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interesting piece about smoke rings

 
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jsdesign1
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 11:04 am    Post subject: interesting piece about smoke rings Reply with quote

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
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Roy
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's interesting that he relates the nitrogen to the logs. Air is about 80 percent nitrogen and that gas being inert passes through the combustion process and I thought would be the primary nitros reactor BUT HEY!!! I ain't about to argue with Mr. Corday Shocked
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allsmokenofire
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's just enough big words in there to make me believe anything this guy says. What I do know is, I think he is sayin' alot of what we've been talkin' about, and if you actually observe all this stuff happenin' your meat will never be done cuz you're peekin' too much, AND I think Holiday Inn Express just found their new spokesperson Laughing
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bearbonz
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

allsmokenofire wrote:
There's just enough big words in there to make me believe anything this guy says. What I do know is, I think he is sayin' alot of what we've been talkin' about, and if you actually observe all this stuff happenin' your meat will never be done cuz you're peekin' too much, AND I think Holiday Inn Express just found their new spokesperson Laughing


Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even though I have a little blood running out of my ear Shocked Laughing

It was a very interesting read, Thanks


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SmokinOkie
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 10:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So let's see, if I go out to my son's car, grab the NOS kit and install it on my smoker, I'll have Super Smoke Ring (SSR is a registered trade mark of Smokin' Okie enterprises -- in case I have to start selling NOS kits for smokers)

Shocked
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Steve-O
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05 05 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JS: This is good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

I just bought a gassmoker afterburner for my brinkman. It's propane. My brinkman has a water bath. It also has a lower door for adding wood, so I don't have to peek. All of these suggest I ought to get one heck of a smoke ring. We'll see. I see a brisquet in my near future...
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kjash13
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06 05 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The implication seems to be that the ring itself is not necessarily an indication of flavor... You can get a good smoke ring the right way, and have tons of flavor, but you can apparently also get it without the flavor being imparted to the meat...

Which means, it can look great, but all that matters is how it tastes...

Don't need no high falutin' degree to figur that out, I don't reckon!

Razz
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Travis_Creek
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06 05 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice reading, but I think he contradicts himself too much.
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SmokinOkie
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 06 05 2:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, so besides brining, I'm pretty up on the SR thing too.

This article is from a few years ago in the BBQ'er magazine. A little too scientific, but it's a basic education about WHY of a SR. Of course we won't get into the esthetics of the SR "if it don't have a SR, means it's not good Q"

We all heard it growing up, "look for the SR, that's some good Q". The old adage is we eat with our eyes and the SR is critical for that effect.

So I went to a restaurant here in OKC and they had some brisket with an amazing smoke ring. But it tasted funny, actually tasted like Pastrami. I know what they did (and they confirmed after I confronted them with some knowledge) they used artificial nitrates to cure the meat (that's how you make Brisket into Corned Beef into Pastrami -- there's curing involved)

As for taste, next time you get a really big ring, take the meat and cut off just the SR and eat it. It should taste like cured meat, because that's what's happening. You're curing the outside of the meat with nitrates/nitrites. Period.

There's a pretty standard trick that some competitors use, take some tenderquick (lots of nitrates). Rub it on the meat for a few minutes, then wipe it off. Guaranteed SR. I have a photo essay somewhere if I can find it. Showing a brisket before and after nitrates artificially added. Posted that at another forum and got shot down for promoting this method...they just didn't want their secret out.

Smokin'
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BBQMAN
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 25 05 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Too good smokinOkie! Never heard of the "fake" smoke ring trick, although I doubt you would ever need it! Wink Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26 05 1:45 am    Post subject: Green wood? Reply with quote

They stated in the article use of green wood. Being new to smoking when I buy wood do I want it green? If so wouldn't it be harder to get the wood on fire? Wouldn't it also take longer to get it to an ashy coal?

It seems counter intuitive.

Sorry for the newb questions,

Brian
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allsmokenofire
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26 05 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Reflect, the general opinion when burning wood is to burn "seasoned" wood versus "green". Green wood will burn hotter, but takes longer to catch, which leads to smoldering, which leads to creosote and a bitter taste. In my opinion burning green wood, or soaking chips for that matter, will not increase the humidity inside your smoker any more than using some type of water pan.

Just my 2 cents...
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mrcustomsteel
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26 05 2:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have heard that green wood gives bad flavor but I have not really found that to be true. I have not solely used green wood though. Getting it to burn is no problem of you put it on bed of hot coals.

When using the Texas Crutch, like I do, I don't get that smoke ring just tender, tasty Q that falls apart before my eyes and melts in my mouth.

But the only competition my BBQ sees is for stomach space. Very Happy I'd like to hear more from the pros on this.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26 05 4:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool, thank you.

Brian
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26 05 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mike is right on! Very Happy Green (wet) wood is definetly a big no for me! It burns at a different rate, and will leave your meat tasting like crap! Shocked You are best to used "seasoned" wood that has had a chance to dry out. The size of your logs will determine the length of time needed. I have a covered area for my wood stack just to keep the majority of the rain off.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28 05 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Smokin is right on the nitrates. The guy in the article just got some of his terms mixed up and was using info from old observations done under less than scientific research. I am sure he meant well, and probability never thought he would ever be contradicted. But then,… he never met you guys!
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