Smoke Ring Myths – My Opinion

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smoke ring myths

When you start looking at pictures of meat on several YouTube channels or on Instagram you see many pieces of meat with a nice smoke ring.

But what is the smoke ring, and does it add flavor to your meat? Or is it just a chemical reaction and does not add anything but a nice look to your meat?

Last modified on December, 2021

What is the smoke ring?

Simply put the smoke ring is the pink color that you see under the surface of meat that is smoked low and slow. Although I have also seen it on meat that was smoked hot and fast, it was in most cases just a little thinner ring.

For some reason, it is more looked at in a brisket than other cuts of meat.

What Causes This Smoke Ring Effect?

I have read for hours and since I am not a scientist it was all very hard to understand all the different explanations on what creates the smoker ring.

So, here is my version written in my own words and trying to avoid too many complicated words.

A chemical reaction between the smoke and a protein in the meat is called myoglobin.

To make it a little more complicated the smoke contains nitric oxide and carbon monoxide that are formed by burning charcoal or wood.

When you buy fresh meat it has a nice red color. However, when it sits out for a while it turns to a darker color. The nitro oxide and carbon monoxide have the same effect on the meat just under the surface but turn it into that nice pink colored smoke ring we like to see,

How To Make The Best Smoke Ring?

Some pitmasters have done extensive testing on how to create a nice smoke ring and here are some of the tips I found on how to make the best smoke ring.

  • Charcoal briquettes are better than lump charcoal
  • Avoid vinegary mopping solutions
  • A pan with liquid under the meat helps
  • Remove most of the fat cap to improve nitro oxide penetration.

In most cases, the ring stopped growing after the meat reached a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit. If you like more smoke rings than mopping, basting, or spritzing will lower the temperature and the process will keep going.


You can make a smoke ring with about any heat source. Even in the oven in your kitchen, you can produce one.

Smoke Ring and Taste

Here I must burst your bubble. A smoke ring is just for esthetics. It does not make the meat taste better!

Scientifically spoken the ring is already in your meat. It is the myoglobin I mentioned above but it has not changed color yet.

However, we also eat with our eyes. If that was not the case all food would look blended and colorless. That means that we like to see that nice smoke ring on meats like briskets. In competition BBQ like the kcbs, I believe it is even one of the things judges look at in their judging.

Summary And My Opinion

We all like the smoke ring and use it to judge a piece of meat. There is no proof that it improves the taste of the meat.

Does that mean that I don’t care about it anymore? No, definitely not. We still eat with our eyes also and a nice smoke ring can make my mouth water.

Eddie van Aken

Resources:

https://www.texasmonthly.com/bbq/the-science-of-the-smoke-ring/

https://www.thespruceeats.com/barbecue-smoke-ring-333612

amazingribs.com/more-technique-and-science/more-cooking-science/mythbusting-smoke-ring-no-smoke-necessary/

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