spice up your beef

The next time you are in your local supermarket, take a slow cruise down the aisle where spices and condiments tempt you with their promises of tastier, richer, more exciting food.

When you get to the spice blends, rubs and marinade mixes, you will notice that each one claims it is the absolute best accompaniment for certain types of food, and while they've probably spent quite a lot of time working it out, we say, hey, what if I want to try your fish spice with my beef?

The wonderful thing about spices is, you get to choose how to experiment with them! Everyone has different tastes, and what works for one might be unpleasant for another. That said, there are some spices - and even herbs - that work particularly well with beef, and with good reason.

The beef flavour

Beef is a strong meat, with a flavour that is easily enhanced with just a little salt and pepper. And quite frankly, if that's all you're putting on your beef, you'll probably never go wrong. It might get just a little boring, though…

 

Because of beef's own strong flavour, it takes really well to treatment with strong-flavoured herbs and spices that have a unique and recognisable taste of their own. This is exactly why a little pepper goes a long way with beef, and also why it's such a popular meat to use in hot and spicy dishes - you still get good beef flavour, along with complementary tastes.

Beef and herbs

When it comes to herbs, try experimenting with basil, oregano, mustard, rosemary, sage and thyme. These are all strongly aromatic and therefore packed with the essential oils that give them their unique taste. This means you won't need very much to impart a complex blend of flavour to the dish. If at all possible, use fresh herbs - they have a better taste and you need far less.

 

*Side note: while mint and its relatives have a seriously strong flavour, it isn't a particularly suitable herb for beef. You're welcome to experiment as much as you like, but it's not one we recommend.

Beef and spices

With spices, you can't go wrong with those that have a little “zing” to them, like black pepper or cayenne pepper. Most chillies go incredibly well with beef, as do cumin and coriander. The gentler, milder and subtler spices, like cinnamon, don't complement beef nearly as well, and are better suited for milder meats.

 

Of course, everything depends on the type of dish you are cooking and the specific flavour profile you're after. For example, something as simple as a grilled steak can go from lightly salted and peppered, to a complex marinade with a range of spices. South African favourite biltong, however, just isn’t the same without coriander in the seasoning mix - this spice is also popular for use in boerewors blends.

Get the blend right

Speaking of blends, it really helps to know which spices and herbs go well with one another, regardless of the meat being used. Some really just don’t work together, even if, individually, they are perfect for specific beef dishes. Wednesday night Bolognese, for example, with its delicious blend of basil and oregano, doesn’t take particularly well to the addition of chillies.

 

We always encourage experimentation, but before you get to just throwing random spices in the pot, spend some time exploring recipes for beef dishes from around the world. Take special care to look at the specific blends of herbs and spices used in these dishes so that you can develop an understanding of which seasonings work well together, and how they help develop a unique flavour profile. Most importantly, have fun playing around with flavours - life is too short for boring food.