When it comes to barbecuing a perfect chicken, beef, or pork meal, the best cook in the world cannot hide imperfect seasoning. But barbecue enthusiasts don’t work with measuring cups and recipes. Their pride is in their intuition, their guesstimation, and their formulation. Barbecue champs pride themselves in their secret recipes and ingredients, but it is their ability to “wing it” and try new things that makes their hobby a craft.
How to “Wing It” with Barbecue Seasoning
If a perfect slab of meat is under-salted, it is just another piece of meat. Even the fattiest ribeye steak needs to have some salt for flavor. You’ve had meat that is under-salted if you’ve ever been to a potluck. It tastes sort of like meat mixed with cardboard. The secret to the perfect amount of salt is balance. It is about how you hold the salt shaker in your hand. If you try to salt meat with too little or too much aggression, you’ll end up with a failure. A truly experienced grill master feels the weight of the salt shaker and knows the speed at which to apply the salt to the meat. Not only is salt an essential flavor enhancer, but it also tenderizes the meat.
You may not love fiery spices, but the proper amount of pepper is more of a zest of lime than a slice of jalapeno. It is a bit acerbic, but it matches the flavors created by salt, protein, and herbs. If you are skeptical, consider adding a light amount of pepper to balance the flavors in your meal.
The ability to spice “on the fly” without a recipe comes with knowing what spices are complimentary to certain meats. For example, thyme is an excellent addition to steak. Rosemary is good on chicken. Garlic powder, oregano, and coriander are common complimentary spices. These spice set the tone for your meal, and the perfect blend is the base of your flavor profile.
Lastly, you gotta add that something special to your spice if you really want it to stand out. Maybe your flair is a little red pepper flake, cinnamon, or mustard. Whatever it is, this spice puts something special and unexpected in your dish, and it will have everybody going back for another bite.
It takes practice to be able to “wing” a barbecue seasoning, and sometimes developing a winning combination requires some actual recipes to get a feel for what works. Once you’ve developed a good understanding, your barbecue recipes can travel in your head, and you’ll be able to throw something together wherever you go.