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All about the BBQ Smoke Ring

rworange Oct 3, 2006 05:46 PM

A poster on the SF board asked what a barbeque smoke ring is. Looking for a good definition I came across this really great article about smoke rings, that pink color found around the edge of some slow-smoked meats.


It explains the chemical process going on, throwing around words like myoglobin and nitrosylhemochrome, but is understandable. It says

"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."

There can be smoke rings in products that are not smoked and a heavily smoked meat might not have a smoke ring.

I did have this perfect chicken once that was all smoke ring down to the bone. It was not only uber-delicious but a chick of beauty.

Pictures of smoke rings:


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  1. Pei RE: rworange Oct 3, 2006 08:21 PM

    aha. No wonder I've sometimes gotten smoke rings around pork tenderloin! Thanks for the info, as always.

    1. lunchbox RE: rworange Oct 3, 2006 08:32 PM

      I think I ought to carry my McGee around with me just so I can know exactly why I love the foods I do!

      I remember biting into some perfect falling-off-the-bone ribs and wonderig by they looked medium rare- later I learned about the magic pink ring.... mmmmmmm!

      1. Professor Salt RE: rworange Oct 3, 2006 10:51 PM

        Personally, I'd be skeptical of meat that's got a solid smoke ring all the way to the bone. Nitrites also yield that rosy red tint, and meat that's uniformly colored sets off red (ahem) flags.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Professor Salt
          rworange RE: Professor Salt Oct 4, 2006 12:31 AM

          Nah, just lucky. Right time, right place. Not that type of place. I haven't ordered the chicken since because it was so perfect I know that I would be disappointed and I want the memory.


        2. s
          Steve RE: rworange Oct 4, 2006 05:31 AM

          I've always said that a blind person should be able to perfectly judge bbq. Don't be deceived by pink or gray colors; you've got to be able to taste the rich flavor of the melted fat, the wood smoke bite, the tang of the cooked-on spices, feel the exterior crunch, and revel in the suppleness of the meat.

          And in lieu of those, for God's sake at least come up with a kickin' sauce you can pour all over it and make it a tasty mess anyway.

          1. c
            chilihead RE: rworange Oct 4, 2006 11:40 AM

            Hear, hear, Steve. When I've been lucky enough to find really good smokehouse bbq, frequently found by my patented bbq radar, I am enjoying myself too much for pleasantries like aesthetics.
            The OP mentioned the SF board, the Bay Area is the home of many really great places. In particular the East Bay has Flint's, Doug's and Everett and Jones...all truely great places.

            1. Low Country Jon RE: rworange Oct 4, 2006 02:41 PM

              The USDA web site talks about this phenomenon, too:


              This explains why the color of cooked poultry is not a good indicator of how done it is.

              With regard to BBQ, I can attest to the fact that you can find "smoke rings" in BBQ cooked with gas. I'm of the belief that BBQ "purists" often fool themselves into liking the most "authentic" BBQ based on things other than taste--smoke rings, wood piles out back, dark smoke coming out the chimney of the pit. In my experience, wood smoking in the hands of the unaccomplished pit "master" will ruin BBQ quicker than any other method. I appreciate those who stick to the old ways AND do it well, and I hope the art is never lost completely. But the final proof is in the pudding--it's all about the taste.

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