Any outdoor chef – whether they’re professional or a home cook – will tell you that the right spices are one of the most important parts of cooking a great dish. Even if you cook the perfect rack of ribs or fry up the most well-cooked piece of chicken, it’s probably going to taste lackluster without the right combination of spices.

After all, cooking is a skill that requires the right tools for the job. This includes everything from the best cooking wood to the right knives to help you slice like a pro while you’re serving up your dish to the right ingredients to nail the taste while it’s still in the kitchen.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best spices available to compliment your favorite meat dishes.

General Tips on Herbs and Spices

Before we get into specific spice and meat combinations, here are a few handy tips:

1) Try everything: The best way to find out which combination of herbs, spices, and meat is to simply try different things! You can start with online guides like the ones in Cooking with Wood U and try your hand at finding a flavor combination that works best for you.

2) Write it down: Whatever you decide to try, make sure to write it down. You don’t want to achieve perfection and forget how you did it next time! You might also realize you used too much or too little of a particular ingredient – next time you’ll know to increase or decrease to achieve perfection.

Write down recipe notes

3) Edit recipes to your liking: Just because some online chef loves cumin doesn’t mean you have to love it too. Don’t be afraid to edit things to your own personal preference and taste. That means that even if a spice or herb is perfectly suited to a dish, you might find someone (including yourself!) that doesn’t like the dish. That’s part of learning what works for you.

4) Try multiple things at once: Smoking 6 chicken breasts or a bunch of chicken wings? Then try different seasoning combos on each one! If that’s too extreme, go half and half. Trying different combinations in the same cook can help you find the ideal combination much faster.

5) Remember that wood is an ingredient too: When you cook with wood, remember that the wood will provide flavor. Quality wood can provide quality flavor, but wet or musty wood can provide musty flavor that will ruin your food (even if it has the perfect balance of herbs and spices). Fortunately, Cutting Edge Firewood makes it easier than ever to source the best cooking wood available.

Recommended Herbs and Spices for Beef

When you’re considering beef, you have plenty of options. Remember, out of this list, you should consider what you and the people you’re serving your beef dish to like as well as the type of options you have on hand.

For instance, if you’re using dried herbs, you’ll find that options such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, and tarragon are great paired with beef. If you’re using beef in the form of a stew, casserole, or even a curry, you should try adding bay leaves to your recipe while you’re cooking. A good rule of thumb to remember is that dried herbs are usually used at a ratio of three times as much you would use for fresh herbs.

If you are using fresh herbs, you’re probably adding them closer to when you serve your dish. You can opt for mixed herbs but when it comes to individual options, chives, parsley, and basil are a great choice. While it’s a slightly controversial choice, cilantro also pairs well with beef if you’re the type of person who likes it!

As for spices, you can add options such as cumin, dark chilis, red pepper flakes, or mustard powder. For a spicy kick, you can add cayenne. You can even take an unexpected turn and add a little cinnamon.

If you want advice on the perfect wood for cooking beef, then you can’t really go wrong. Hickory and Pecan will add stronger flavor, while oak is perfect for more subtle flavor.

Recommended Herbs and Spices for Chicken

Chicken is one of the most all-around pleasing options when it comes to meat choice. It’s a blank canvas you can do a lot with so long as you have the right tools in your arsenal. You’ll be able to please even the pickiest eaters around you.

Some of the spices and herbs you should use with chicken are similar to compatible options for beef. For example, basil, bay leaves, parsley, rosemary, and tarragon are all great choices for chicken. However, you also won’t want to add options such as garlic, cardamom, anise, coriander, cloves, and lemongrass to your repertoire. Of course, you’ll never go wrong adding a little salt and pepper and you can even experiment with different pepper types.

Herbs and Spices Grilled Chicken

Chicken is an especially great choice when you want to experiment with a variety of different spices because it complements so many different flavors. So, don’t be afraid to try out a few different ideas as you try more chicken dishes out.

As far as wood goes, you can use apple or cherry if you want to add some sweet flavor to your chicken, or pecan if you want to add a nutty flavor. And of course, hickory smoked chicken will provide the strongest wood flavor available.

Recommended Herbs and Spices for Pork

Pork has risen in popularity among people who eat meat as a tasty option that’s often a little more inexpensive than options like steaks. Luckily, it’s also a meat that takes to spices and herbs well, meaning you have a lot of options when it comes to making sure your pork dishes come out flavorful and tasty.

There are some common spices that you should have handy in your kitchen for pork as well as some of the other options we’ve looked at here. Again, choices such as basil, oregano, garlic, parsley, and thyme are common and delicious choices.

You can also add a bit of a twist by using spices such as cloves, allspice, ginger, and garlic in your recipes.

For pork, we love using applewood or cherry wood. Something about fruit woods is just perfect, but of course hickory or pecan will work well too.

Ready to get cooking?

Cooking outside and around the fire does not have to be a scary process. With Cutting Edge Firewood, we love to make it easy to cook amazing food. Learn more by checking out our Becoming a Backyard BBQ Master video series or by ordering cooking wood today!