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Pour yourself a coffee and put your feet up. We’re about to get scientific.
In 1972 the first formal Barbecue cook-off was held.
The World Championship Cow Country BBQ Cookout. At last, pitmasters could show off their talents in an arena bigger than their backyard.
Before the arrival of competitions, briskets, ribs, and butts were being smoked all over Texas, and everyone concentrated on the taste. As the BBQ competition culture grew people started to care even more about how their meats looked.
Judges appeared to eat as much with their eyes as they did with their mouths and the infamous smoke ring became a required standard.
A smoke ring is a striking pink layer just under the skin of your meat. This is something you would usually find on a Brisket.
While achieving the smoke ring isn’t rocket science, there is a fair bit of chemistry behind this barbecue badge of honor. Without getting too deep, we’ll explain.
Smoke rings are produced by a chemical reaction. All meat has myoglobin. When exposed to oxygen it gives your meat the pink color you have when you pick up your fresh joint from the butcher. As time goes on, or as you cook the meat, the oxygen escapes and your meat turns brown. Meanwhile, your charcoal (or wood chips, etc) produce nitrogen dioxide as you burn them. When this gas reaches your meat it reacts to the moisture and produces nitric oxide. When the myoglobin is exposed to nitric oxide it stabilizes and binds tighter than oxygen would. The meat retains its pink color and you get that show-stopping smoke ring.
There’s a lot of pressure for pitmasters to produce Instagram-worthy smokes every time but, is the smoke ring really a sign of a good smoke? Can you achieve the same quality of flavor without it? Could you even cheat your way to that pink halo of glory?
A water smoker is a great place to start so the Weber Smokey Mountain is an ideal barbecue if you want to perfect the glorious smoke ring.
Weber Smokey Mountain Smoke Ring
There is a reason that the Weber Smokey Mountain is so popular amongst the barbecue elite. Not only is it simple to use but it is also good enough to win competitions and produce some more technical smokes. For novices learning how to perfect their low and slow, the WSM is ideal and due to the water pan, it is also the perfect smoker for learning about smoke rings.
The water gives you the perfect environment for low and slow cooking, helping you to keep a steady temperature. The water pan also releases moisture into the smoke which is a sure-fire way of achieving a smoke ring.
Weber Smokey Mountain No Smoke Ring
It’s really important for new Pitties to not get too consumed trying to achieve the smoke ring. While it does look super cool and you get a massive feeling of pride when you achieve your first, there really is no major difference in flavor. You could eat the most delicious brisket in the world that has no smoke ring at all, or have a rather dull brisket that looked super awesome. Try to concentrate on your flavor and enjoyment first.
Some things can prevent a smoke ring from forming. Using anything acidic, either as an alternative for water in the pan or as a marinade on your meat so avoid lemon juice or vinegar.
How Do You Get Smoke Rings On Weber Smokey Mountain?
Luckily the Weber Smokey Mountain offers all the right ingredients to help you achieve a smoke ring. The water pan gives a moist environment. It uses charcoal instead of propane or electricity. You can add water-smoked wood easily. You also have more control of your temperature with the vent system and can maintain a steady heat on your low and slows. This gives you the best chance of getting a rich pink smoke ring.
Of course, there are some extra hints you can use. Spraying the meat throughout the smoking process can help increase your chance of a smoke ring. Removing fat will also allow more nitric oxide to penetrate your meat.
Finally, if you can’t make it, fake it. Use a salt tenderizer to add nitric oxide to the surface of your joint. This will give you an instagrammable smoke ring even if you haven’t produced the perfect low and slow smoke.
Weber Smokey Mountain Smoke Ring Issues
A smoke ring stops developing once your meat reaches between 140 and 170 degrees. This is why the hot and fast smokes don’t work.
If you are struggling with a smoke ring, insert a meat thermometer into your joint. You can see how quickly your meat is reaching 140 degrees. The longer it takes to get there, the more formed your smoke ring will be. So you might need to increase the length of your smoke and lower the temperature.
You can also lose the smoke ring if you have had your meat sitting at room temperature for too long. Taking a joint straight out of the fridge, into the smoker is best.
You could be using wood that is too dry, so try a soaked wood or something that hasn’t seasoned very long.
Finally, instead of using lump coal, swap it out for briquettes. You will get more nitrogen oxide from smoking with briquettes.
Weber Smokey Mountain Smoke Ring Brisket
Brisket is a great joint to master a smoke ring on. It is also one of the most striking when you cut into the meat. Be careful of what rubs or marinades you add, stay away from anything that has lemon juice or vinegar in it.
Some people say that brisket should sit at room temperature for a little while to ensure it stays tender, but this isn’t the case with a really low and slow cook. You will get a far better smoke ring by keeping your joint in the fridge and then putting it straight on your smoker.
Learn how to extend the cooking time by keeping your brisket safely under 140 degrees for as long as possible. You can use your vents to help you with this. The longer you are below 140 degrees, the more time your brisket has to develop a smoke ring. However, you do need to respect the danger zone. Slowly creeping the temperature between 140 and 170 may also help you to increase the ring as some people believe the cut-off for development is 170 degrees.
Is Getting A Smoke Ring On A WSM Easy?
Getting a smoke ring on any smoker isn’t easy. It is the mark of skill and experience which gets the nod from all BBQ bosses. Using a Weber Smokey Mountain will give you a head start though as it is a water smoker that is beginner friendly.
Weber Smokey Mountain Smoke Ring Tips
If you are ready to be crowned the king of the ring by your mates or, you want to enter your first barbecue competition, you might improve your smoke ring by using one of the following tips:
- Charcoal briquettes will increase the quality of your smoke ring
- Check your wood isn’t seasoned too much. If you think it is, add moisture to the wood
- Use your water pan
- Slowly bring the meat up to 140 degrees
- Use cold meat straight from the fridge. If you need to marinade or rub it, return it back to the fridge for a minimum of 30 mins.
- Remove any fat sitting above the meat.
- Spritz your meat occasionally throughout the smoke
Just remember that the smoke ring only adds aesthetic value so don’t get too consumed in trying to achieve one. A barbecue should be fun and taste great above everything else.