In the world of barbecue, the smoke ring is one of the most prized possessions. It’s a sure sign of a job well done. Smoke rings are prized because they imply that the meat was properly smoked. The key thing to remember is that a smoke ring is all about keeping the meat surface moist so that the meat can readily absorb the smoke.
A smoke ring refers to the pink-colored meat under the crust that appears after the meat has been cooked. Smoke rings are a few millimeters thick and are usually seen on chicken, pork, and beef.
Myoglobin is a protein in meat that is responsible for the color in meat (red or pink). Once the meat has been cut and the myoglobulin has oxygen exposure, it loses it red/ pink coloring and changes to a brown color.
A smoke ring only appears when cooked in a smoker. Burning wood creates nitrogen dioxide. When the nitrogen dioxide disintegrates on the wet surface of the meat, it attaches to the myoglobin. This combo of myoglobin and nitrogen dioxide blocks any further effects from oxygen – so the meat stays pink under the crust instead of turning to brown.
Since the nitrogen dioxide penetrates from the outside, it can’t go too far into the meat, which is why the smoke ring is only a few millimeters. To make that smoke ring as big as possible, keep the meat surface moist so the meat can readily absorb the smoke by keeping the temperature low and slow, and spritzing the meat with water, apple juice, or apple cider vinegar consistently.
Smoke Ring Tips
- Aim for high humidity in the smoker/ cooker. A water pan helps.
- A low and slow temperature at 225 degrees keeps the surface of the meat moist and minimizes drying.
- Spritz with water, apple juice, or apple cider vinegar consistently.
*Smoke ring - all about keeping meat surface moist so the meat can readily absorb the smoke.