The Foolproof Guide to Perfect Barbecue Smoke Rings [Jan 2020]

The Foolproof Guide to Perfect Barbecue Smoke Rings

Have you ever wondered what that pink layer of meat is that hovers just under the surface?

That beautiful pink layer which nestles itself just under the bark is called the smoke rings. Smoke rings are the emblem of an top quality BBQ.

A good smoke ring should be around ¼ inch thick. As a backyard bbq-er, this is something we strive for. Once we get it we know that we have stepped up a level in the BBQ world.

Hot tip: It is all about getting a good amount of nitrogen dioxide out of your wood.

Let’s see how to get the best smoke rings in your next piece of brisket.

To Get Started, We Need To Understand the Smoke

Before we can look at how to make a smoke ring we need to clarify exactly what is the smoke?

To put it simply and not get too technical, the smoke is made up of a combination of very tiny particles. We can see these particles in an aerosol mixed with quite a complex cocktail of gases & water vapour.

Getting the exact mixture you want is quite important. The flavour of the smoke can add a delicious smokey elegance to your dish or a horrid cigarette-butts smoke taint that can ruin even the best cut of meat.

So what is a smoke ring then? The smoke ring occurs when there is an interaction between the myoglobin (the pink protein in the meat) and the gases carbon monoxide & nitric oxide. (carbon dioxide).

These gases are made up during the combustion of wood. The smoke ring is found in the top layer of the meat because the nitrogen dioxide is absorbed into the meat from the outside in.

We have also done some research to also find out whether you should be using propane or natural gas to achieve the best smoke ring for your cut. 

 I used to have so much trouble getting a smoke ring, then I changed to a natural gas smoker. 

How To Make The Smoke Rings (The Holy Grail)

So now you know what a smoke ring is, how can you get this badge of honour at your next bbq? Well, there are a couple of different ways.

  • Method 1
    In general, soaking your wood in fresh water before smoking will help create a good smoke ring. 

    By soaking your wood in the water you are helping your wood produce more nitrogen dioxide, thus more chance of getting a better smoke ring.

  • Method 2
    Another way to get a smoke ring is to coat your selected meat with a salt tenderizer. This will load up the surface of your meat with nitrogen dioxide and give you an help enhance your smoke ring.

    I do warn you, this method is seen as cheating, so if you are a  competition BBQ-er this might not be the best option for you.

Final Thoughts

Creating a smoke ring is something that you should be very proud of. It takes skill, a little bit of knowledge and a fair bit of practice.

Your guests will appreciate the effort you put and will be sure to applaud you appropriately.

Have you managed to make a smoke ring before?


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