I will be adding some rub recipes in the future, so be on the look out for them coming soon. As for now, go take inventory and get ready to SPICE things up!


My favorite single spices:

  • Allspice (ground)
  • Bay leaf
  • Brown sugar
  • Black peppercorns
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Celery seed
  • Chili powder
  • Cinnamon powder and sticks
  • Cumin and Cumin seeds
  • Dill or dill weed
  • Ginger and candied Ginger
  • Garlic powder
  • Mustard powder
  • Mustard seed
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion powder
  • Oregano (dried)
  • Paprika (smoked is good to have, too)
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Rosemary (dried)
  • Salt (sea and Kosher)
  • Thyme (dried)

My favorite store-bought seasonings:

Morton’s Natures Seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning, original (also available in 30% less sodium)

Weber Kick ‘n Chicken

Willie’s Hog Dust, original

Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

Tony Chachere’s Injectables Creole Butter (the best for deep fried turkey and whole chickens)

McCormick Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

McCormick Gourmet Collection Herbes de Provence

Goya Adobo Light without pepper (50% less sodium)



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About 34BBQ

I am here to share my experiences in the culinary outdoors...and to get people grilling all year 'round! I am "culinary enthusiast" who studied the arts at Culinary and Wine Institute - University of South Carolina. I love food photography and BBQ and I like to cook using my outdoor grills as much as I can. -Jay

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