MES and Smoke Rings

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by tjohnson, Dec 31, 2009.

  1. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I've been reading threads for a couple hours now, and can't find a thread that directly discusses the "MES and Smoke Rings". Lots of info out there, but not finding it all in one place.

    1. Why does the MES seem to not produce "Smoke Rings" on meat?

    2. Is the lack of smoke rings on meat inherant to all electric smokers?

    3. Does moisture from the water pan increase or decrease the ability for
    meat to absorb smoke?

    4. Can/will a Smoke Generator help the smoke ring?


  2. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I don't own and MES or any other electric, but will take a stab at this anyhow based on my understanding of how this stuff works.

    Generally you will have less of a smoke ring using an electric becuase you don't have any fuel burning giving off Nitrogen Dioxide, you certainly get some from the wood chips you use, but nothing near like what you get from burning wood, charcoal or even propane for that matter. The smoke ring is just a result of a chemical reaction and in the electric you don't have as much of the needed chemical to form the ring.

    A smoke generator will help, but if you just put a piece of charcoal or two in with your chips and let that smolder away, you will get as much if not more benefit in the ring formation department IMO.

    Another thing you can do to help with the ring formation is put your meat in the smoker cold rather than at room temp or so. The chemical reaction that forms the ring generally stops/slows significantly when the meat temp hits 140 degrees......putting the meat in cold will increase the time that the ring has to form.

    Just my 2 cents.........there is an article around somewhere that explains things pretty well. I'll try to find it and post it.
  3. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Found it.

    What is the Smoke Ring and Why Is It There!

    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.

    About the Author:
    Joe Cordray is the Meat Extension Spe******t at Iowa State University’s nationally renowned Meat Lab, located in
    Ames, IA. He has been writing for The BBQer since Fall of 2001
  4. jdsmith

    jdsmith Smoke Blower

    I cooked a fatty yesterday in my MES. I also had water in the pan because I was cooking a whole turkey as well. I don't use a ton of chips (was using apple yesterday). Now, I have a side firebox cooker as well, and the smoke is definitely stronger, but I can still get "some" smoke & rings in my meat in the MES.

    Check out this link from yesterday. You can see there is a smoke ring in the fatty. Maybe it is easier to get a ring in ground beef/pork, I'm honestly not sure.

    With all that said, I have cooked 1 pork butt in the MES. It didn't render much smoke flavor. I made 2 for Xmas Eve dinner and chose to cook them out in the 34 degree rain in the stick burner for a better flavor.

    I like having both types of cookers. Sometimes I'm willing to sacrifice smoke for convenience. Also, there are some things I don't want as much smoke flavor in, so it's fine with me. But sometimes, especially in nice weather, I enjoy the challenge of keeping a 225 degree fire going for hours. Personal preference I'm sure.
  5. rambler

    rambler Smoke Blower SMF Premier Member

    I cooked a brisket yesterday in my MES and had a great smoke ring (3/8" thick). I almost always have a smoke ring and I try to limit the amount of smoke that I use. For example, the brisket was in the smoker for at least two hours (set at 240 degrees) before I started adding any chips to the smoker. I don't know if that makes a different but I do think one can "over" smoke meat. I also use a water pan with all smoking.
  6. reichl

    reichl Meat Mopper

    there is a good article on how to get a smoke ring in an MES here:

    If you put charcoal in the wood pan once an hour it will produce a smoke ring, otherwise you can use a cure to produce a smoke ring. It doesnt really affect the flavor of the food (edit: adding charcoal will not affect flavor, a cure will) but I still put charcoal in the pan when smoking briskets. I personally just think briskets look weird without a smoke ring.
  7. reichl

    reichl Meat Mopper

    please note that jdsmith got a smoke ring in his fatty because of the cure in the bacon he used on the outside of the fatty. I have never gotten a smoke ring just using my MES without charcoal or without puting the meat in contact with a cure.

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