How to Use Herbs and Seasoning to Masterfully Smoke Your Meats and Seafood

How to Use Herbs and Seasoning to Masterfully Smoke Your Meats and Seafood

Posted on: March 07, 2022
Read time: Read Time: 10 min

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When it comes to creating mouthwatering, delicious meat and seafood, few methods beat the flavor infusion you get with smoking. The process infuses your food with a deep smoky flavor that is hard to reproduce any other way. Smoking is only one-half of the final flavor, though. The rest falls on how you choose to season your meat and seafood. If you are still new to food smoking, don’t worry. With just a few tips, we will have you making mouth-watering meals in no time.

Choosing the Right Herbs and Seasoning

There are a few basics to keep in mind when choosing the right herbs and seasoning for your meat or seafood. The first thing to think about is the flavor you are looking for. Are you going for a savory or spicy flavor? Or maybe you are looking for something a little more earthy or floral?

Try to think about what will complement the main ingredient you are cooking. Mixing herbs and spices can really change the flavor of a dish, so you want to go slow to avoid overpowering the meat.

Meat, Herbs, and Spices

Different types of meat do well with different herbs and spices. Besides the trusty combination of salt and pepper that can be used on almost anything, there are other seasonings and herbs you can use to add some zing to your meat.


Although beef comes in many cuts and forms, one thing remains constant: its strong flavor. You, therefore, need to choose a spice or herb that won’t be overwhelmed by it.

Some readily available spices that do well with beef are onion, black pepper, and garlic. These aromatic and savory spices can easily hold their own flavor without drowning in the beef. If you want something with more firey, go for cayenne pepper. Use basil for that slightly minty touch. Thyme’s lemony taste will round off even the strongest of flavors, while sage’s warmth and fragrance will lighten any dish.

Dried red and green peppers are great additions to beef marinades. Oregano is another herb to look out for, especially if you are making a Mediterranean-inspired beef dish. This herb is not heat-friendly, though, so be sure to add it at the tail end of your preparation.


Pork has a more muted flavor than beef, but it is still sweet and savory. With slight adjustments, most herbs and spices you use in beef dishes can also be used with pork. However, some specific herbs and spices will do better with pork.

Cinnamon’s sweet and slightly smoky flavor balances the savory side of pork nicely. You’ll want to use ginger on a sweet cut of pork for its peppery and zingy flavor. If you are smoking a ham, juniper berries will balance its sweetness nicely.

For pork marinades and rubs, mustard is an excellent choice.


Compared to pork and beef, chicken is mild. Coupled with its lack of color, some might even call it bland. This is a good thing because it gives you room to be creative. You can choose spices and herbs that will give it more life, both through flavor and color.

Garlic’s strong and savory flavor works well with chicken. You can add smoked paprika to your chicken for color and some smokiness. Sage is a common ingredient in most poultry seasonings.

Another pairing that never fails is rosemary and chicken. This herb has been used in chicken recipes since time immemorial for its woody and cooling effect.

Use a bit of cinnamon on the chicken to add a bit of sweetness. Even better, add some cumin to add some warmth. Mace is another spice you should try, sparingly, for a savory finish.

For chicken marinades, adding a bay leaf works wonders. The flavors of other ingredients will become more pronounced.


Lamb has a more distinct and aggressive flavor than beef and pork, which is normally balanced out by earthy herbs and spices. These include turmeric, garlic, and cumin. Use small portions of turmeric and cumin to avoid overwhelming the lamb.

Thyme and dill do well in lamb rubs. Coriander, mint, and rosemary are excellent choices for lamb too.

Seafood, Herbs, and Spices

Seafood is a broad term that includes different types of fish. Although all have their unique flavor and texture, generally, fish is delicate, so they do well with light spices and herbs.

Tarragon is a favorite to use on fish. Try it on crabs, prawns, and lobster. Black pepper and coriander are great choices for salmon and tilapia. Add a dash of smoked paprika and thyme to the latter for more flavor.

Lemongrass pairs well with most shellfish and any other seafood with a bit of sweetness. For trout and swordfish, use sage to infuse some of its earthiness. Use milder chili peppers to add some heat to your shrimp.

Mint is a great choice for fish marinades.

Want to learn more about seasoning? Check the articles below:
What Is the Purpose of Seasoning Your Meats?
When to Go Simple: The Best Cuts of Meat to Use Only Salt and Pepper
Types of Seasoning for Barbecue

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.