When I very first heard of ordering food blackened, I was confident I knew exactly what that meant. Just let the food cook longer so the outside gets black. Duh. Turns out I was dead wrong. Maybe I’m not alone, but since then I have learned that it is a mix of spices and seasonings cooked in a specific manner. And I have learned how to make blackened seasoning, how to use it, and what goes well with it.
The first thing you may notice about blackened seasoning is that it is not actually black. The red-orange of the smoked paprika and chili powders comes through more than anything else. Many foods will tend to look a little burnt with this seasoning mix. Hence the name. But note the keyword look. It shouldn’t actually be burnt.
There are a ton of store-bought pre-made seasoning mixes that fall under the blackened umbrella, so why make it for yourself? For starters, if you have a decently stocked spice pantry, then you likely have all or most of the ingredients on hand. Second, it is satisfying to make your own mix. And finally, you can control exactly what goes in it and can even experiment to make it exactly how you like it.
Yes, this recipe, like most, is not set in stone. For me, the fun of cooking is all about trying different things, tasting them, (fixing them if necessary…), and then having delicious food. So if one ingredient seems terrible to you, substitute it for something else. Feel like kicking the heat up a notch? Then add in more powdered peppers, baby. You just might want to notify others before throwing any ghost peppers into the mix.
Using Blackened Seasoning
No individual protein has a chokehold on this seasoning. Most commonly associated with fish, shrimp, and chicken, it can really go on whatever you want. But whatever goes well with a little bit of heat and a whole lot of flavor will work.
To make the seasoning, just measure out and mix together all of the herbs and spices. Store it in an airtight container for up to 6 months, though it will start to lose some potency towards the end of its shelf life.
When you’ve mixed together the seasoning and are ready to use it, you’ll need a cast-iron skillet (or another heavy-bottomed pan), melted butter, and the protein or other food that you are planning to blacken. You may also want a bit of oil with a high smoke point – like canola, corn, sunflower, or peanut oil.
First, fire up your stove or grill to medium-high heat and put the cast iron pan on to heat up. Add a tablespoon or so of the oil if you would like, it may or may not be needed depending on how much butter you use in the next step.
Then either dip your item in the butter or brush the melted butter over the item with a basting brush. With your protein covered in butter, it is time to coat it with your homemade blackened seasoning. Make sure to give a generous coating on both front and back. Unless you are cooking a fish with the skin on – then only coat the non-skin side of the fish with butter and seasoning.
Add the coated item to the hot skillet. Move it around as little as possible – you want it to sit and form that nice crust. Flip it over once halfway through the cooking time for your specific item. Cook it to the desired doneness and enjoy.
Char or Seasoning?
Though it starts out bright red-orange, the cooking method used will turn the seasoning into a dark brown-black delicious crust. Hence the name. The burnt-like blackening is a result of the milk solids browning and the spice mixture charring. Mmmmm.
I RECOMMEND COOKING THIS ON A GRILL OUTSIDE. You are likely to generate some smoke during the cooking process. You don’t want it in your house, setting off alarms. It’ll ruin the experience of the food. It can vary from cook to cook depending on the heat, butter, oil, and probably how the cast iron pan is feeling that day. So, in my opinion, it is better not to risk a hazy house and just cook it outside. But you can take your home into your own hands.
Now that you know how to make blackened seasoning, try pairing a blackened protein with homemade risotto or oven-roasted asparagus. Maybe top a Caesar salad with blackened salmon or chicken. Rice (especially dirty rice) and steamed vegetables go well on the side too.
So go raid your spice cabinet and make this powerful seasoning mix. Your taste buds will be thanking you.
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How to Make Blackened SeasoningCourse: SpicesDifficulty: Easy
Make blackened seasoning and use it to get a little bit of heat and a whole lot of flavor with a delicious crust
3 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 and 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 and 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 and 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
2 teaspoons ancho powder
- Add all the ingredients to a bowl or a jar with a lid and either stir or shake thoroughly to combine
- To use, sprinkle over food that has been coated in butter and then cook in a hot cast iron pan with minimal flipping
- Store unused seasoning mix in an airtight container for up to 6 months