A vital step in the meat grilling process is choosing the best steak seasoning. There are an abundance of BBQ recipes available, and each one can help give your great cuts of a meat a palate-pleasing flavor, but we are always searching to find the best of the best. We turned to a few experts for advice on creating memorable grilling and steak rub recipes that will give your food a unique, signature flavor. From tips on using great grilling technique, to unexpected flavors, to giving ready-made favorites a signature spin, here are the best steak seasoning ideas to help any cut of meat reach its maximum flavor potential.
Even when using the best dry rub you can find, great tasting meat starts with good grilling technique. Grilling expert Jeremy Tannehill, Executive Chef at Public House gastropub in Chicago, Illinois, says you should always know your heat source. “There are two types heat – direct and indirect. When it is quicker food items to cook, like asparagus and steak, then use direct. Otherwise use indirect heat [such as coals] when cooking slower cooked foods i.e. pastrami!” Chef Tannehill also recommends using seasonings judiciously. “Too much garlic, salt and/or chili powder… Don’t do it!” At Public House, he uses sumac spice in all of the steak rubs. “The middle-eastern spice is really enriched in the primal, animal flavor of the beef.”
Shaunya Hartley, Editorial Director of ShopEatandSleep.com, suggests that exotic flavors make the best BBQ dry rub. “I like to do a dry rub from time to time with Saffron, sometimes a red or green curry, [or] Star Anise…Star Anise gives a slight licorice component.” Highly popular in China, India, and other Asian countries, star anise is among the primary ingredients in the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking. It’s also frequently found in absinthe, making it truly unexpected among steak seasoning ingredients.
Many times, backyard chefs have the best grilling ideas. James Andors, a Keller Williams real estate professional by day, has been developing his signature BBQ recipes for years. His father was a professional chef, who worked with famed chef Jean-Georges. “I grew up cooking, and our favorite thing to do was grill steak.” When it comes to the best steak seasoning, Andors has a clear favorite. “I would say there is little better than a Montreal steak seasoning, but not the kind from the bottle. Make it yourself with only seven or eight ingredients, stuff you likely already have in the spice cabinet.” Ingredients in Montreal steak seasoning include paprika, black and white pepper, kosher salt, coriander, granulated onion and garlic, thyme and rosemary, and something for a little heat. “If [you’re] willing to stray from strictly dry rub, substitute for fresh items. Rub the steak with minced garlic, dice some jalapeños, and use a grinder for the coriander seeds (instead of the powder). Always use fresh ground black pepper (or pepper medley) as well. Fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary) are always advisable. Both can grow in anyone’s back yard with zero effort.”
Brian Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Culinary Innovation for California Pizza Kitchen, recommends making quick and easy flavored sea salts. He shared his recipe for Pinot Noir Sea Salt. “As a general rule of thumb, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of flavoring for every 1/4 cup of salt. Be careful not to over mix when blending, so that the salt crystals remain intact. The steps below outline the reduction method. This is a technique using liquid and reducing it to a syrup, which makes the flavor and color of the salt more intense while at the same time preventing the salt from dissolving on contact.”
Pinot Noir Sea Salt
- Bring the wine to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until the wine is a syrup thick enough to coat a spoon. This can take 15 to 20 minutes depending on the amount of liquid and the size of the pan you are using.
- Once reduced, immediately add salt and blend until the salt has completely absorbed the wine and changed color.
- Transfer to a baking sheet or a piece of parchment paper and allow to air dry for 12 to 24 hours or until completely dry.
- Once the salt is dry, store in an airtight container.
Flavored sea salts are a really effective way to enhance the taste of foods every day. Flavors such as alderwood, smoked guava wood, and chipotle give a woodsy flavor to grilled meat and vegetables without the need to keep a stockpile of logs hanging around the house. Some sea salts are even infused with flavors like coconut and lime, making it easy to give the most basic grilled foods an unexpected flavor.
If you are looking for a simple steak seasoning, or easy rib rub, choosing a favorite store-bought steak seasoning blend might be just the answer you’re looking for. Jonathan Toner, founder of Pirate Jonny’s Caribbean Rubs and Seasoning, is a long time foodie, with an award from the National BBQ Association under his belt. Using a blend of coffee, chili powder, garlic, cocoa, and a touch of Jamaican jerk, his ready-made barbecue rub captures an awesome balance of flavor. He’s created a number of great grilling recipes, including one for Roundup Coffee Roast Beef, for those days when you have no choice but to cook your meat inside.
An important ingredient in most great grill recipes is salt, which can be a problem for meat lovers who need to watch their sodium intake. Danielle Marullo, Assistant General Manager of The Todd English Food Hall in New York’s famed Plaza Hotel, is also the blogger behind GotRoomForMore.com, and creates delicious recipes that are also low in sodium. Marullo shared a unique recipe for Bar-Brew-Q Steak that incorporates coffee, coriander seeds, and LoSalt®, a low-sodium seasoning. “I often add coffee to my chocolate desserts to enhance the flavor, but the spiciness and earthiness of these beans are a match made in heaven for meat.”