Smoke Rings

Discussion in 'Grilling Tips' started by smoking chief, Apr 28, 2014.

  1. Maybe someone can tell me what I am doing wrong. I smoke St Louis Style Spareribs for 5-6 hours on average. The smoke rings I get are about 1/8" and I add wood ever hour or so. How do I get those nice rings that damn near penetrate down to the bone?
  2. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    What kind of smoker ya have ??
  3. I know this is of no help to you but I am much more concerned about the taste than the "look" of what I smoke.

    With that being said, are you happy with how the ribs taste?
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Unless you are using a stick burner or a charcoal fired smoker you wont get much of a smoke ring. Electric and propane smokers don't produce much if any of a smoke ring.

    "The smoke rings is caused by nitric acid building up in the surface of meat, absorbed from the surface. This nitric acid is formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion in smoke mixes with water in the meat. Basically it is a chemical reaction between the smoke and the meat.

    It turns out that burning organic fuels like wood, charcoal or gas produces a variety of chemicals, including trace amounts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas. When NO2 gas meets the surface, it dissolves into the meat and picks up a hydrogen molecule, becoming nitrous acid (HNO2), which then gets converted into nitric oxide (NO). NO reacts with myoglobin, and together they form a stable pink molecule that can withstand heat.1  The thickness of the ring depends on how deep into the meat the NO is able to penetrate before reacting with myoglobin.

    As you can imagine, this reaction has to occur fairly early in the cooking process, before the surface of the meat reaches temperatures that would denature myoglobin. Since smoking cooks meat with gentle temperatures, this reaction has more time to occur before myoglobin is lost. Even though gas and charcoal are commonly used for grilling, you wouldn't see the smoke ring occur in grilled meats because the heat in that application is so high that the reaction doesn't have time to occur before the myoglobin around the edges is lost.

    In fact, a similar reaction occurs in nitrite-cured meats like ham, corned beef, and hot dogs. That's what gives those meats their uniquely pink color!


    1. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen  (New York: Scribner, 2004), 148-149."
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2014
    jason poland likes this.
  5. smokerjim

    smokerjim Meat Mopper

    I think also if your smoking at high temp. where the meat is getting to hot to quickly, that might make the ring penetrate less,I could be wrong but  i remember reading hear somewhere that meat will stop taking smoke after a certain temp.I'm sure someone will be along with the exact numbers.
  6. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    This smoke ring was produces during a hot and fast smoke
  7. superdave

    superdave Smoking Fanatic

    I guess everyone has a different sense of what is ideal.  To me, the pronounced 1/8" - 1/4" smoke ring is perfection.

  8. bruno994

    bruno994 Master of the Pit

    My spareribs typically won't get much more than a 1/8" smoke ring.
  9. pdqgp

    pdqgp Newbie

    I may be new at this but I can't say I agree.   These were done with Propane.

    scrub175 likes this.
  10. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I agree with AJBert, smoke rings have no taste.

    FYI the reaction between the NO2 in the smoke and the myoglobin in the meat that forms the smoke ring stops when the meat temp reaches 140°. Smoke flavor will build for as long as the meat is in the smoke regardless of the temp of the meat.

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