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Taste test: Grilling spices for Labor Day weekend

As they usher out the summer barbecue season this Labor Day, our panelists wanted to see if any of the grilling spices on the market could match up to their own seasoning recipes. We coated chicken strips with eight brands of garlic-and-herb seasoning blends sold in the spice aisles of local grocery stores. We grilled the chicken for flavor and texture and finished each sample off in the oven. Overall, judges were less than impressed with most of the seasonings, saying they might buy some of the brands primarily to enhance their homemade versions.

Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent


(out of 100)
McCormick Roasted Garlic & Herb 42Olde Thompson 41Zatarain's 38

McCormick's garlic-and-herb spice had a lemony flavor that appealed to all of our panelists. "I like the distinctive herb and spice shapes on the meat," said one judge. The herbs left imprints on the meat that the judges thought looked pretty after grilling. "It's the best overall flavor by far." Another said it would be delicious sprinkled on fresh fish going on the grill. "This would be a nice addition to my spice rack," said the judge. "It has a nice balance of flavor and would be good on a baked potato or salad as well." The blend was a little heavy on basil for one judge. She wouldn't put it on grilled meat or fish but said it would work nicely slathered with butter on a slice of French bread in the oven.Judges liked the boldness of this spice and the colors of the herbs. "It's very herbal but it has a decent garlic flavor," said one. "It has big, varied flecks that are attractive, with a tasty mix of flavors of garlic and herbs," said another judge. "This would be especially good to boost a vinaigrette or a marinade. A little moisture would really bring out these flavors," she added. Garlic was definitely detectable in this spice jar. "It's very dense with a lot of herb flecks and lots of salt, too," said one judge. "It really does add good flavor." Another said it was a little sweet for her taste but that it would work well on a big steak or pork chop. "It would certainly look good on the steaks or chops when they come off the grill," she said.

they buy?
Three of the four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.One of the four judges said yes.
Shopping information$2.19 for a 2.75-ounce jar from Publix.$4.98 for a 5.2-ounce jar from Walmart.$4.79 for a 5.12-ounce jar from Publix.

Also Sampled: Olive Garden ($3.49 for a 4.5-ounce jar from Publix, 36 points); Weber ($2.29 for a 2.75-ounce jar from Publix, 36 points);

Mrs. Dash Salt-Free ($3.29 for a 2.5-ounce bottle from Publix, 35 points); Morton Sea Salt Italian Roasted Garlic Rub ($3.39 for a 3.6-ounce jar from Publix, 29 points); and Spice Islands ($3.39 for a 2.2-ounce jar from Publix, 28 points).

Panelists: Laura Reiley, Times food critic; John Hehn, foodie and owner of All Brite Lighting & Power Design Inc.; Mary Jane Park, former executive director of the St. Petersburg Warehouse Arts District Association; and Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. All spices were tasted blind.

Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to [email protected] Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to

Serving size¼ teaspoon¼ teaspoon¼ teaspoon
Fat/Fiber0g / 0g0g / 0g0g / 0g
Sugars/Sodium0g / 170mg0g / 75mg0g / 160mg
Carbs/Protein0g / 0g0g / 0g0g / 0g

Taste test: Grilling spices for Labor Day weekend 08/28/17 [Last modified: Friday, August 25, 2017 5:10pm]
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