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The Best Types Of Pepper For Grilled Meat

I have always thought the world of spices was incredibly fascinating. It has always given me something exotic. All I had to do was inhale the aromas, and I was catapulted for a few seconds among the stalls of a crowded Asian open-air market or a North African souk. However, never more than when I started venturing into the paths of barbecue was I able to truly appreciate all its nuances. There are some families on which entire treatises could be written without being sure of having exhausted the topic. 

Among these certainly is pepper, a spice that, moreover, in the world of barbecue, takes on a double value: an inevitable essential ingredient of the traditional SPG (salt, pepper, and garlic) rub for brisket, as well as many other rubs, and a fantastic final enrichment for a prepared steak with all the trappings. Let’s delve into the topic even slightly. In that case, it is easy to discover how, in common usage, on the one hand, we tend to include in the concept of “pepper for grilled meat” a bit of everything, and on the other, not to delve deeply enough into that which can be the contribution of each species to the gastronomic profile of the dish. 

Very often, the various types of pepper we buy at the supermarket are nothing more than the berries of the same plant, harvested with different degrees of ripeness or processed differently. Green pepper is more delicate, fresh, and aromatic simply because it is harvested unripe. Red is only the color of the fully ripe berry, which is fixed through drying in the oven rather than under the sun. Black pepper is the most intense and coincides with the medium ripeness of the berry. Finally, the white one is less intense because it is left to soak in water until the pericarp, the primary guardian of the piperine responsible for the spice, is macerated. 

In this regard, I advise you to be wary of those whose berries are lighter than a creamy white; they have probably been treated with sulfur dioxide. In almost all other cases of similar products, they are not piperaces but berries from similar plants, which lend themselves to the same use, albeit with different aromatic profiles. Examples of this include pink pepper and Szechuan pepper. Unfortunately, this is where the average user’s experience of the magical world of pepper for grilled meat ends. 

Like what happens with coffee, where species and terroir can produce very different sensory experiences, pepper can also give us great emotions if we learn to know it better. Furthermore, a significantly underestimated aspect of pepper for grilled meat is its olfactory contribution, solely because it is practically non-existent in commercial products and also because they are sold already ground and not in berries. Once the overall picture has been defined, I can then tell you about the ten types of pepper for grilled meat, both piperaceous and non-Piperaceae, which, in my opinion, can make the difference in the creation of your creative barbecue recipes, each aimed at a specific purpose. Accurate:

Pepper Types For Grilled Meat

Malagueta (Fam. Aframomum)

A tropical plant typical of the eastern coast of Africa, of the same family as ginger. Formerly used throughout Europe in medieval times to flavor drinks, especially beer, it practically disappeared. In this case, they are not even berries but petite seeds with a round and reddish appearance. 

The scent is resinous, spicy, aromatic, and slightly pungent, with final notes reminiscent of cardamom. The flavor is warm and decidedly more savory, with a bitter finish that betrays a hint of ginger. It is excellent on vegetables or as a “cut” for the peppery component of GSP. Personal tip: try it in Tiger sauce, decreasing the amount of horseradish.


Among the proposed types, this is the one closest to our concept of pepper. It originates from a coastal area of India with a long tradition of cultivation, from which it takes its name, and is famous for the high quality of its products. The berry is the classic black, picked at medium ripeness and somewhat leathery. On the nose, it is complex, with woody notes. In the mouth, it is decidedly spicy and intense. Excellent on all tasty meats, including game. Personal Tip: Try it on lamb ribs.

Long Bengal

Piperaceae is typical of India and Sri Lanka, where it grows wild. It is a type of pepper I love very much and, unfortunately, is not as well known as it deserves. The berry is very elongated in shape, brown in color, and resembles a tiny pine cone. Extremely fragrant, with hints of cinnamon and liquorice. In the mouth, it is decidedly less pungent than black pepper and noticeably more aromatic, referring to the notes perceived on the nose, with a finish that recalls anise. 

It has an awkward shape to handle and is also quite complex, so I recommend breaking it into pieces before putting it in the pepper mill. It is known as a pepper curiously suitable for desserts; it is recommended for all delicate meats and some types of fish, such as salmon. Personal tip: exponentially increasing the olfactory complexity of any beef steak.

Jamaica (Family Myrtaceae)

They are round and full-bodied berries that resemble juniper berries in appearance. Naturally, they originate from Jamaica and many other Central American countries, where they are commonly called Pimiento. Once again, the olfactory component constitutes its added value: a highly complex aroma with strong notes of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and a thousand other nuances. This is why, in the United States, where it is widely used, it is known as Allspice. In this case, pairing it with desserts is also famous. Personal Advice: It is a perfect pepper to enrich GSP with complexity and is particularly noticeable on beef ribs.




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