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Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Crust

"Late last night while we were all in bed, Mrs. O'Leary left a lantern in a the shed. Her cow kicked it over and winked her eye and said, There'll be a hot time in the old town tonight." Anonymous

By Meathead Goldwyn

Catherine O'Leary was a humble Irish immigrant living on Chicago's near Southside. Late in the night of October 8, 1871 her barn caught on fire, and the conflagration spread on the wings of high winds through thousands of wooden structures. More than 2,000 acres were destroyed and 90,000 were left homeless. The Chicago Tribune reported that the cause of the Great Chicago Fire was Catherine's cow Daisy kicking over a lantern. Years later the story's author admitted he made up the story, but Mrs. O'Leary's cow continues to take the rap. So I have named this rub after her to help rehabilitate her rep.

Most spice rubs are a mix of herbs and spices and we rub them into the meat before cooking. This rub starts out that way, but then we transform it into a thick paste. The idea is, by mixing them in water we can extract more flavors and get them into the little pits and cracks on the surface of the meat. Normally marinades and rubs don't go very deep into the meat, but they can change the composition of the surface, and the use of water fills the microscopic gaps on the surface with flavor, and enhances browning and crust formation.

Beef Rub Recipe

Makes. a bit more than 4 tablespoons of dry rub, enough for an 10 to 12 pounds of beef after trimming.

Takes. 15 minutes.


2 tablespoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves

2 teaspoons dried thyme or oregano

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon American paprika

1/2 teaspoon chipotle or cayenne powder

About the rosemary. You can leave the leaves whole or break them a bit with your hands. I throw them into a mortar and pestle and crush them just a bit to release their flavors. If you have fresh, double the quantity and coarsely chop it.

About the chipotle. Don't be a wuss. This is only 1/2 teaspoon for 10 pounds of meat, and it is all on the surface, not the interior. Like a viola, you don't notice it, but take it out of the orchestra and something is missing.

Optional. Add 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish.


1) Mix everything together in a bowl. Store in a jar for use later or proceed to the next step if you plan to use it now.

2) Dry brine the meat hours in advance. When it is time to use the rub, you can use it straight, or mix 1 part of the dry rub with 1 part water to make a paste. (Note: THis recipe used to be made by mixing with oil, but we discovered that the herbs dissolve much better in water).

3) Pat the meat dry with paper towels, pour the paste on and rub it in. You can cook right away.

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About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, and how to cook great food outdoors. There are also buying guides to hundreds of barbeque smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, pulled pork, Texas brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, chili, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best all edited by Meathead Goldwyn.

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