Cherry Beef Steak Rub...Method for Prep & Q-view of Debut Smoke

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Smoking Guru
Original poster
OTBS Member
Aug 27, 2008
I had a bit of brain-storming today after seeing ellymae's thread with chuckies on the Big Green Egg.
Something about the mention of a cherry dry rub really intrigued me...enough so that I had to dig up
a box of dried cherries and get busy formulating the ingredients and a method to make my own cherry
dry rub all come together. I had read threads in which artificially cherry flavored brisket was the topic,

and as good as it sounded and looked, it just didn't have the same appeal as a natural cherry flavor...

this was what spurred me on to get a new blend coming together.

So, ellymae, this one's for you. Well, and everyone else who wants to give it a whirl, but my thanks
go out to ellymae for this spur-of-the-moment inspiration I had.

I was reading her thread about 10 minutes before I went nuts with my spice grinder, so this came together
pretty fast and furious, as I had some steaks thawing to try it out on...RIGHT NOW!!! LOL!!!!


(All measures are pre-grind)

6 Tbls (heaping) freshly ground dried red cherries

1 Tbls freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbls freshly ground garlic from minced/dried

2 tsp freshly ground thyme

1 tsp freshly ground cumin

1 tsp freshly ground oregano

2 tsp dried chopped onion, freshly ground

1 Tbls ground kosher salt (grind last, and this will help to clean out the other spices from the grinder)

1 Tbls paprika

The cherries are not a likely candidate for grinding because of the natural sugar content which immediately
begins to form a paste, and the more you work them, the more stubborn they become...this was first evidenced
in the cherry pasted chef's knife after just a few seconds of mincing.

Also, this blend will not mix uniformly with a fork in a soup bowl or other similar recepticle,
or by folding it together with a spoon, and tumbling it inside of a poly container is not an option either
due to the sugars in the cherries turning into a paste when you chop/grind them.

So, heres my method for accomplishing the blend:

Mince the cherries up reasonably fine with a chef knife on a poly board and add 2 Tbls at a time to your
electric grinder. Grind until the motor runs a fairly steady speed (mine took about 8-10 seconds),
then invert the grinder and tap the lid to shake the the pasty cherry grind into the lid and remove lid while
inverted and dump into a bowl. Repeat until all cherries are ground. Place them into a container to begin
mixing with the spices as they are ground and ready.

Next, with the grinder emptied of all of the cherry grind, add the peppercorn, minced dried garlic, thyme,
cumin and oregano. The peppercorn and garlic will help to further break up the cherry paste in the grinder
and also aids in the powdering of the other leafy ingredients.

The second-last run of the grinder is the onion and kosher salt. Again, the salt will speed up the grind of the
onion, which only takes a couple seconds this way, but will also remove much of the other spices and cherry
paste from the grinder, as it absorbes much of the moisture from these, which in turn helps to break the
spice's bond from the grinder.

Add the paprika and mix the blend of spices for a few minutes by gently drawing it up the side and pressing
it against the side of a deep soup bowl. The clumps which have formed from the cherries will break up somewhat,
but not completely.

The final run of the grinder is to add a couple Tbls of the blend at a time to complete the break-down of
the clumped cherries by mixing it into the dry ingredients at the same time it is being further ground.
This was a very succesful method for the final texture of the rub blend. Just grind a few Tbls and put into a
the separate container which you will store this in until it is used up. Put all of the final grind into
one container and tumble or fold to achieve a uniform blend.

This rub is all of powdered ingredients for the purpose of dusting the meat lightly and allowing it to bond
to the meat naturally from the salt and natural sugars. I say lightly, because it is packed with flavor.

All dried ingredients pack a more intense flavor, from spices and herbs, to dried beef jerky, to fruits.
The natural sugars of the cherries somehow seem to amplify the spiciness of the peppercorn and garlic,
as well as packing a pretty intense flavor all on their own. My dry taste test confirmed that it was all
worth the effort it took to make this rub.

I suspect that the sugars of the cherries will try to reform into a paste, like brown sugar, so a regrind
before using after storing for a week or so may be needed, but what's a few seconds in a grinder anyway, right?

Once the final application of dry rub is completed, allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before smoking so the
sugars can bond and salt can begin to draw a bit of moisture to aid in developing the rub's adhesion as well.

Smoke with hickory & cherry (or your favorite) @ ~225* to your desired doneness.

I'll start these steaks out with a cold smoke of about 120-130* as they are not quite completely thawed yet
when they went into the smoker. The cold smoke will finish the thaw before I add more charcoal and build up
the fire to hot smoking temps and finish the cooking.  

Also, until proven otherwise, I would not recommend this rub for the higher temps of grilling due to a pretty high risk of burning the sugars in the cherries, although it is a much shorter duration over the high heat than a long smoke would be, so it may work out just fine for that as well. I still have about 1/3 of this rub left over, so I may get the chance to try it grilled one of these nights coming up soon. 

As I began to prep this dry, I came across the problem with pasting/caking of the cherries during mincing/grinding. Also, after begining to put all the ingedients together, I noticed a definite need for additional coloring, as all the spices other than the peppercorn had coated the cherry with a pale white dust. That's where the paprika came into the game.

Paste was forming on the knike blade long before I took this we're about ready for grinding:


Post grind of the minced cherries:


Here's the initial clumping issue I had to deal with...the sugars from the cherries were really going to work on sticking anything and everything together when I began working the spices into the blend:


This is just not working out...getting a finer texture, but the clumping is really stubborn...hmmm, where do I go from here:


So along came plan  B...regrind with everything together, a few Tbls at a time then fork mix the entire contents...I've already added the paprika here:


OK, so the rub has it's prep kinks worked I need some MEAT, and, New York Bone-in Steaks are todays victims...smoke will be provided by hickory & cherry in my Brinkmann Gourmet over charcoal fire.    I took these out lastnight after work to start thawing, but didn't have a real plan, other than I knew they would be my smoke for the day...then along came the cherry beef rub, and :


The dark little chunks you see here are actually finely reduced clumps of the cherry...I can't get it much finer, but it should still be a great and unique eating experience:




Into the Gourmet lower grate (4" below the main instead of direct over the water pan...another mod) with the 2 larger cuts and a med/large...this should allow plenty of heat to circulate past these from the dry water pan and up under the steaks above for more even cooking as the lower position runs a bit hotter when I run a dry pan...oh, dry pan because of cooler ambient temps of just above freezing with falling temps now:


And the remainder of today's victims on the main grate...I'll start with the cold smoke as mentioned earlier...about 1lb of briqs for heat, a handful of hickory chips on top and a hanful of cherry slivers on top of the hickory chunks...the lid and barrel were just warm to the touch for the better part of 55 minutes in when I added about 3lbs of piping hot coals to start the transition to a hot smoke:


Smoke is on for 1 hour and10 minutes right now, so a couple hours of 200-210* should get us into the ball park of medium rare.

More to come as this develops, and our verdict on the cherry beef rub. For now, I'm back to the smoke! Ha-ha-ha...I love it!!!

Thanks for allowing ing me the pleasure of cooking you up another dry rub, all!

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2 hour update...

The chamber temp on the Gourmet climbed steadily to 210-215* after adding 3lbs of hot coals, and I decided to give 'em a peek for the formation of the juices on top just to see how slowly/quickly they were cooking. I know, if yer lookin' ya ain't cookin'...but I truely dislike over-cooked beef steaks, and to me, med/well is about as far I can go. Med/rare to medium and I'm one happy boy!

After first look, I decided to grab a knife and slit one just to confirm...still very rare, so the times will run close to 2 hours for the hot smoke after basically a one hour cold smoke with a gradual rise in temps, and an average temp of about 110*.

So, here's the beauties so far...tons of moisture in the Gourmet, even with a dry water pan, and these steaks are loving the ride...I can't wait to see what the color of the rub is like when I pull 'em to rest.

The cherry and spices are melding with the beef juices alot already:



Just getting a glimps for the camera here of one on the lower grate...looks to be about the same as the top grate, so we'll just keep on smokin'...I think I will rotate the grate positions from top/bot about 45 minutes before the anticipated pull time and this should give us some extra steaks in the med to med/well range, while keeping  the one's which are now on bottom closer to med/rare to med, if I pull 'em in time:


I was focusing my lens on the lower grate steak, but this also shows the color change of the fatty edge of the upper grate steak to the left...I love it!!!


Man, one more hour, maybe less...I'm getting hungry just uploading these 4 pics and writing about this!

Hey Bearcarver, missed your post earlier...I'm thinking this one will be around in my recipe book for quite some time. Even if I do a couple changes to make the flavor profile flow more along the sweeter side of the cherries, this'll be a good one to start with. I wanted to be sure to share this one, 'cause it's gotta be one that many will want to try.

See ya soon with the finale and review!

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WOW  that is going to be so good I bet
Hey man, all I can say right now better believe it is...eating right now and I'm having a great deal of conflicts between my fork and the keyboard! LOL!

I dig it...nice thread.
Thanks bro!

Darn good looking meat Eric.
Thanks, better getcha one of them steers lined up for processing soon!

I'll get pics up soon...I just can't stop my self eating right now...too good to put down!

Soon...I promise!

Well, after 3 hours, 30 minutes (1-hr cold & 2.5-hrs hot smoked), and tons of anticipation, they came out great. I kept the temps in the 210*-230* range pretty well for the better part of the hot smoke.

And, the two most important things of all, my steak was just a tad over medium, so that's OK, and the dry rub has such a mild and unique flavor profile, which I'll try to describe after I get these pics uploaded.

I had to nearly run to the computer desk to grab the camera before the bulk of these disappeared...they went FAST! Almost half of our dinner plates were loaded before I could even realize that I would be doomed without pics!!!!



Served with fried cubed taters with onion:


Oh, I'm soooooooooo sorry...were you just now thinking that the only thing missing is some sautee'd mushrooms? There ya go. Oh, incase you noticed and are wondering if it could be true, yes, that's a smoke ring...on a cold to hot smoked beef steak...and yes, you can most definitely taste the smoke...not overpowering, with a bit of bite from the hickory and smoothed out with the cherry smoke's sweeter flavor:


I just couldn't decide which one's of these look the best, but you can get a better idea of the the texture moisture and interior color of the beef, as well as the smoke reaction...nothing like a cold smoke transitioning to hot smoking to get this accomplished:





Enough said about that...

As for the flavor of the rub, the cherry-based ingredient is there for the duration...right up front and all the way to the end of the chew, so it's the dominent ingredient just as I wanted. The milder heat and spicy flavors of the garlic and peppercorn are tamed down quite a bit after the cooking process, but still there in the background. The onion powder and salt contents are very good, as there's just a hint of salt and some background flavor of the sweetness the onion adds to the overall profile. I couldn't tell anything from the paprika, but then, it doesn't add much flavor, mostly color. The savories: thyme, cumin and oregano were just a small part of the profile, which was still good, as the cherry was what I was after, with everything else just to back it up and carry it to the finish.

Overall, I'd say it could be improved (in keeping with the same theme) by adding about 1/3 more volume of savories, keep the salt as is and about 50% more black peppercorn just to carry it better with the deeper flavor of the beef. I think this will bring it all together a bit better, and still have that major cherry flavor to punch your tastebuds. Now, granted, if you've never tried a fruit flavoring with meats, you may be expecting a really tart, sweet and sassy cherry flavor. In this case, with drying the fruit, some of those flavors of the fruit are not going to be very prominent. The deep flavor is what comes through, but it's not a strong, heavy flavor. Try to imagine a cherry gummy bear, without the tartness, and slightly sweeter naturally rich reminds me somewhat of a chocolate covered know, the really good ones with a semi-sweet chocolate...that's about the best words I can find to describe the richness that the ground cherry offers to the dry rub.

All things considered, as is this is a very good basic rub for a low level of heat and spiciness with a big twist from the everyday flavors. For those with gut problems, this would be a great addition to your arsenal as well.

I tried really, really hard not to let myself start thinking about some variations to this rub until I finished my first dining experience with it, but, that's like trying to turn off the can only hide behind a bush for so long and when the sun gets high enough in the sky, it's time to look for another bigger bush...ha-ha!

Anyway, I'm thinking of the ancho chili already, among other things, and incorporating some great spicy heat into this predominently cherry flavored rub. The trick will be in keeping the original theme of the basic flavor of cherry from being attacked or overcome by the heat and spices...OK, there I go again, getting technical, but that's how I make my world of smoking and grilling what it is, and I lIKE it that way! LOL!!!!

Oh, as for the smoke combo...very good to use the hickory with beef, IMO and then smooth over the sharpness with cherry just a bit to match the more delicate flavor of the dry rub. Hickory/apple would be great with this, too, but then, in keeping with the theme, why not cherry smoke with a cherry rub, huh?

More on this rub in the coming months, that I'm quite sure. I gotta do some grilling with it next and see how it holds up to the high heat of a charcoal kettle, and then I can determine if a few other flavors could enhance the current recipe for a grilled steak as well.

Dang, that was fun! I absalutely live for a great cooking challenge now and then...this was enough to last me until the end of the week, I think. Hmm, now, I'll just have to wait and see where my next ride through the thin blue smoke takes me!!!

Enjoy, my friends!

Your killing me! Where's the money shot? How'd they come out?
LMAO!!! I walked on you while I posted, and the update didn't come through to your browser page because it doesn't automatically refresh periodically.

It had me sweating though, when I first saw "where's the money shot", I thought things went south while I posted the final update, as I was having a momentary 'puter issue at the time, too. WHEEW!!!

Wow it showed as soon as I pushed submit!!
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All I can say is WOW!!  Just imagine the variations of the taste by varying the type of cherry.  Every thing from the sweetness of the Queen Anne to the ever tart Pie Cherry and a few Bings tossed in to tempt ya.
Thanks, Dave! You know, I hadn't even thought much about the different types of cherries. The one's used here tonight are the tarts, but they don't seem to carry much of tart flavor, unless there's just too many other things going on with the savory spices and peppercorn. Hmm, it does have me thinking now, but yeah, if the right combination of, or lack of savories were found to match up with queen anne, that would be some kind of a deep and rich flavor. It may also be that the heavier flavor of most beef cuts are sort of hiding something from me in the taste which the cherries can't overcome. Hard telling at this point, as it's pretty early in the game, but I'm not cashing in my chips any time soon. I see tons of potential from this starter thread, and I'll be investigating and experiment on the subject when ever I have the chance.

Oh, I took a couple pics of the carton after first reading your post so you know what I had to work about 18-20lbs of these in the freezer and was originally planning on using them for dutch oven cherry cobblers, but I may have to hang onto several pounds just for experimenting more with variations of this rub...I know everything new can be improved, so I'm open to keeping it rolling as new ideas develop.



OK, now that I've just grabbed a couple small handfuls out of the box and chewed 'em up slowly while thinking back on what the steak tasted like, they do have tons of tartness, so I'm confused by the outcome after grinding, blending and smoking on beef. The beef could have covered some tartness, as well as the salt in the rub. OK, the savories shouldn't have had much effect other than to enhance the background to some extent. The hickory may have been a bit too much for the flavor profile of the cherry to stay intact. Of course, there could be nearly a dozen variables or combination of several at one time going on here.

But, this one will have me busy for awhile if nothjing else. I don't like being beaten down, or not figuring something out to get the results I want to see. There's nothing wrong with the current rub blend, it just has so much more that can be dome with it, IMO. So, more testing will be in order, and, best of all, we get to eat every attempt to make this stuff, that's gonna be a tough one to pull off...I just don't know if I'm up for it!!! LOL!!!

If nothing else, I can give it shot on some pork chops, maybe even chicken pieces, which both are a much lighter and milder flavered meat, and then, use only cherry smoke. Yeah, there's tons of things I can experiment with to get to the bottom line...cherry flavored meats...jeeze, what are we going to do next?

Oh, another thought just popped into my (possibly overtaxed, at this point...LOL!!!) brain: the cumin, as low of centent as it was, may have given a cover-up background to the tartness of the cherry.

Anyway, bed for this boy on Tuesday for four more days, then back to this matter of cherry wait!!!!!! It's prime rib day on the 25th, and Christmas! Holy smokers, talk about getting buried in what you love to do with your time! Cherry will have to wait 'til the following week.

EDIT: what was I thinking...cherry prime rib!!!! Ooh, the perfect round two...I think the smoke chamber temps and time will short enough and low enough to keep the cherry's sugars from burning...yep, round two's competition is set!

Until then!

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Eric everything looked great. Great write up too on this thread. 
Looks Awesome as usual Eric!!!!  

You ARE adding this to your signature TOO aren't you???  

I would love that stuff---Whenever there is various flavored candy passed around, I always go for a red one, hoping it is cherry flavored.  

Thanks for a great post !

Excellent step by step, detailed and very creative as usual Eric. Always love checking your stuff out. Looks like you have another winning combination.
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