Written by adam on May 6, 2007
A Treatise on Grilling #8: The Smoke Ring
The first weekend of National BBQ Month is upon us, and I think it is time to decode one of the mystical wonders of BBQ: the smoke ring. True BBQ-ists will know the smoke ring as that beautiful ping ring of color that encompasses properly smoked brisket and pork loins. It's pink, but it's done. The pink color does not come from blood, rather it is an enzymatic reaction that takes place when chemicals in the smoke meet the pigments in the tissue of the meat. The size of the smoke ring is a testament to how well the pitmaster controlled the temperature of his pit and the smoke flow.
It is a common misconception that that smoke ring is a sign of undercooked meat, but in actuality it is a sign of the reaction between the smoke and the pigment myoglobin which is present in meat. In beef, the myoglobin makes the meat a bright cherry-pink color. In pork it will be a grayish-pink.
When wood in a smoker is burned, the resulting combustion produces Nitrogen which combines with oxygen in the air to form Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).
NO2 reacts with the surface of the moist meat to create nitrous acid. The nitrous acid diffuses inwards into the meat, reacting with the myoglobin pigment to finally create that bright cherry smoke ring.
Tips for getting the best smoke ring.
- Follow the law of BBQ: slow and low. Cook the meat slow at a low temperature.
- Use a steady amount of smoke for the first third of the cooking time. After that, the temperature has probably risen too high for any more smoke ring formation.
- The smoke you use needs to be from a high-temperature wood flame. That is, do not soak the wood or wood chips in water, else they will smolder and not truly flame up.
- Maintain a moist surface of the meat. If at all possible, slather on a paste or a mop. NO2 is a water-soluble compound, so a moist surface will facilitate absorption better. One good way to keep a moist meat surface is to put a water pan inside your smoker underneath the meat. As the heat from the smoker evaporates the water, it will condense onto the meat.
Stay tuned for more grilling and barbeque information all month long. For now, check out Men in Aprons' previous installments in "A Treatise on Grilling:"
A Treatise on Grilling #1
A Treatise on Grilling #2
A Treatise on Grilling #3
A Treatise on Grilling #4
A Treatise on Grilling #5
A Treatise on Grilling #6
A Treatise on Grilling #7
Responses to "A Treatise on Grilling #8: The Smoke Ring" ...
Do you feel the temperature of the meat placed on the smoker affects the smoke ring? In other words should the meat be cold or at room temperature before being put in the cooker for the best smoke ring formation?
Well, if you think about it, the colder the meat is, the longer it takes to warm up to temperature. Therefore, the more time it has for smoke ring formation.