Our Test Kitchen chef, Belle English, knows a thing or three about our new outdoor pantry ingredients: She played a crucial role in helping to create them. So that makes her the best person for us to talk to about these new rubs and spices—and, really, all things grilling. We caught up with Belle (who we affectionately and adorably call BBQ Belle) between cooking sessions to talk about flavor, grilling tips, and the most must-have grilling tool of all time.
Here are her seven biggest tips for the upcoming grilling season.
1. Just buy the sauce or the rub.
Sure, you can make your own BBQ sauces or rubs. And we know you love to cook (you wouldn’t be on this site if you didn’t), but Belle really stresses that you should just buy the pre-made stuff. And not just because she helped to develop our own line. “Our sauces and rubs are not only delicious, but a total time saver,” she says. “Achieving the depth and range in flavor in our sauces and rubs would require a lot of ingredients and a lot of cook time if you were to do it yourself.”
Plus: Think about that random jar of smoked paprika that’s sitting in your pantry. You bought it for that oh-so-crucial ½ teaspoon for a random sauce recipe and now the rest of the jar is sitting there losing potency. That’s such a waste! And what about that other recipe you made last summer that was a total bust. Another waste! Belle and her team spent countless hours sourcing the best ingredients, developing the recipes, and testing these mixtures to perfection — so you don’t have to.
2. Pair chicken with chile lime.
If you think grilled chicken is boring, you haven’t had it with our Chile Lime Rub. “It has the perfect level of heat that is balanced by tangy lime and just a little bit of sweetness,” Belle says. Pair some chili lime chicken with cauliflower rice with avocado and black beans and you have the perfect weeknight meal. When asked to pick best new sauce for chicken, Belle says:
That’s like picking a favorite child, but I would have to say the Honey Chipotle. Hot and sweet and perfect.”
3. And pair steak with…
“Black Truffle.” Those were the only two words Belle had for us. Message received.
4. Brush up on how to use these rubs and sauces.
Pun intended! “The best way to use these rubs is to season your meat and then bring it to room temperature before cooking,” Belle says. “This will give the spices in the rubs time to marinate, for lack of a better word. More time, more flavor! Also, allowing your meat to come to room temp before cooking ensures it wont seize up and dry out when it hits the hot cooking surface.”
What about the sauces? “You can use them literally however you want. Marinate, slow cook, baste as you go, serve as a dipping sauce, bathe in them,” Belle says only half joking.
5. Never forget the meat thermometer.
“I don’t care if you are a grilling amateur or the king or queen of outdoor cooking! A meat thermometer will change your life,” Belle says. We sell a few options, but this waterproof pen thermometer is her favorite. It measures temps up to 450°F, has an easy-to-read backlit LCD screen, and it’s just $25.
6. Think beyond the usual grill staples.
While there’s nothing wrong with burgers, dogs, chicken, and steak, there’s so much more that belongs on your gill. “I love grilling fruits and vegetables because it adds so much dynamic flavor to them,” Belle says. “Peaches become sweeter, eggplant transforms into a meaty main, lemons take on an unreal tang and char. Recently, I grilled some halved heads of romaine lettuce, first brushed in a little olive oil and sprinkled with our Smokehouse Rub, and served it with some blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic. It was like a classic steak house wedge salad—but smokey and fresh.” Belle also loves grilling fish and says the Potlatch Seasoning is one of her go-tos.
7. Don’t be intimated by the grill.
“I totally understand why cooking over a big open flame can be intimidating,” Belle says. “But grills are designed for people to cook on them. Practice makes perfect, and again, that meat thermometer will ensure you don’t under or (gasp!) overcook your meat. And our rubs and sauces take care of the rest.”