Have you been looking for the best blackened seasoning with Cajun heat? The process of blackening creates a peppery, black crust, which allows the meat to be seared with all its juices and flavor. The spices used in the process are known as the blackened seasoning or blackened spice. Here at our test kitchen, we also love to use Champion Blackened Seasoning right on the grill.
Although blackening is traditionally associated with Cajun techniques and recipes (you are probably familiar with jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo), it is, in fact, a much newer process. Hailing from New Orleans’s K-Paul, renowned chef Paul Prudhomme invented and perfected blackening, which was initially supposed to be a fish recipe. Nowadays, blackening seasoning is used in all kinds of recipes, from shrimp and chicken to steak, vegetables, and even pork.
It’s not the spices that provide the blackening, but the butter as it chars in the pan. As soon as it gets to the pan, the butter starts charring and creating the seared crust that allows the meat and vegetables not to dry out. When you try out blackening, make sure you have a cast-iron skillet, since other pans can be a fire hazard or, at the very least, spoiled by the high heat it needs to go under before any of the ingredients are thrown into it.
The History Behind Blackened Seasoning
Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme grew up on a farm near Opelousas, in the Acadian region of Louisiana, along with his sharecropper parents. In the 1980s, chef Paul Prudhomme brought Cajun cuisine into the national spotlight with a culinary tour that spanned the entire country. Food connoisseurs from South to North were introduced to his audacious Cajun creations, with hordes and hordes of people lining up for the chance to get a taste of his dishes.
Many consider chef Paul to be the father of blackening. This prodigious culinary mind got his start working at several restaurants in the New Orleans area, including the world-renowned Commander’s Palace, where Paul was in charge of running the entire show. Prior to his arrival, Commander’s Palace was strictly a Creole restaurant, but Paul’s Cajun influence was unassailable and transformed Commander’s with a menu that leaned Cajun. It was at Commander’s that chef Paul came up with blackening, late at night after closing time.
After all the customers had left, chef Paul instructed the broiler cook to “throw butter on a piece of fish, season it, and throw it on the stove.” After he got a taste of the dish, chef Paul experienced a moment of culinary catharsis, thinking that he had never tasted anything as good in his life. Although the executive manager disliked the dish, she allowed it to stay on the menu under the code name “grilled redfish”.
Blackened Seasoning Debut
In 1979, Paul opened his first restaurant with Kay Hinrichs, named K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, a portmanteau of their own names. He started serving his blackened fish in March of 1980 and the dish was promptly requested by over 30 patrons. In the following days, the restaurant became crowded with restaurant-goers lining up and begging for this hot new dish. It got to the point where the restaurant had to set a limit of one “new blackened redfish” for each table, turning it into an appetizer that all guests could share and enjoy.
In the Summer of 1983, Paul and Kay closed the restaurant for a month and took their entire staff to San Francisco. The team took over a local nightclub to establish their kitchen and aimed to serve 30 to 40 patrons each night, offering several freshly-made blackened dishes, including prime rib, lamb chops, and redfish. In the very first night, there were customers lining up as far as their view allowed from the upstairs window. The team limited the number of guests to 350 people each night, for 5 nights each week. Their West Coast venture was an absolute success. In 1985, they did a similar move in New York City, reaching wild popularity with local politicians, A-list celebrities, and the entire community of New York foodies. Everyone wanted a bite of Paul’s blackened dishes.
The Secrets to Proper Blackening
You will want to form a spicy crust to lock in the meat’s natural juices, which will require high levels of heat and create a whole lotta smoke. You may be discouraged once your kitchen becomes filled with smoke and there is a lot of noise coming from your smoke detector. You don’t have to go all the way with blackening to create delicious food, so you may want to stop short of asphyxiation.
But the better idea is to set out your grill outside, place an iron skillet on top of it. Set the heat to high for at the very least 30 minutes. It will get hot, but not seventh-circle-of-hell just yet. All the food ingredients need to be cool so that the butter or oil will stick to it better. Each fillet you grill should be around half an inch in thickness. The mixture of butter and spices should be enough to fully coat the fillets. As soon as you have coated the meat in the mixture, quickly place it into the scorching hot iron skillet. Don’t forget to keep it uncovered. The underside will char in approximately two minutes. Promptly turn over the fillets and add one tablespoon of butter to the top and let it cook for another two minutes.
We recommend using one to two tablespoons of blackening seasoning for every cup of butter.
Champion Blackening Seasoning is a hand-crafted gourmet seasoning blend containing: paprika, yellow mustard, garlic, onion, oregano, black pepper, cumin, thyme, cayenne, bay leaves, and celery seed.