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Thread: The Smoke Ring

  1. #1
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    Default The Smoke Ring

    Let's get this rolling! I've always heard about how "the smoke penetrates the meat" and that creates "the smoke ring". Wrong! Smoke does not "penetrate" meat. And meat does not have "pores" that "open and close". Here is the straight skinny on the smoke ring and how it is created. Joe's credentials are at the end of his paper.
    And them's the facts -

    Smoke Ring in Barbeque Meats
    How to Get That Coveted Pink Ring With Your Cooking
    by Joe Cordray

    Slow cooked barbecue meats often exhibit a pink ring around the outside edge of the product. This pink ring may range from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch thick. In beef the ring is a reddish-pink and in pork, chicken and turkey it is bright pink. This pink ring is often referred to as a "smoke ring" and is considered a prized attribute in many barbecue meats, especially barbecue beef briskets. Barbecue connoiseurs feel the presence of a smoke ring indicates the item was slow smoked for a long period of time. Occasionally consumers have mistakenly felt that the pink color of the smoke ring meant the meat was undercooked. To understand smoke ring formation you must first understand muscle pigment.

    Myoglobin is the pigment that gives muscle its color. Beef muscle has more pigment than pork muscle thus beef has a darker color than pork. Chicken thighs have a darker color than chicken breast thus chicken thigh muscle has more muscle pigment (myoglobin) than chicken breast tissue. A greater myoglobin concentration yields a more intense color. When you first cut into a muscle you expose the muscle pigment in its native state, myoglobin. In the case of beef, myoglobin has a purplish-red color. After the myoglobin has been exposed to oxygen for a short time, it becomes oxygenated and oxymyoglobin is formed. Oxymyoglobin is the color we associate with fresh meat. The optimum fresh meat color in beef is bright cherry red and in pork bright grayish pink. If a cut of meat is held under refrigeration for several days, the myoglobin on the surface becomes oxidized. When oxymyoglobin is oxidized it becomes metmyoglobin. Metmyoglobin has a brown color and is associated with a piece of meat that has been cut for several days. When we produce cured products we also alter the state of the pigment myoglobin. Cured products are defined as products to which we add sodium nitrate and/or sodium nitrite during processing. Examples of cured products are ham, bacon, bologna and hotdogs. All of these products have a pink color, which is typical of cured products. When sodium nitrite is combined with meat the pigment myoglobin is converted to nitric oxide myoglobin which is a very dark red color. This state of the pigment myoglobin is not very stable. Upon heating, nitric oxide myoglobin is converted to nitrosylhemochrome, which is the typical pink color of cured meats.
    When a smoke ring develops in barbecue meats it is not because smoke has penetrated and colored the muscle, but rather because gases in the smoke interact with the pigment myoglobin. Two phenomenon provide evidence that it is not the smoke itself that causes the smoke ring. First, it is possible to have a smoke ring develop in a product that has not been smoked and second, it is also possible to heavily smoke a product without smoke ring development.

    Most barbecuers use either wood chips or logs to generate smoke when cooking. Wood contains large amounts of nitrogen (N). During burning the nitrogen in the logs combines with oxygen (O) in the air to form nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Nitrogen dioxide is highly water-soluble. The pink ring is created when NO2 is absorbed into the moist meat surface and reacts to form nitrous acid. The nitrous acid then diffuses inward creating a pink ring via the classic meat curing reaction of sodium nitrite. The end result is a "smoke ring" that has the pink color of cured meat. Smoke ring also frequently develops in smokehouses and cookers that are gas-fired because NO2 is a combustion by-product when natural gas or propane is burned.

    Let’s review the conditions that would help to contribute to the development of a smoke ring. Slow cooking and smoking over several hours. This allows time for the NO2 to be absorbed into and interact with the meat pigment.

    Maintain the surface of the meat moist during smoking. NO2 is water-soluble so it absorbs more readily into a piece of meat that has a moist surface than one which has a dry surface. Meats that have been marinated tend to have a moister surface than non-marinated meats. There are also a couple of ways that you can help to maintain a higher humidity level in your cooker; 1. Do not open and close the cooker frequently. Each time you open it you allow moisture inside to escape. 2. Put a pan of water on your grill. Evaporation from the water will help increase humidity inside the cooker.

    Generate smoke from the burning of wood chips or wood logs. Since NO2 is a by-product of incomplete combustion, green wood or wetted wood seems to enhance smoke ring development. Burning green wood or wetted wood also helps to increase the humidity level inside the cooker.
    A high temperature flame is needed to create NO2 from nitrogen and oxygen. A smoldering fire without a flame does not produce as much NO2. Consequently, a cooker that uses indirect heat generated from the burning of wood typically will develop a pronounced smoke ring. Have fun cooking. A nice smoke ring can sure make a piece of barbecued meat look attractive.

    About the Author:

    Joe Cordray is the Meat Extension Specialist at Iowa State University’s nationally renowned Meat Lab, located in Ames, IA. He has been writing for The BBQer since Fall of 2001
    "If you can't smell smoke it ain't a barbeque joint" peculiarmike

    TQJ Plankowner

    "Life's tough.....It's even tougher if you're stupid."
    - John Wayne

  2. #2
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    Default

    You don't really expect an Iowa yankee to know anything about BBQ do you?:lol
    FB

  3. #3
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    Default

    Very nice Mike, a little bored today???
    Really, that's some good reading!
    Rubbed, Smoked and Sauced BBQ Team sponsored by Barsleaks/Rislone
    Authorized Backwoods dealer.
    B.O.D. GLBBQA
    Pitmaster - Lockharts BBQ of Royal Oak
    Owner-Great Lakes BBQ Supply Co.

    I don't know what the actual temp is, but it cooks the way I want it to, so I don't guess it really matters.

  4. #4
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    Default

    In a nut shell.
    The smoke does penetrate the meat and adds flavor, However the smoke ring is NOT the smoke penetration but a chemical reaction to the meat's surface.
    VDS aka "IT"
    Brinkman Smoke N Pit Pitmaster
    Kegerator(retired)
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    Formaly "The Q Joint" BBQ Team (The Butt Man)
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  5. #5
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by glued2it View Post
    In a nut shell.
    The smoke does penetrate the meat and adds flavor, However the smoke ring is NOT the smoke penetration but a chemical reaction to the meat's surface.

    I'm reserving judgement on the "penetration" thing. I am waiting a reply from Dr. Cordray on this subject.
    This forum deals in FACT, not theory or what the popular line or old story is. Our purpose here is to FACTUALLY prove or discredit the subject at hand. We want the straight skinny, the whole truth, just the facts Ma'am.
    "If you can't smell smoke it ain't a barbeque joint" peculiarmike

    TQJ Plankowner

    "Life's tough.....It's even tougher if you're stupid."
    - John Wayne

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Fatboy View Post
    You don't really expect an Iowa yankee to know anything about BBQ do you?:lol
    Well, they grow all those hogs!
    "If you can't smell smoke it ain't a barbeque joint" peculiarmike

    TQJ Plankowner

    "Life's tough.....It's even tougher if you're stupid."
    - John Wayne

  7. #7
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by peculiarmike View Post
    I'm reserving judgement on the "penetration" thing. I am waiting a reply from Dr. Cordray on this subject.
    This forum deals in FACT, not theory or what the popular line or old story is. Our purpose here is to FACTUALLY prove or discredit the subject at hand. We want the straight skinny, the whole truth, just the facts Ma'am.
    If you're only dealing in fact, then you need to remember that his opinion is only that, an opinion.
    Quote Originally Posted by peculiarmike View Post
    Well, they grow all those hogs!
    Yeah, but they've screwed that up pretty well. They really hurt pork quality when they started the "Other white meat" thing.
    FB

  8. #8
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by peculiarmike View Post
    I'm reserving judgement on the "penetration" thing. I am waiting a reply from Dr. Cordray on this subject.
    This forum deals in FACT, not theory or what the popular line or old story is. Our purpose here is to FACTUALLY prove or discredit the subject at hand. We want the straight skinny, the whole truth, just the facts Ma'am.
    I wasn't trying to be argumentative, I was trying to clarify.


    I can pull a piece of meat out of the center and it has smoke flavor. So if the smoke doesn't penetrate the meat, Then how does it get there?
    VDS aka "IT"
    Brinkman Smoke N Pit Pitmaster
    Kegerator(retired)
    OUTDOOR GOURMET 11-PIECE COMBO FRYER SET
    KCBS Certified BBQ Judge
    Formaly "The Q Joint" BBQ Team (The Butt Man)
    There's no place like 127.0.0.1
    Facebook

    Jeremy
    .

  9. #9
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    Default

    [quote=glued2it;2012]I wasn't trying to be argumentative, I was trying to clarify.


    I can pull a piece of meat out of the center and it has smoke flavor. So if the smoke doesn't penetrate the meat, Then how does it get there?[/quote]

    Guess that is what we are trying to find out.
    No argument, either way, just looking for the facts.
    "If you can't smell smoke it ain't a barbeque joint" peculiarmike

    TQJ Plankowner

    "Life's tough.....It's even tougher if you're stupid."
    - John Wayne

  10. #10
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    Default

    VDS aka "IT"
    Brinkman Smoke N Pit Pitmaster
    Kegerator(retired)
    OUTDOOR GOURMET 11-PIECE COMBO FRYER SET
    KCBS Certified BBQ Judge
    Formaly "The Q Joint" BBQ Team (The Butt Man)
    There's no place like 127.0.0.1
    Facebook

    Jeremy
    .

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