Smoke Rings

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smoke rings

When you think of a smoke rings, you think of those circles of smoke that come from a cigarette or cigar smoker, when opening and closing their mouths and puffing out rings of smoke. The smoke rings that we are acknowledging today is very sought after in the barbecue world! It is the pink or reddish discoloration around the perimeter of meats, also called the bark. It’s formed by a chemical reaction between myoglobin, an oxygen-carrying protein in the muscle tissue of the meat, and the carbon monoxide in the smoke.

Myoglobin’s reddish or pinkish hue is lost when cooked because the heat causes it to alter and turn brown. This is why the center of a rare steak remains red because it never reaches a high enough temperature for the myoglobin to be affected. However, the outside of meats get extremely hot during cooking. This begs the question…what else would make myoglobin stay in the meat, despite the heat?

When nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion in smoke is mixed with water from the meat, this forms nitric acid. These smoke rings are caused by nitric acid, building up in the surface of the meat and then it is absorbed by the surface of the meat.

Opinions vary as to how to attain the best smoke ring. Common sense tells us that water soaked wood produces the most nitrogen dioxide loaded smoke, thus producing thicker smoke rings when mixed with the water in meat. Also, putting a glaze of salt tenderizer can also increase the amount of nitrogen dioxide on the surface of the meat, thus producing thicker smoke rings.

The much desired thickness of a smoke ring by barbecue lovers is 1/4 inch. Whether you attain it with water soaked wood or with salt tenderizer or any number of ways, the result is still the same…fantastic barbeque and thick smoke rings!!!

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