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BBQ King Raichlen’s 2019 Predictions: More Meatless BBQ & Global Flavors!

BBQ chef extraordinaire and all around good guy, Steven Raichlen, just published his Barbecue trends for 2019 (Part I). His article is worth a full read, but in short he predicts we’ll see the following:

  1. Brisket Where You Least Expect It” He says brisket is expanding outside its regional roots and is becoming more widely available throughout the U.S. as an American BBQ staple.
  2. Grills Go Green” Raichlen says gone are the days of BBQ only involving meat, noting some great restaurants are paving the way for tasty vegetarian and vegan barbecue.
  3. Wood Grilling Comes Home” Raichlen says wood-fire cooking is trending up. My friend @livefirecook is all over this and I’ve been lucky to cook many dishes over open fire with him over the years.  
  4. “New Rubs From Around Planet BBQ” American BBQ chefs are straying further away from the traditional, go-to American rubs and experimenting more with international flavors.
  5. Brisket in a Hurry” Raichlen sees emerging methods of brisket cooking that take minutes instead of hours or days.

I’m digging all his thinking here, but I’m especially nodding my head at #2 and #4.

Good Meatless BBQ = the Right Spices & Technique

Raichlen’s #2 prediction, “Grills Go Green” speaks strongly to me because I’ve been trying to perfect meatless BBQ and breakdown non-meat BBQ stereotypes for a few years now. As more people move to a plant-based diet or just try to eat less meat in general, I agree this meatless BBQ trend is only going to rise.

My meatless BBQ path started five years ago when I met my girlfriend, who happens to be a vegetarian. I quickly became obsessed with sharing my favorite BBQ dishes with her by adapting them into vegetarian versions.

From smoked pulled oyster mushroom sandwiches to Thanksgiving’s smoked “turkey” pictured below, the results have been fantastic. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike have given my meatless versions two BBQ-stained thumbs up. (Side note: it’s fun surprising skeptical carnivores that meatless can be delicious!)

smoken vegan turkey thanksgiving

My meatless BBQ experiments have gone very wrong at times, and I’ve learned a lot.

The biggest lesson I have is great spices are the foundation of great BBQ, and in vegan or vegetarian BBQ this is even more important. You need to rely heavily on quality spices to emulate meaty flavors.

Some of the blends I recommend for meatless BBQ are Finger Lickin’ Chicken, Sweet and Sassy Pork and Sizzling Steak.  

Secondly, the techniques you use BBQing meat are similar techniques you’ll use with vegetarian dishes, but meatless recipes often require adding an additional step to ensure palatable texture.

For example, for my smoked turkey this year, I brined it overnight in salt water with organic aromatic spices (juniper, garlic, allspice, clove, mustard, and coriander) then rubbed it with a special (no-longer available) Thanksgiving version of our popular Finger Lickin’ Chicken blend. I then slow-smoked it with cherry and oak wood for 8 hours.

Pinch Spice Market Turkey Brine

For the turkey seitan, I used the same aromatic brining spices when I steamed it for an hour before sending it off to the smoker. This steaming is a necessary step to pre-cook the seitan, and gives it a moist “meaty” texture with a satisfying pull and chew. I learned this step was critical because I previously pre-cooked seitan ribs in an oven before smoking and they came out dry, stringy and leathery. With meatless BBQ, if the texture is off, it’s not going to taste good. Moisture is your friend.

After the steam and before the smoke, I rubbed the seitan loaf down with the same Thanksgiving blend I used on the turkey, then popped it into the smoker for 40 minutes (seitan really soaks up smoke and a longer smoke time leads to bitterness, so you can’t overdo it).

In the end, meat eaters and vegans had virtually the same experience of a delicious smoked meal, and all ended up with smiles on their faces.

Exploring Beyond Traditional American BBQ Flavors

Now, onto my favorite prediction of Raichlen’s, #4 “New Rubs From Around Planet BBQ”. I love that more people are experimenting with global flavors in their BBQ.

One of my best selling blends is Ras El Hanout, which is specifically mentioned Raichlen’s prediction of American BBQ going more global. I’ve personally had many customers order this spice with BBQ in mind, and it’s only been growing in popularity.

Ras El Hanout roughly translates to “The Head of the Shop”, with spice merchants each making their own version to highlight the quality of the spices they sell. I make my organic Ras El Hanout blend in the spirit of a Moroccan bizarre. Most blends have at least 20 ingredients, and I have 26, with each spice and herb working together to highlight the other, all while building a deep and colorful flavor profile. It’s nice to see more American BBQs getting familiar with this ancient mosaic spice blend.

Some other international BBQ spices I see getting popular in the USA include Piri Piri, a popular live fire dish that has origins in Portugal, Mozambique and South Africa. Nando’s put this firmly on the map in the USA, and I’ve seen a big uptick in the sales of my Piri Piri mix.

Additionally, Baharat is a newcomer to the American barbecue scene, but this Middle Eastern staple is a really simple bridge. It has the sweet and savory combination that we are accustomed to, although it uses cardamom and cinnamon to achieve the sweet flavors as opposed to sugar. I’ve been saying for a longtime, “anything you can kabob, you can baharat”, and this year I’ve noticed a lot more people purchasing this amazingly versatile spice blend.

I could go on and on about how excited I am to see home chefs and BBQ lovers experimenting more with international spice blends and spices. From grains of paradise, to cubebJamaican jerk, and Ethiopian berbere, there are so many flavors this planet gives us. It’s an exciting time for BBQ!

A final note, Steven Raichlen is one of my biggest culinary influences. I’ve owned and operated Pinch Spice Market for six years now, but I made my first real spice blend 15 years ago with inspiration from his renown book, The BBQ Bible. That book and his PBS show BBQ University have taught me to explore the full world of BBQ, which eventually led me to found Pinch Spice Market.

I am forever grateful for the knowledge he has and shares. If you don’t follow him already, I highly suggest you do.

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New Farmer’s Market in 2015: Treasure Island Lincoln Park, Chicago

Join us Wednesday this summer from 3-5pm at the new farmer’s market hosted by Treasure Island in the northside Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

Sample some of our best BBQ rubs, organic spice blends, and fresh fair trade spices, or just come by for a spice and cooking chat. We look forward to seeing you there!

Organic spices at farmer's market in Chicago

Check out the other vendors and get more details on Treasure Island’s website.

Can’t make it or live somewhere else? You can buy all of our spices online with free delivery on purchases over $45!

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Pinch Spice Market Online ~ Get Fresh Organic Spices Delivered to Your Door!

We’re an online organic spice shop! We ship all over the USA, and can ship internationally in most cases. Browse our organic, fairtrade spices online here!

organic spices online

Learn more about Pinch Spice Market and our journey.

2013 Update: Pinch has some news of change to share with our customers and friends. We are closing our Bucktown brick and mortar retail location and continuing our spice business through online orders and deliveries. We are so thankful for the last two years being in the beautiful Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown.

We’re at a place where we want to keep prices as low as possible while still offering the highest quality, freshest spices from the best local farms on the planet. We can continue to do that by getting rid of the expensive Chicago retail roof over our heads. We will still have our spice kitchen/lab where we make our small batch blends of course, but that is closed to the public at this time.

It was a pleasure meeting all and sharing the highest quality spice blends and organic herbs and spices with you. We will miss you and our beautiful shop, but we look forward to continuing to serve your spice needs online!

Please stop by our shop before the end of the year and let’s chat about how we can make sure to continue to serve your spice needs in 2014 and beyond.

Thank you for your trust and business, and blessings for 2014!

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License to Grill – Get the Grilling Spices Out!

This year, the hunger to grill outside struck earlier than ever in Chicago. When the nice weather first hit in March, the desire to grill awoke all over this fair city. We are readying our charcoal Webbers, our infareds, our propane grills, and (of course) our smokers.

Barbecue remains the most American expression of flavor. Grilling didn’t start here, but we’ve done our best to show this world a thing or two vis-a-vis  spectacular meat and veggie creations.

Special BBQ Gift Box for You or Your Favorite Griller

At Pinch, we are so excited to ring in this season that we’re putting together a few special treats for our amazing customers. We’re offering a special BBQ gift box of our most transcendent customized organic spice blends for grilling and BBQ.

We recommend lump charcoal, grass-fed red meat, and of course, freshly-ground, organic spices. The difference is indelibly edible.

We will also be putting our hearts and souls into a barbecue demonstration on Sunday the 27th of May from 3:00 til 6:00pm, right here at Pinch Spice Market at 1913 North Milwaukee in Bucktown. We will be tasting brisket and homemade sausage while we teach you how to whip up your own BBQ sauce. It is BYOB, so grab some beer or some bourbon and come on out!

Grilling = Happy!

Civilization sprang up around our need to stand around open fire and cook and share food and words. Today it doesn’t get much better, once you add music and the right beverages to the mix.

BBQ is for Meat Lovers and Vegetarians/Vegans Alike!

Come down and upgrade your cooking game today. Our Jamaican Jerk Blend is begging to be caramelized over a fresh Amish chicken. Our Memphis Rib Rub deserves to be caressed over the meatiest baby back ribs you can find.

Don’t forget the veggies. Veggies are just as necessary and delicious over fire as their meaty brethren.

Any vegetable you can think of tasty with a bit of olive oil, some French Grey Salt, and some ground White Peppercorns. Or top them off with our wildly popular Veggie Sprinkle Spice Blend.

Our options are unlimited, our cuisines are countless. Come into Pinch today and start crafting your own spice cabinet, and get the blends you need to add flavor to your summer.

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Decadent desserts with vanilla bean paste

We recently added organic vanilla bean paste to the ever growing list of products we carry at the shop.   Being a somewhat unique item, I thought it would be fun to explore what  exactly this dark sticky paste is and how home cooks and chefs can use it to enhance the dishes they make.

What is vanilla paste?  Many people, myself included, get a strange picture in their head when introduced to the concept.  For me, it was a solid paste that might be sold in squeeze bottles, like you see ginger or garlic sold in.  Others may reflect back to their kindergarten days and the craft paste they used and probably sampled when creating fanciful art projects.  The actuality is something that resembles a thick maple syrup or molasses.  The process to make vanilla paste involves grinding whole vanilla beans and allowing them to dry cure.  They are then added to vanilla extract. Sugar and a natural thickener are added to finish the process.  You are left with a very strong, almost piquant syrup that is specked with vanilla seeds and pods.

In the above image you can just see the specks of vanilla that give the paste it’s dark color.

Vanilla paste is a great substitute for vanilla extract or vanilla beans in recipes.  Chefs often turn to vanilla paste as an alternative to using beans as a convenience, but it also imparts its own unique and rich flavor.  A general rule of thumb would be to use paste and extract on 1:1 basis or 1 tablespoon of paste is equivalent to 1 vanilla bean.

Hmmmm what could we cook with it?  Well the options are fairly endless but I think a great way to highlight this powerful paste would be to use it in creme anglaise.  The nice thing with the paste is that you will have the black specks, which wouldn’t be the case if you used extract or steeped a bean in cream.  So here we go….

Creme Anglaise with Vanilla Bean Paste

1 cup heavy cream
3 tsp vanilla paste (preferably organic)
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Combine the egg yolks and the sugar and whisk until smooth.  Heat the cream until just bubbling on the edges.  Now you want to temper the cream and the egg mixture.  This is done by taking a small amount (1/2 or less) of the warm cream and whisking it together with the egg mixture.  You then want to add a portion of the now combined mixture into the cream and then back again ,whisking constantly until both are combined.   Now continue to cook the combined sauce until it coats the back of spoon or you feel it is sufficiently combined.  It’s ok, trust yourself, really, you can do this.  Once complete you will now pour the sauce through a mesh strainer.  This will remove any unsightly solids that may have formed.  Now add your vanilla paste and chill until you are ready to top your favorite dessert or just some fresh raspberries.  

So there you have it, an introduction to the wonderful and deeply delicious vanilla paste.  Pinch Spice Market is proud to offer an all organic vanilla paste in 2 oz. containers for $11.50.  Come on in and check it out.


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Delicious breakfast for those on tight budget

The Sparrow here….I hope this is one of many posts.  Poor Sparrow is on a very tight budget these days.  I love to eat delicious food, but recently have found that difficult given my meager means.  This is where the good fellows at Pinch Spice Market come in.   Recently I tasked them to help with my morning meal.  I was looking for something that I could eat everyday, was easy to prepare, allowed for some variance, and cost me very little.  So here is what Shoebocks and Mike came up with.

Oatmeal in a Rice Cooker

Knowing that the Sparrow isn’t the most talented cook in the world, and that the Sparrow needed things to be kept simple, they developed a recipe that could be made in a rice cooker.  These days most of the things that I cook are done this way, so it seemed perfect to me.  Here is the method that they gave to the sparrow.

Measure 1 cup of steel cut oats into the bowl of a rice cooker, add 3 cups of water add a pinch of salt.  Allow this to soak overnight in the rice cooker. Turn on the rice cooker for a normal cooking cycle when you wake up.  Cooking time varies by rice cooker but it should take about 30 minutes.  When complete add some brown sugar to taste, and a round tea spoon of Garam Masala.

I was a little skeptical about putting an Indian spice in my oatmeal, but the method seemed good.  Plus they convinced me by letting me smell the Garam Masala. So I left the store with a bag of Garam Masala in hand.  I followed the instructions and can you believe it, a wonderful breakfast.  The recipe made enough for 2 bowls, so I will either cut it in half or just save the rest for the following morning.  I am so inspired I might try adding some different ingredients, although the Garam Masala really does hit the spot.  A very subtle spice flavor initially that lends it self to some complexity as you eat the oatmeal.  This method was great and really fit the bill for what I was after; easy, quick, and delicious.  This is probably the best oatmeal I have ever eaten, certainly the best I have ever cooked.  All of this makes for a very happy and slightly less poor Sparrow.

Sparrow out


Posted on is an Online Shop Here to Serve You! (Bucktown Storefront is Closed)

Update: Since this post was written, we closed our physical store in the Chicago neighborhood of Bucktown.

While it was a difficult decision and we will certainly miss seeing everyone’s faces, it was the right decision for our growing business so we can keep prices as low as possible while continuing to source and create the best natural spices and spice blends on the planet.

You can buy everything you could in the store now online. Thank you for all the great memories, friends. We look forward to delivering your favorite spices to your door!


Thank You For an Amazing First Week in Our New Store!

In our first week of business, we’ve had customers that reflect the diversity of our Bucktown neighborhood. What a great week talking with all of you about the inspiring dishes you’re cooking up! We are honored to offer you the highest quality spices and herbs when you need them.

We have had locals passing by enjoying a walk on one of the many unseasonably warm days, all excited to have a local source for natural spices.

We’ve met so many talented home chefs, and we’ve also met an owner of a local restaurant and a barista buying spices to perfect his specialty coffee drink that he will serve in an upcoming barista competition, and a home brewer buying orange peel, lemon peel, and coriander seed for a beer he’s making. It’s been wonderful getting to know everyone!

Thank you for giving us a shot and we look forward to your future visits!

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Why is Pinch so focused on organic?

Most spices that are used in the United States are fumigated with toxic chemicals such as ethylene oxide.  Unfortunately these chemicals are harmful to humans and beyond that they are extremely harmful to the workers that apply them.  Organic spices are fumigated using dry steam, which sanitizes them against bacterial contamination.  Beyond the fumigation process many non-organic spices are cultivated in ways that are harmful to the eco system in which they exist.  Often times farming methods such has clear cutting are used.  Add to that the use of pesticides and you can see that it is a bad situation.  Many people are beginning to understand the importance of organic foods and we feel that it is of equal importance to use organic herbs and spices.  Next time you are cooking a delicious organic tofu stir fry or grilling an organic steak, take minute to think about what you are adding to it.

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Vanilla….that beautiful orchid

Many people enjoy vanilla. It has to be one of the most noticeable and distinct flavors we encounter.  Vanilla is native to Mexico although many assume it is native to Madagascar and the outlying neighboring islands (La Réunion and Mauritius) as these are the largest modern producers.  It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when a young man figured out how to propagate vanilla by hand that other parts of world began to produce vanilla.  Many orchids develop to attract specific insects for pollination and this is the case with Vanilla in Mexico. For vanilla the melipona bee is the only natural pollinator.  Thus all of the vanilla outside of Mexico must be hand pollinated.  At Pinch we are currently offering organically produced Vanilla from Mexico.  We are interested in adding additional varieties of vanilla and would be very interested in hearing what our customers think/desire.  Beyond the beans we also offer organic vanilla paste and organic vanilla sugar.  Soon we will also offer organic vanilla extract, and other extracts for cooking.  All this talk of vanilla makes me want to get a delicious vanilla shake.