Smoke Ring - What it is

Discussion in 'Pork' started by pops6927, Sep 5, 2011.

  1. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Did 3 racks of spares last weekend for my oldest son's birthday (which is this weekend, but they're getting drunk this weekend, lol..). The ribs came out great, got a few pics of them after slicing them to demonstrate the smoke ring (after cutting off the briskets):



    But, what is a "smoke ring"?


    Pink is beautiful

    Many smoked meats develop a smoke ring, a bright pink color just under the surface. Some people think the pink color means the meat is raw, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is a picture of a pork rib with a smoke ring  at the top of this page.

    Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is among the compounds formed in the high heat combustion of wood, charcoal, and even propane. As these compounds land on the surface of meat, especially cool moist meat from the fridge, some, including nitrogen dioxide, are moved deeper into the meat as cells lower in the smoke compounds pull them in with a diffusion and absorption process. The cells are simply seeking equilibrium. The process is the same as when someone lights a cigar in a room. All the smoke starts out near the cigar, but eventually it spreads throughout the room as it achieves equilibrium. After a while it penetrates clothes, furniture, and even food. Because it is water soluble, cigar smoke will get into wet things first, like your wife's eyes. Before long you and your cigar will be seeking equilibrium in the garage.

    The smoke ring in meat is caused by four things:

    1) low temperature cooking,
    2) combustion of the wood at high temperatures to form nitrogen dioxide,
    3) nitrogen dioxide, and
    4) moisture on the surface of the meat to help move the water soluble nitrogen dioxide into the meat.

    When these conditions are met, nitrogen dioxide in wood smoke reacts with the pigment myoglobin in meat to form nitrites and nitrates. These are the same compounds added to hot dogs and other cured meats to preserve them and they also give them their pink color.

    When smoke roasting, the moist meat absorbs smoke. Less smoke is absorbed as the cooking continues because the surface of the meat begins to seal and becomes saturated with smoke. For this reason putting a pan of water in a smoker helps create a smoke ring. In fact some smokers, called water smokers, have water pans built in.

    Most of the smoke flavoring occurs in the first hour or two of cooking so adding wood to the fire late in the cook doesn't create as much flavor. It also allows moisture to escape. It's better to just leave the door closed.

    So, by smoking we are naturally preserving the meat to some extent by the action of naturally curing the meat with nitrites and nitrates.  Then, when you intentionally cure the meat with nitrite all the way through into a cured and smoked product you're just finishing the job that nature and science started, lol!
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
    daveomak and tayogs like this.
  2. rbranstner

    rbranstner Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Good info Pops.
  3. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Nice Ribs...there is a lot of real good info on that site...Thanks...
  4. michael ark

    michael ark Master of the Pit

    [​IMG]Great info as always.
  5. raymo76

    raymo76 Smoking Fanatic

    Educational [​IMG]
  6. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Great post as always Pops!

    Note the part about smoke and nitrites and nitrates.  It is because of that reaction over long periods of time that meats were made safe without adding the nitrites/nitrates in the processing. 

    Not something I would try in my little smoker, but good to know from an academic point of view.

    Good luck and good smoking.
  7. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great info, thanks Pops!
  8. daveomak

    daveomak Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Pops....You are a Trusted Authority for one reason only......Your plethora of knowledge.........Thanks for being part of our lives.....Dave
  9. captturbo

    captturbo Smoke Blower

    Perhaps this is why it is hard to get much if any smoke ring using the MES 30? We just don't burn enough wood to create enough NO2?
  10. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Thanks Pops!!!

    I like it when it's pretty much put right in a nutshell for me!!

    Thanks again,

  11. jpritchard

    jpritchard Newbie

    Great information and the color looks amazing!! 
  12. tiki guy

    tiki guy Smoking Fanatic

    Good info...nice pix ...again ...LOOKS great wish it was MY PLATE !
  13. Thanks for the information! I am putting this in my file!

Share This Page