Old Bay Blackened Seasoning: THE Old Bay For Steaks

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Delivering the blackened on the barbecue taste…

Years of crab-eating have made Old Bay seasoning by McCormick a spice rack staple in my house. It’s so tasty – slightly spicy (thanks to the chili-based paprika), earthy and robust. It’s great on everything from seafood to popcorn, including a big juicy steak as a rub.

That’s where McCormick’s other flavor – Old Bay Blackened Seasoning – has me the most excited. I love an Old Bay steak rub, but I’ve always wanted just a hint more charred flavor – something extra to match the hearty taste of red meat. Old Bay blackened seasoning takes what makes the original so great and layers in that delicious “blackened on the barbecue” taste.

The flavor: Original Old Bay Seasoning vs. Old Bay Blackened Seasoning

Make no mistake, Old Bay Blackened Seasoning is still like the original at heart. You still taste most (if not all) of the ingredients that make the traditionalĀ Old Bay so great, like the paprika, cloves, and all-spice. It’s what’s added (and lessened) to create the charred flavor balance that makes this spice mix special.

Think of these two Old Bay seasonings like singers – the original is a tenor and the blackened is a bass. Original Old Bay is slightly brighter in flavor and leans more heavily on salt – its taste travels “up the flavor octave”. Old Bay blackened seasoning starts out similarly, but the blackened flavors quickly kick in. Its taste barrels down the scale into earthy charred grit (in all the best ways). And this blackened flavor also precludes the need for as much salt as the original; at least in taste, there’s much less of that salt “brightness” in the flavor.

The heat: A family-friendly simmering

Both carry a very eatable mild heat from paprika, and at relatively the same amount. It’s a simmering spiciness – it’s in no way the real star of the show –  but it does tend to last a long time on the tongue. There’s no worry here about who can stomach the fieriness, most everyone can handle the heat of Old Bay.

Usability: Hearty meats and outdoor cooking

For as similar as they are in flavor, there are definitely different use cases here. Original Old Bay will always be the staple go-to in our house simply because it plays well across lots of dishes. It’s the taste of Maryland crabs, the taste of the Chesapeake Bay. The comparative brightness of the earthy flavors (compared to its blackened cousin) lets it play well with lots of seafood, but also lighter fare like salads, soups, and potato chips.

Old Bay Blackened Seasoning is meant for the grill, or at least to get the taste of the grill indoors. Its terrific on heartier fish like catfish and tuna to deliver that off-the-grill charred flavor, and it’s now my go-to Old Bay for use as a steak rub. Its flavors may be too deep for lighter fare, where the burnt flavor can become too pronounced.


Old Bay Blackened Seasoning will likely sit for now on in my spice rack next to its well-used original cousin. Sure, it’s not as day-to-day usable, but when it comes to flavoring big meats and enhancing barbecue flavors, it surpasses the original.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content.
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