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Mad Science Experiment - Smoke Rings
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bigabyte
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Joined: 09 Jul 2005
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Location: Overland Park, KS

PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 12:22 pm    Post subject: Mad Science Experiment - Smoke Rings Reply with quote

I'm posting my plans for this weekends experiment a bit early because it will be a busy weekend. I have had to plan this schedule out, and want to get the first part where I explain this experiment out of the way while I can.

This experiment is to test some various methods of making BBQ meat to see what impact, if any, each method has on the smoke ring formed in the meat.

I have read so many different ideas about how/why smoke rings are formed, and it is difficult to be sure which ones are right. There is a web page which I think might have the most complete plausible explanation, and that page is http://www.geocities.com/senortoad/SmokeRinginBarbequeMeats.htm

Now, in addition to some of what is described in that link, many of the things I have heard around the BBQ community about smoke rings and it's formation are things like:

1. The smoke ring shows the depth of smoke penetration into the meat.
2. It is how to tell meat has really been smoked and not cooked in an oven.
3. It is formed by wood ash landing on the meat.
4. Stops forming after meat has been on for X number of hours.
5. Stops forming after meat has reached a certain temperature (usually 140 is what I hear).
6. Stops forming when the pathways in the meat become clogged (from rub and/or soot).
7. The smoke ring is what gives meat it's smoky flavor.
8. Cooking meat in a gas oven can form a smoke ring.

My experience tells me that some of those above are definitely not correct, and I also believe some others may not be correct but have only experience to make me feel that way and no direct evidence.

So I plan to do some experiments that should shed some light on many questions about smoke ring formation. I am not planning to glean insight to all questions about smoke ring formation in this one weekend, but this weekend should demonstrate a number of smoke ring facts and misconceptions.

I am going to be cooking 16 pieces of pork in 3 different cookers. Each piece of pork will be a quarter block of a deboned pork shoulder butt. I will quarter 4 butts to get the 16 pieces. These should be of sufficient size to make a good test, yet small enough to not be so wasteful I begin to question why the hell I'm doing all this.

Two of the cookers will be WSM's running on wood chunks and charcoal briquettes. One WSM will have a water pan to make a moist cooking environment, and the other will use a sand pan to have a drier cooking environment. Each will be cooking at approximately 250-275 degress. The third cooker will be a gas oven set to the same temps that the cookers are running at.

On each of the WSM's I will place 6 pieces of meat prepared the following ways. The only difference between the 2 WSM's will be the moist vs dry environments.

1. Plain, no treatment of any kind before or during the cook.
2. Brined for 24 hours prior to cooking.
3. Plain, but spritzed with apple juice every 45 minutes during cooking.
4. Rubbed overnight before cooking.
5. Slather and rub applied overnight before cooking.
6. Brined for 24 hours, then slathered and rubbed overnight, and spritzed with water every 45 minutes during cooking.

In the oven I will place 4 pieces of meat prepared the following ways:

1. Plain, no treatment of any kind before or during the cook.
2. Rub of Morton Tenderquick Cure applied to meat before cooking.
3. Slather of liquid smoke and rub of Morton Tenderquick Cure applied to meat before cooking.
4. Rub of wood ash applied before cooking (it will not be eaten though).

What should be demisntrated by all this:

1. What differences, if any, are there in smoke ring formation between a wet and dry cooking environment?
2. Does applying extra moisture to the meat with mop/spritz or brining affect the smoke ring compared to not using these techniques, and is one method better than the other?
3. Do rubs, slathers, or mops/spritzes clog up the meat pores reducing depth of smoke ring compared to meats that do not use these techniques?
4. Does cooking in a gas oven form a smoke ring?
5. Can a smoke ring be formed in meat cooked in a smoke-free gas oven?
6. Can smokey flavored meats with a smoke ring be produced in a smoke-free gas oven?
7. Does wood ash contribute to smoke ring development?

Questions that are not answered in this experiment, but I hope to answer in a future experiment are:

1. Does the smoke ring represent the penetration of smoke flavor into the meat?
2. Does smoke ring formation stop after meat has been cooking for a certain amount of time, or when it reaches a certain temperature?
3. Can meat with no smoke ring taste smokey?

I'll post updates later this week and post the results hopefully this weekend or on Monday.
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pafisher
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cant wait to see how this turns out .. thats a great idea .i'll be watching for it ..
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artificialj
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 1:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wow! awesome case study, can't wait for resulting data.

would love to see variation on this where subjects (meat samples) were subjected to different constant temps (smoke content remaining nominal), as one of the myths that i've seen propagated is that the "smoke ring" only forms when the meat is in a certain temperature range...

either way, i really can't wait to see your results, as it will go a long way to crediting/discrediting our "smoke ring" mythology.
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Bryce Crane
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wood and no wood would be a good test, too.
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Mikesooner
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 2:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looks like Chris is up to his beakers in "speariments" agin'!! Shocked Laughing Wink
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Cal-B-Que
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nerd alert!!!

You obviously have too much time and brain on your hands, but I love it! As a fellow propeller head, I anxiously await your results.
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SoEzzy
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another great experiment from the mad scientist!

I would like to thank you for your exemplary self sacrifice and determination not to allow the facts to escape your eagle eyed gaze. Very Happy Cool Laughing

I too await the results; I shall have to distract myself with meaningless work till I can peruse them!

It is going to be interesting to see which suppositions and hypothesis are correct and which wrong; I am all a quiver with the expectations!
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Smokinfunk
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WoooDoggy - you're gonna have to change your handle to "SmokeRingMythbuster" or some such thing.

Can't wait to see the results! I love it when science puts myths to rest.
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gordo
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like fun...thanks for sharing the results with us...

I think alot depends on the meat itself..
have had two briskets rubbed the same, placed side by side in smoker...and sometimes one
would have a much deeper ring than the other...same with the
amount of rub flavor they asorb...a difference from one piece of meat to another...
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saltwatercowboy
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

YOu have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to much time on your hands. But I am glad you do. Am looking forward to the results.

I am trying to calculate how much beer an activity of this magntude will require.
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BBQMAN
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome back Wooddoggy, we missed your experiments! Very Happy

#8 is definitely already busted (unless you are planning on adding wood chunks and charcoal to the little ladies oven! Laughing)

My gas stove/oven at home, and my gas oven on my big rig have never provided a natural smoke ring with years of use. Of course I may not be using them properly, or quantifying my empirical data properly either! Wink

Tenderquick will make anything look like it has a smokering regardless of where it is cooked......................

I have however had jack-wads ask me why I use a gas log lighter in my smoker, then claim that gas gives the food an odd taste. When asked how they get their smoker lit, they of coure reply "lighter fluid". Shocked Confused Mad

Good luck with your experiment, and post new ones often!
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The "O"
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

good luck. of course someone should be paying you for this
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bigabyte
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the really sad part is that I do not have a lot of time on my hands, I'm just a total nut case is all! Laughing I don't know why I do this stuff, but it is fun and seems better than just presuming I really know or taking someone else's word for it. I'm thinking this is a 30-pack experiment since it will be spread over 3 days. One day for brining, an overnight rub soak, and then the cooking. I claim no empirical mounds of data or quality lab conditions, but what I do in my cookers should mimic what happens in yours, which to me seems more accurate than restrictive lab conditions dictating what happens in everyone elses backyard.
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SmokinOkie
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Looking forward to the results. Having conducted this experiment in a form years ago, I'll wait for your results.

Some additional thoughts.

You list it in the test, but I didn't see it listed in the Hypothesis list. Does moisture help/hinder a smoke ring? Theories about how moisture and nitrates work.

Also, the tenderquick. Are you going to rinse it off or leave it on? If you leave it on, it will do just what pastrami does and continue to work until you rinse it off. Try an experiment sometime put TQ on for 1 min, 2 min, 3 min...it continues to penetrate.

Just for future experiments, try wood vs kingsford vs lump. Also temp is another variable for SR formation.

Joe's a good source. I talked to him years about when he wrote the article for BBQ'er.

Looking forward to the next installment of "Mad...Scientist...Theater...."

Laughing
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Doc1680
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He's Back with a vengance! This is a great study Chris. I can't wait for the results.
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Tony
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 10:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey,Woodoggy! Very Happy

Glad to have You and Your< Exspearamints> back on the Forum! Laughing Laughing

Don't be Bashful ,Chris...I KNOW what's gonna' happen with THIS topic! Laughing

Seriously Great to have One of the Good Ol' Boyz back on the Forum! Cool

Best Regards, Tony Wink
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Roo-B-Q'N
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27 08 11:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Man there is a lot of work going on there this weekend. Looking forward to the results.

Is it possible to add one more equation to one of the butts, that being room temp vs. right out of the refrigerator? I have heard this effects the smoke ring as well.
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bigabyte
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28 08 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had intended for meat temps to be a focus in a future experiment, so it is not included in this one. Sorry, I'm already cooking 16 pieces of meat for this one, I can only do so much at once! Laughing Wink Cool I had not planned on rinsing off the tenderquick, so I am curious to see if it goes all the way now.
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SmokinOkie
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28 08 1:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WoooDoggy wrote:
... I had not planned on rinsing off the tenderquick, so I am curious to see if it goes all the way now.


Depends on how long it's on there, from when you rub it to when it's finished. Oh and it won't taste great if you put very much.

How much TQ are you applying?

Did an experiment and put it on for 1min, 2min, 3 min and you could easily tell the difference. If you leave it on for hours, you should see an interesting effect.

Good luck, will be following the thread.
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bigabyte
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28 08 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had figured on measuring 2 tbsp tenderquick per piece of meat and spreading that around the surface. I figure each peice will be roughly 2 pounds or just a smidge more and is why I picked that amount, based on the 1 tbsp per pound concept.
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