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Put Some Pepper on It

May 23, 2017

We’ve come a long way from caveman days* when fire was new, and a plain, cooked piece of meat was a revelation. Humans have learned how to make meat taste even better by rubbing, marinating, brining and glazing our meat with all sorts of spices and herbs. Yet one of the of the most enduring spices to pair with beef is humble black pepper.

We think of pepper as a simple, basic spice today, but it was once so rare and valuable that it was used as currency. Native to India and Indonesia, pepper was a main driver in establishing trade routes between Europe and those regions. With our similar tropical climate, pepper can even be grown here in Hawaii.

For a good cut of meat, all you really need to add are a few generous grinds of pepper and salt, but we’ve rounded up a few recipes that let the spicy-sweet kick of the world’s favorite spice shine.

Easy Sirloin Steak with Black Peppercorns (NYTimes.com)

Ground Peppercorn Burger (food.com)

Chinese-inspired Six-Spice Hanger Steak (Epicurious.com)

Peppercorn-Crusted Short Ribs (Saveur.com)

Skirt Steak Fajitas with Lime and Black Pepper (Epicurious.com)

Grilled Sirloin with Coffee Bean Peppercorn Crust (EatingWell.com)

Black pepper also has an impressive list of benefits that go beyond taste. It stimulates gastric juices, which primes the body for digesting protein. Piperine, a substance in pepper, reduces fat levels in the bloodstream. And when mixed into ground meat or rubbed in as part of a spice rub, antioxidant-rich black pepper also helps block the formation of certain cancer-causing chemicals that can form on grilled meats or vegetables. (Marinades and ingredients like rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, sage, marjoram, cloves and allspice do this as well.)

The bottom line is that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel (or fire) when you’re grilling this summer. Top off your peppermill, get grilling and enjoy.

*Scientists are still trying to figure out when and how our ancestors mastered fire for cooking. Check out the debate here and here.