Must-have spices for barbecue season

Memorial Day weekend is a time for barbecuing tasty meats and veggies over hot coals. Culinary academy students can do some amazing things in the kitchen, but that doesn't mean they're also grill masters. Similarly to cooking indoors, using a grill can take time and practice to really conquer. While you're getting some grilling hours in this weekend, try adding these spices to your barbecue repertoire:

Liquid smoke
Serious Eats calls liquid smoke a "pantry essential." Some brands add coloring or flavors like vinegar and molasses, but the blog prefers Wright's brand, which is made up of water and smoke, no additional ingredients. You can find it in three flavors, hickory, applewood and mesquite, for your favorite woody taste. Many brands have similar versions that differentiate between the tastes that each wood offers when used for smoking purposes. Not everyone has the time or funds to buy and use a full-fledged smoker, but the addition of this simple ingredient to steaks and other barbecue fare is an easy way to get a similar flavor.

Contrary to its name, allspice is actually one singular item, not a mix of herbs and such like a dry rub. Allspice resembles whole peppercorns but is brown in color. It originates from the Western Hemisphere in Central and South America and is commonly grown in Jamaica. The flavor of allspice is like a mixture of ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. It grows in berry form and then the seeds are ground up and sold as spice. The entire fruit can be eaten and is called a pimento, but when used in barbecuing, you'll want to get the powdered or ground version. You can add this to any sauce or marinade, or even put it directly on meats that are on their way to the fires of your grill. Because of the interesting and complex taste of allspice, you may not want to add many other spices – it's enough solo or with the addition of garlic powder or barbecue sauce.

If you're a fan of Indian food, you have likely had cumin. This spice is often used in Indian, African and Moroccan dishes. It comes in both seed form and ground up into a tan, orange or red powder. Cumin is strong and considered to be a sweet spice. A little bit of this ingredient goes a long way. Add a dash to your dry rub or pat directly onto raw meats.

Brown sugar
Many of today's prepackaged barbecue sauces are made with brown sugar. It is a great binding agent to hold spices together and adds sweet flavor that works really well with the smoke of a grill or open fire pit. If you are making a sauce, consider using brown sugar. It is also a great add-on to dry rubs and can make for a delicious marinade. Combine some liquid smoke, allspice, a little bit of cumin and some brown sugar and you've got a tasty yet simple barbecue flavor. 

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