The Smoke Ring- DWP BBQ Style

The Smoke Ring- DWP BBQ Style

Definition: In the world of barbecue the smoke ring is one of the most sought after properties of smoked meats. It is believed to show that you have done a good job and properly low and slow smoked the meat in question. Is particularly prized in Brisket.  So what is it?

A smoke ring is a pink discoloration of meat just under the surface crust (called bark). It can be just a thin line of pink or a rather thick layer.

A good smoke ring is around a 1/4 inch in thickness. The smoke ring is caused by nitric acid building up in the surface of the meat, absorbed from the surface. This nitric acid is formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion in smoke mixes with the natural water in the meat. Basically, it is a chemical reaction between the smoke and the meat and a prized element in all types and variations of traditional barbecue.

So how to do you get the best smoke ring? Opinions vary.

Searching the internet you will find so many different ways to get a good smoke ring on your meat. In all honesty having a smoke ring any piece of BBQ does not make taste any better. At DWP BBQ we achieve smoke rings on our meats because of several different methods that stem from preparation and fire management.

Preparation: Excess fat must be trimmed prior to smoking. We typically trim all hard fat and usually leave about a 1/4 inch fat cap on larger cuts of meat like Brisket.

After trimming we use a dry rub which contains a high salt content….That salt will absorb into the actual meat and help start the chemical reaction stated above. Our meats are marinated over night to allow all of those seasonings to penetrate the meat.

Cooking- The most important aspect of achieving a smoke ring while cooking is having a clean and oxygen rich fire. Without this you will not get the chemical reaction needed for the ring. Keep in mind cooking with a clean fire equals good tasting BBQ. Meat that is over smoked or bitter in taste was not cooked with a clean fire.

Running a clean fire takes work. Using an automated smoker that either uses a convection fan or gas to maintain temp is a short cut. There are NO short cuts in good BBQ. Just look at how Aaron Franklin cooks his brisket!

Another factor to keep in mind is that NATURAL smoke rings do not form at higher temperatures. According to most experts once the meat hits 140 degrees the smoke ring will stop forming.

So I would suggest starting your fire off clean, and running the first 6-8 hours at 200-225.

Some of the best smoke rings I have gotten have been cooking at 200 degrees for extended periods of time with a clean fire. I have people that even comment telling that the meat looks under cooked or medium rare because the smoke ring is so thick.

If you really want to make sure you get a smoke ring then cheat. Coating meat with a salt tenderizer like Morton’s Tender Quick will load up the surface of the meat with nitrogen dioxide and give you a great smoke ring. Because of the prevalence of this kind of “cheating”, smoke rings are no longer taken into consideration in barbecue competitions.

In closing, its best to do BBQ the hard way…The way its been done for years. Cheating or taking short cuts is silly, and in my mind won’t get you anywhere in advancing your BBQ skills.

Here are a few pics of DWP BBQ with some excellent naturally made smoke rings.


Pork Baby Back Ribs

St Louis Ribs

Beef Short Ribs


Like The Knife in some of these pics…


Share this with friends

Submit a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>