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Time to spice it up!

Do you find that the only spices you’re using in your spice cabinet are salt, pepper and maybe some oregano or garlic powder every now and then? We know. It’s easy to fall back on your tried-and-true routines. And, if you’re not a culinary wizard, spices can be intimidating. After all, you pay a pretty penny for the meats you buy, so you don’t want to risk seasoning them with a spice blend that doesn’t work!  Well, once again, G.A.P. is here for you.

We’ve enlisted the help of Simone Cormier, Executive Chef and “Spice-ommelier”. Simone sources spices from sustainable partners throughout the world, identifies flavor and food trends, and develops and sells spice-related products for Allegro Spice, and is one of the founders of Vox Spice, a supplier and manufacturer of organic spices for culinary professionals. Simone’s spice journey includes a career as an Executive Chef, Pastry Chef, Kitchen Manager, and Sommelier, and she has travelled to 78 countries exploring regional flavors and sourcing food ingredients. She also served on the Board of Directors of the American Spice Trade Association for 6 years, including her time as President. Suffice it to say, she’s a spice expert.

The G.A.P. team recently sat down with Simone and asked for her advice on spice blends and rubs for grilling our favorite meats this summer. As expected, she had lots of great advice.

Plan your meal

Before you choose the spices for your rub or marinade, think about everything that will be on the plate – not just the protein. Simone thinks in terms of global cuisines, and what direction she wants to take her meal. That’s what drives her decision, as every cuisine has go-to spices. So, think in terms of the type of cuisine you’re preparing that evening and build from there.

Using rubs on meats

When Simone grills meats, she recommends taking the meat out of the refrigerator and bringing it down to room temperature before cooking. As soon as you take it out of the fridge, season it all over with the rub, patting it down to adhere to the meat on both sides. The amount of seasoning to apply depends on how much salt is in the rub – the less salt there is, the more liberally you can season the meat. Taste the rub before using it, and let that be your guide. You can always add more seasoning later if you undershot it.

Easy marinades

An easy way to make a marinade for your grilling meats is to take your favorite rub/seasoning blend and add an acidic liquid (vinegar, wine, fruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice, etc.) that is complementary to the flavor profile of the blend, plus a choice of oil. Simone’s rule is 1 part liquid to 1 part oil. If the liquid is very acidic (like vinegar), she recommends using 1 part liquid to 3 parts oil. The more tender the meat (or the thinner the cut), the less time it needs in the marinade. Ziploc bags are your best friend when marinating meats.

Spice Pairings

Generally speaking, these spices go well with poultry, pork, beef, and lamb: garlic, onion, pepper (black, white, green), paprika, chiles, cumin, coriander, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, ginger, mustard, and rosemary.

For poultry, Simone recommends using sage (especially for turkey), lemon peel, and tarragon. Tarragon is particularly nice with chicken as it has an anise-like, sweet herbaceousness. Chicken is so versatile and accepting of spices — there really isn’t a spice that doesn’t work with chicken, in some combination or another. Simone shared her favorite Chipotle BBQ Rub recipe to use with chicken or pork. Check it out here.

Duck pairs best with sweet and potent spices due to its richness – think star anise, clove, cinnamon, ginger, and juniper berries.

Pork’s fatty goodness makes it a great partner for smoked paprika, and potent spices such as fennel seed, juniper, and caraway seed. Fun fact: Many, many pork sausages contain a bit of nutmeg or mace.

Beef equals the hearty MEAT. It can handle pretty much any spice you throw at it. Again, Simone would let your global cuisine compass lead the way, but you can’t go wrong with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, cayenne, and ground bay leaf for the grill. Ready to mix it up? Try Simone’s Coffee BBQ Rub recipe here.

Lamb is more versatile than most people recognize. So, don’t be intimidated. In addition to the above-mentioned general spices, lamb can handle the delicacy of dill and mint – even lavender, but it can also absorb complex blends heavy on the sweet spices such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom, and allspice. Simone recommends both Baharat and Ras el Hanout spice blends for lamb. They typically have some mix of coriander, cloves, cumin, paprika, and cardamom, but Ras el Hanout often has more ingredients like chile, ginger, dried rose petals, red pepper flakes, and allspice. Simone also shared her favorite Gridiron Lamb Rub recipe with us so click here to view and print. It also goes great with salmon.

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration for your summer grilling menu. We have lots of grilling recipes on our G.A.P. recipe page so be sure to bookmark for your reference. And, if you’re not following us on Facebook and Instagram, please do! We post lots of recipes, promotions, and partner spotlights on our pages every week and we’d love to have you in our community.

Thanks for helping us #MakeitGAP this summer by looking for the G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified label when you shop. Remember, when you purchase products with the G.A.P. label, you are voting with your dollars for better animal welfare practices.  Bon Appetit!

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