6 Amazing Grill Tips and Spice Blends from our Favorite Dads

5 min read 4 Comments

With father's day approaching, I've got grilling, boating, beer and manly men on my mind. 

I realize men and fathers come in all flavors, but growing up in the midwest, these were the common attributes most celebrated this time of year. 

So in honor of the fantastic men in our lives, Sarah and I interviewed all the dads in our clan to find out what are the favorite grilling spices and cooking methods of the day. 

We even have a list of health benefits from our medical expert! 

It's a fascinating list, spanning 4 states, inland and coasts, and covers options for every palette.

After talking to these guys my mouth is watering, I'm brimming with ideas for things to try, and I'm sure yours will be too! 

We'll kick off this list with Dr Skarperud who shares his medical knowledge on the health benefits of spices... 

handmade enamelware bowls made by seattle artist CG Sculpture and Jewelry, filled with Wren's Culinary Salt spices

Wren's Culinary Salts in CG Home Goods, enamelware bowls. Food styling by Bridget K. Meyer. Photo credit: Kyle Mutter 


From Rob, located in Oregon:

Spices are key

 Rob grilling cod with spices on a lump charcoal grill

Dr Robert Skarperud is our medical expert with much to share on the health benefits of spices and how they help with digestion. In general, the health benefits of all spices are underrated... 

  • They are carminative, which means reduced gas and bloating (which means less farting!) This is why Indian restaurants have fennel seeds at the end of the meal - to combat the garbanzo bean influence
  • Strengthens inside lining of blood vessels, making them more resistant to inflammation
  • Dilates capillaries to improve oxygenation of tissues (everything works better when you get oxygen to all areas of your body)
  • They are pre-biotics - the scaffolding that beneficial bacteria need to grow and thrive, resulting in healthier gut flora
  • They are packed with bioflavonoids and phytonutrients, which are anti-oxidants and enhance immunity (to name a few)


Partial to specialties of the Pacific Northwest where he's lived most of his life, Rob shares his go to recipe for grilled salmon, especially good this time of year.

He makes his own spice blend, a classic Pacific Northwest salmon rub and grills it hot and short on lump charcoal (the best and only choice in his opinion) to ensure it's cooked to perfection with the best flavor. 

Salmon recipe: 

Spice blend: cumin, paprika, garlic and onion powder, brown sugar, cayenne (or use hot paprika), salt and pepper

*For even better flavor, dry roast the cumin seeds and grind them fresh

Use lump charcoal for the best flavor. Don't be afraid of a hot flame. 

Start skin side down, and quickly sear each side. Move to the non flaming side of the grill to finish for a perfectly seared outside and rare inside fillet.

Timing depends on size of fish. 


Dr Robert Skarperud has a Masters of Science in Nutritional Biochemistry from Tufts in Boston, and a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle. He is currently a general practitioner with Blue Star Clinic in Bend, Oregon.


From Frank, snowbird between Florida and Ohio:

Quality is key

frank grisez at the grill on sunny deck

Frank is the elder of our group and as such, relies on innate wisdom from many years of experience when grilling meat and fish. 

He's not picky about the spice choice, and will grab whatever blend is on hand (which is whatever his wife Judy hands him), often a Chicago style steak rub or simple fish rub for any fish.

The magic lies in the quality and not overcooking. 

Frank suggests using a thermometer, cook about 40 degrees less than the recommended temperature and let the item finish cooking on a non flaming area of the grill or off the grill entirely. 

When in Ohio - meat is preferred and the key is quality above all. Buy the best you can afford and don't overcook. 

When in Florida - fish is on frequent rotation. The favorite pairing is with a homemade mango or peach salsa. 

In honor of summer fun, here's a light and quick mango salsa recipe to pair with any grilled fish.

Mango Salsa Recipe: 

Ingredients: ripe mango, red bell pepper, cilantro, fresh lemon and/or lime, salt and pepper

Chop the mango, pepper, and cilantro and combine in a bowl with citrus, salt and pepper to taste. 

For a spicier kick, add chopped fresh jalapeño.


From Greg, located in Ohio:

Brine is key

Greg and his brining technique for grilling meat

For Greg, it's all about the brine!  

Any chicken that you grill or smoke, he says "brine it, but be careful!"  Be mindful of the chicken and how it comes packaged, some chicken may have already been brined.  If that is the case, just shorten the length of your at-home brine to ensure you do not over salt the meat.

Greg's go-to rub is the Southern Succor Rub from Smoke & Spice: Cooking With Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecue by Cheryl & Bill Jamison (Authors). 

The rub consists of black pepper, paprika, Turbinado sugar, salt, dry mustard, & cayenne pepper.  Perfect for pork, but Greg mentioned he also uses this rub on his smoked chicken wings and beer can chicken! 


From Ben, located in Ohio:

Your guest is key

ben cooking whole chicken

Although his actual favorite rub is the Char Crust All American Barbecue Rub, we learned what Ben actually cooks with varies based on who is coming to dinner!  

For his twin daughters, it's always their favorite Rub with love, chicken rub. He often uses this one when his girls are home for a visit, or entertaining guests.  Ben also enjoys the Classic Traeger Rub but it adds quite a kick, so he avoids this one when mom is coming to dinner since even the slight bit of spicy food sets her mouth on fire. 

According to Ben "All in all, I'd have to say my favorite rub is when everyone loves the meal!" 


From Chris, located in Florida: 

History and home are key

chris cooking chicken on the grill

One of Chris' favorite meats to grill is a classic ribeye, enhanced with a rub that brings him back to his roots, the greater Chicagoland. 

His very strict instructions for a perfect steak consist of the following: 

  • Pull steaks out of the fridge 45 min prior to cooking, season generously with Course Kosher Salt
  • Once steaks are at room temperature, dry with a towel
  • Season with Chicago style steak seasoning (he prefer's Penzeys Chicago Steak Seasoning), but any chicago style rub will do! 


From Ken, located in Washington:

Clean eating is key

ken cooking burgers in cast iron pan

For Ken - simple and clean is best. Our health nut of the group, he prefers simply prepared steamed vegetables and lean protein for every meal (including breakfast!). Although he will occasional splurge on a lettuce wrapped burger or cheese heavy charcuterie, he likes meals to be more about sustenance. 

He most often uses what he refers to as Ken's pixie dust, sprinkled sparingly on lean protein like halibut or chicken. 

While he does enjoy grilling, his go to method of cooking is the cast iron pan. No matter what the meat or fish - he recommends searing each side for a couple minutes (depending on thickness) and finishing in the oven for thicker cuts. 

After a brief stint as a vegan, he enjoyed the same methods for tofu. 

Ken's pixie dust recipe: 

  • fresh ground black pepper
  • squirt of fresh citrus and/or orange

And since he knows some people like a bit more pep, there's always a spicy salt filled Bitty Bowl on the table for guests. 

table spice in handmade enamelware bowl by artist Catherine Grisez

So many great tips and recipe suggestions! 

Is your mouth watering yet??  

As always, if you are looking for a fun gift for the grill expert in your life, consider my handmade copper enamelware Bowls and Spoons

What is your favorite spice rub or grilling tip? Share the love by commenting below!  


Sarah Selman

4 Responses

Carol Nye

July 07, 2021

Great post! I am partial to using my Mama Dragon spice mix from Wren’s Culinary Salt! It is so versatile and a little goes a long way. I use it on grilled chicken, a spicy marinara, a kick for fresh salsa, sprinkled on popcorn for a flavorful kick, etc. Love all the ideas here!


June 16, 2021

This is my all time fav post! What a great idea-loved seeing the family!❤️


June 16, 2021

This is my all time fav post! What a great idea-loved seeing the family!❤️

Shannon Hughes

June 16, 2021

Yes, my mouth is watering…and I love the tips from this varied group of experts. While traveling with limited supplies, I’ve been using the brine in the olive and artichoke jars to flavor fresh fish and even replace water in rice cooking. Adds great flavor using something I used to pour down the drain. Can’t wait to try some of your recommended rubs in my treasured bitty bowls. Thanks for the inspiration.

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