View Full Version : Smoke ring?

04-11-2009, 11:58 AM
Hi, folks. I am not new to smoking, but have always used a large mobile stick burner, or bullet smokers. With those, I always get a great smoke ring. However, as a new Smokin Tex user, I have not been able to get a smoke ring on ribs, brisket, or chicken.

Don't tell the teacher :p, but I use more wood than recommended. Still, it all looks and tastes like it came out of my kitchen oven. Any advice?


04-13-2009, 02:37 AM

The "smoke ring" has nothing to do with smoke.
It's formed by nitrogen gas released by the wood exposed to very high combustion temps to form nitrous oxide (NO2) which then reacts with pigments in the meat.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is possible in the SmokinTex. I don't get a smoke ring in my SmokinTex and I've heard its absence mentioned before. SmokinTex does not cook with the high temps needed to produce NO2 from wood. Nor is enough wood used to release large amounts of nitrogen for the high temps to fix into NO2.

Morton Tender Quick is a favorite of many for adding to the brine. Just a *little*. That's got both sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite and they do often make the meat a faint pink throughout, albeit not in the prized "smoke ring" configuration.

The good news is the pink itself in normal wood/charcoal smoking is only indicative of a slow smoking process; it's generally not believed that it's got any effect on the flavor itself. Well, people disagree some on this issue, logically you'd think the nitrous acid created, penetrating deep in the meat, would have a taste-able effect. The bad news is that we don't know a way to make one in an ST either way, not unless you add a tank of laughing gas to the mix.

Huh here's a scientific paper:
Showing that CO and nitrous oxide (NO) only inducing pinking at very high concentrations, but nitrogen dioxide NO2 inducing pinking at very low concentrations. Well, like there's anything you can do about it either way.

04-13-2009, 07:38 PM
Thanks, but I am well versed about how the ring is made, and I don't mean to sound snotty. However, they do form at 225-230 degrees. I run my WSM's and stick burner at those low temps. I have never failed to acheive a substantial smoke ring with them.

I guess the wood content, however small it may actually be in Kingsford charcoal, with a few small chunks of wood, always gives the desired smokey flavor, along with the ring. Obviously, a stick burner is...well...full of wood.

This is the first time I've used electric heat for the temp. I did throw the ribs away, after a few bites. I willl make another run tomorrow night. Others said the brisket was fine. I guess I'm just picky. I'll get a handle on this unit, sooner or later.

Anywho, again, I do appreciate the reply, and I am really not being a smarty-pants.

04-13-2009, 08:35 PM
But the 225-230 degrees isn't where the NO2 forms. That's inside air temp.
If you stick a thermometer inside the wood or charcoal you'll get well over 1000F. That's where the NO2 forms, and the NO2 persists as the combustion gases mix with air and cool by the time it gets to the meat.

An electric element won't form NO2, and the wood only receives indirect heat and doesn't reach the high temp needed to create NO2. That seems to be the situation.

Another interesting note:
http://www.karubecue.com/smoke_ring.html mentions that once the meat gets above 140F the globins denature and the smoke ring can't form. Also reinterates that electric smokers can't form smoke rings naturally.

I'm kinda wondering now if there is a way to get NOx out of an electric grill.
There are those who say the smoke ring is not a flavor issue. Others swear electric grills have a different taste. I'm kinda thinking that the case is that whether or not the wood/charcoal/propane always creates enough NOx to affect the taste, regardless of whether there's the right amount at the right time to create the visible smoke ring. But an electric doesn't.

I do like my stuff out of the Smokin Tex. But I'm aware it tastes "different" than wood/charcoal smoking and I don't think it's just the way I do it.

04-13-2009, 09:49 PM
Ah! Yeah, that makes sense, now, about the hotter temp at the burn itself. I've always heard the 140 limit 'breakpoint', as well. Oh well, I guess this will just be a different Q taste.

I have to admit, the sleep all night while Q'ing does have its strongpoint.

Thanks for the info.

04-14-2009, 03:54 AM
I did see this suggestion:
add a charcoal briquette to the smoking box (http://forum.cookshack.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2991028883/m/9211038883)

I'm not so sure. For one, briquettes add a terrible taste if the meat's applied before they're turned to coals, don't they? Maybe warming the box up ahead of time is necessary. Also the box temp may not be controllable with burning charcoal, it produces too much heat and usually keeps burning once lit until it goes out. I've already become painfully aware of the temp control issues in Smokintex (probably present in other grills too). Basically there isn't much control.

Actually, here's something that I'm not sure about. Forming NO requires oxygen, but forming the useful NO2 requires an excess of oxygen. At first I thought the Smokintex would be at a disadvantage due to its largely sealed construction, but where does a charcoal/wood fire get it?? I thought that the high temp combustion zone would end up with the carbon scavenging up all the free oxygen. AFAIK the free O2 would have a greater affinity to bind with carbon than NO. Actually, despite the smaller airflow, the reduced amount of combustion could produce more NO2.

HBar, since you seem real sensitive to the differences between traditional and electric smoking, you might be a better judge of this effect than I.

06-23-2009, 06:08 PM
I have used two pieces of charcoal and obtained a nice smoke ring on ribs. Use charcoal that is not designed to be lit with a match.

06-30-2009, 08:34 PM
I purchased the Smokin Tex because I was tired of tending a fire for 18 hours. I like the results, but miss the smoke ring. I played around with a lump of coal in the box, but this didn't seem to work. Now what I do, when I want a smoke ring is to fire up my charcoal grill. I use an indirect method with plenty of wood chunks to get the smoke really rolling. I leave the brisket in there untill the fire dies down, and transfer the meat to my smokin tex and let it do its thing overnight. I am not too concerned about the charcoal grill temp, as I only use 15 or 20 briquettes. They will burn for an hour or so and that seems to do the trick.