For many Southerners, a whiff of Old Bay is as transportive as any perfume. The aromatic seasoning blend might conjure mouthwatering memories of summers spent at a fish shack, Aunt Sue’s famous crab cakes, standing over the steaming pot at a neighborhood crab boil, or Dad’s weird-but-delicious habit of sprinkling Old Bay over hot, buttered popcorn. The question isn’t “how do you use Old Bay?” The question is “is there anything not improved by Old Bay?”
The bold seasoning salt in the iconic yellow and blue tin originated in Maryland more than 75 years ago, and since then, it has found a home in kitchen cabinets throughout the South and the world. Although the tin proclaims “For Seafood, Poultry, Salads, Meats,” Southerners know it’s good in just about anything—bloody Marys, deviled eggs, pasta, French fries, rice, chicken wings. Old Bay’s website helpfully suggests that you keep a container of the spices “in your purse or fanny pack to battle bland food on-the-go.”
The primary ingredient in Old Bay is celery salt (which is why it’s so good in a bloody Mary), but it also contains 17 other spices including red pepper, black pepper, mustard, allspice, and paprika. It’s spicy (but not too spicy), pungent, savory, and slightly tangy.
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Don’t freak out if your trusty tin of Old Bay looks a little different in the next few months. This summer, plastic cans will replace the metal ones. The company says the new can will be easier to use for pouring and measuring and will also keep the contents fresher. Rest assured the seasoning itself isn’t changing. Some things are just too perfect to mess with.