The majority of grill owners own gas grills for good reason: they tend to be more user-friendly than charcoal grills, and most have utensil hooks, wheels, a place to hang your protective gloves for handling hot meat, and a host of other amenities. Gas grills also offer a cleaner flavor than charcoal ones; the food comes off the grill absent the smoky flavor that charcoal creates. The cleaner flavor profile means there’s more room to get creative with spices, because the smoky flavor won’t mask them. Don’t go crazy and coat your meat with every spice you have—instead, utilize a few of these simple yet flavorful must-use spices for grilling.
Salt and Pepper
When you have a great cut of beef such as a Kobe or Wagyu steak, you don’t want to cover up that expensive flavor. Salt and pepper are still the champs when it comes to lightly flavoring steak, chicken, pork, or whatever other meat you choose. When applied during cooking, they enhance and intensify the natural flavors of the meat.
Garlic and Onion Powder
These two close cousins are wonderfully versatile, and you can use them on almost anything. They add nuttiness and sweetness to any blend of seasonings you create. Garlic and onion give seafood, vegetables, and any type of red meat or poultry a flavor that you won’t want to skimp on. Be careful not to over-season, though: these two flavors can quickly overpower any dish.
Another very versatile spice, cumin is a staple in Mexican cooking. You’ve probably tasted it in a taco seasoning mix or in chili. It’s rich and hearty, earthy and warm, with hints of citrus that highlight the sweetness of root vegetables and boost the flavor of meats. If you’re looking to change things up on your grill, cumin is a good place to start.
A little bit of smoked paprika goes a long way. Paprika comes in different varieties and from different parts of the world, so if you’re following a recipe, pay attention to what type you’re buying. Unless the packaging says so, this isn’t a hot spice—it’s just smoky, sweet, and wonderful. Made from dried, smoked, and ground pimiento peppers, it’s a great addition to any dry rub.
There’s always room for a little heat on any cut of meat. Cayenne is made from dried red chili peppers that are ground into a powder. In addition to being delicious, cayenne also has health benefits such as improved circulation and better digestion. Fish, meat, and vegetables will benefit the most from a sweet and spicy kick of cayenne pepper.