Barbecue Smoke Rings: What Is A Smoke Ring?

Rate this post


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 amazing 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. In competition bbq, it is something that the judges look for and are very stringent about.

Now there is a lot of miss information going around about smoke rings at the moment and there is a huge misconception that you need to have a brand new natural gas smoker or an expensive, ‘top of the line’ barbecue is needed to create a smoke ring. This is not so true, 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.

What is Smoke?

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

To put it simply and not get too technical, 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 glasses 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.

How to Make Smoke Rings

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.

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.

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 awesome smoke ring. I do warn you, this method is seen as cheating, so if you are a through and trough bbq-er or a competition bbq-er this might not be the best option for you. This is a helpful method if you’re using a gas smoker. We have also done some research to also find out whether you should be using propane or natural gas to achieve the best results for your cut.

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. We recommend using a charcoal or gas smoker to achieve the best smoke rings.

Happy smoking


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *