A smoke ring is an aesthetic proof of well-cooked meat. BBQ enthusiasts often crave the perfect smoke ring. Getting your desired smoke ring is a matter of both science and art. However, the grill you use also plays a major role in getting a smoke ring.
Gas and electric smokers are not well known for getting a smoke ring. However, that isn’t the case with a pellet smoker. It is totally possible to get the perfect smoke ring with a pellet grill.
If you are looking to buy a pellet grill, check out Dickson BBQ — meanwhile, read this article to know the secrets behind the perfect smoke ring.
What is a smoke ring – the science
The meat you cook contains a protein called myoglobin, which imparts the meat its red colour. As you cook the meat, this myoglobin comes in contact with oxygen and oxidizes, turning the meat’s colour to a brownish shade. The more the myoglobin oxidizes, the more brown the meat turns out to be.
However, when this myoglobin comes in contact with NO and CO, the air binds with the myoglobin, preventing oxidization, which helps the meat retain its pinkish hue. This is the “ring” that you see at the outer edge of your meat. Since the centre of the meat does not come in direct contact with the smoke, there is no agent to stop the oxidation. Thus, that part turns out to be brownish, leaving a pinkish circle around the meat. This is what BBQ enthusiasts commonly call a “smoke ring.”
Does smoke ring add to the taste of meat?
However, the smoke ring does not add to the taste of juiciness of the meat. It plays no role in enhancing the meat flavour. A smoke ring just adds an aesthetic appeal to your meat. It is a testament to the fact that the meat was cooked slowly for the appropriate duration. The flavours in a perfectly cooked meat would be more evenly spread.
Thus, a smoke ring is just like a litmus test for the art of cooking. However, it does not have a direct role in enhancing the gourmet experience.
As a matter of fact, it is possible to get a “fake” smoke ring too. You simply need to add some curing salt to your meat before tossing it inside the griller. Curing salt is rich in NO, which reacts with myoglobin to produce a smoke ring. This trick can be useful for people with gas or electric grills who want to enhance the appeal of their cooked meat.
Can you get a smoke ring from a pellet smoker?
Yes, your pellet smoker is quite capable of producing a smoke ring. NO and CO are the main agents responsible for a smoke ring. And the best source of NO is wood. Thus, you need to get your hands on a wood pellet smoker if you desire the perfect ring around your meat.
Some people also use charcoal briquettes, as they too contain as much NO as wood. However, elements like sawdust and coal dust are often mixed with these briquettes. Choosing pure charcoal can become a hassle for many. Thus, to be on the safe side, use pure wood.
On the other hand, if you are using a gas or electric smoker, you would not be able to get the ring. This is because these smokers do not produce enough NO during combustion. Thus, meat cooked in a gas smoker turns out to be brown, with less or no pinkish hue.
Tips to get the perfect smoke ring
If you are chasing the perfect smoke ring, here are a few tips that you should not miss.
Avoid grilling dry meat
Moist meat acts as a catalyst between the myoglobin and NO in the smoke. On the other hand, dry meat slows the process down. Thus, avoid tossing dry meat in your griller if you want a smoke ring.
Grill at low temperatures for a longer duration
Grilling is all about patience. Cooking at low temperatures (around 140 degrees F) is the key to getting the perfectly cooked meat with luscious smoke rings. Do not rush the process. Allowing the meat to sit on the grill for a long time gives it the opportunity to absorb the NO in the smoke. This results in a thicker and deeper smoke ring.
Pay attention to the meat
Ensure that the meat you pick is not covered in a layer of fat, as this layer contains no myoglobin. A fat layer would only slow down the process of cooking. Apart from not getting a smoke ring, the meat would not be grilled properly. It would not absorb in the smoke since the fat would act as a hindrance. Thus, remove the fat if you want to see those lovely rings on your meat.
Moreover, do not let the meat sit out in the open before putting it in the griller. The objective is to allow the meat as much time as possible inside the griller. You would be able to do that with a cold loaf of meat. The myoglobin in cold meat would get more time to react with the NO, leading to a more deep smoke ring.
Use cherry pellets
There are various kinds of pellets available, each with different properties. However, which one should you use if you are looking for a sumptuous smoke ring? Most BBQ masters vote for cherry pellets. These are said to produce the most profound smoke rings. As an added advantage, cherry pellets add a sweet undertone to your meat. Thus, it is a win-win situation.
Make sure you use pellets with high NO content. Hardwood pellets are also ideal in this regard. Moreover, make sure the fuel you use is dry. Wet pellets would just smoulder and lead to no actual combustion.
Grilling sumptuous meat is a matter of art that can be perfected with experience. BBQ is a hobby that requires a bit of art and science. Make sure you use the tricks above in your next BBQ session. Also, do not worry if you have a pellet smoker. They are perfectly capable of producing the ring you desire. Just make sure you pick the right fuel and follow the steps outlined in this article.