Why Old Bay is the Spice Blend You Actually Do Need in Your Pantry
Last week, in a restaurant dining experience of unadulterated serenity, I pried open crab after crab at L.P. Steamers in Baltimore, Maryland. As the feeling of seafood bliss overtook my mind, body, and spirit (and clothes, which smelled like the harbor for the rest of the day), the only coherent thought that I could form in my head was, “I freaking love Old Bay seasoning.” Each crustacean boasted a heavy dusting of this magical spice blend, and it’s zesty, peppery flavor had me hooked after the first bite.
I won’t say that I forgot about this legendary brand’s seasoning, but I will confess that it surely has not been at the forefront of my kitchen cabinets. That all ends now. If you haven’t shown love to your Old Bay (which is not to be confused with your Old Bae—definitely leave them alone), you’re new to this staple spice blend, or you’re just in need of a change in pace when it comes to seasoning your food, allow me to sprinkle (literally and metaphorically) some seasoning wisdom into your everyday cooking.
Old Bay is a winning combination of spices that has existed for over 75 years, and it was originally created in Baltimore. While it’s most commonly associated with its affinity for all things seafood, I would argue that there’s nothing that you can’t do with this stuff. We’re talking anything from poultry or red meat, to corn, potatoes, grilled veggies, eggs, and pizza. Any food that you might apply some sort of savory seasoning to will more than likely take well to a dusting of Old Bay. It’s core component is celery salt, a common, earthy seasoning for meats and vegetables, and it also contains red pepper, black pepper, and paprika.
What makes Old Bay the gem that it is, is its simplicity. Because it is so universally complementary, you don’t have to worry about it ruining the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. The spice aisle tends to be one of the more intimidating sections of the grocery store—how are you supposed to know what combinations of spices are going to enhance versus offset the flavors of the dish that you’re making? Decisions! Are! Hard!
For a beginner cook that feels unsure about adding certain spices to their food, Old Bay is the ultimate, you-can’t-screw-this-up solution. It’s all blended for you, and it has an almost suspicious way of making everything that much better. Whether you incorporate it in a marinade, toss it in during the cooking process, or you swap out your routine pinch of pepper for a sprinkle of it instead, Old Bay is the underrated seasoning blend that you should definitely (re)incorporate to your spice drawer.