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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 05-23-2010, 06:24 PM   #1
ftwthegger
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Default Smoke Ring? Where oh Where?

As my name suggests, I am a recent convert to the BGE. But for some reason I am struggling with my briskets and getting a good bark and smoke ring! The horror!

It's tender and juicy, but tonights attempt was without that classic pink ring, and I am wondering if I am putting way too much rub and/mustard on my meat prior to smoking and it's not penetrating, or if it's something else. Would a BBQ guru share some wisdom?

Here's what I did: 1. Marinated said beef for 24hrs in beer, applejuice, and stubbs beef marinade. 2. pulled brisket out drained and patted, then spread mustard on meat and generously covered with rub. 3. Let sit for 30min or so while I got BGE started and smoker chips going with light blue smoke (200-225 degrees) 4. put brisket in smoker; ensured everything was stable and went to bed. 5. Approx 6 hours later sprayed with beer, applejuice and beef broth 6. at hour 8 wrapped in foil, then let cook another 4 hours. 7. put in warm cooler until time to eat.

Again, it was tasty and tender but not nearly up to my standards.

My last thought is I may not be needing to spray or wrap since the BGE doesn't dry food out like my old metal smoker.

Thanks for any help.
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Unread 05-23-2010, 08:35 PM   #2
Spydermike72
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How much wood did you use ? Typically the lack of a smoke ring is due to a lack of smoke, especially a large cut like a brisket.

Mustard is not going to stop a smoke ring...
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Unread 05-23-2010, 08:45 PM   #3
thirdeye
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Okay, you might want to refill your glass, make a trip to the fridge, or get another cup of coffee. Here is a clip from my cookin' site that is sub titled "Smoke Rings, What Are They and How Do I Get One"..... It's in my typical long winded style. Just remember, you asked for it.








There is a lot of bragging when it comes to smoke rings. Sometimes it's the pit bosses that are showing them off, and sometimes they don't say a word and wait for folks to notice on their own...... When I serve up some brisket or folks see a photograph of my brisket with a nice ring it's the first thing they notice. They say things like "Boy, that sombitch sure knows his barbecue, look at that smoke ring". Let's face it, a good smoke ring is the sign of an accomplished cook that understands meat, heat, time, wood and his cooker. Right? ..... Well, those things sure help. It also helps if you know a little about science.

So, what is a smoke ring anyway? Well, when the conditions are right, slow cooked barbecued meats exhibit a band of color around the outer edge. These bands are called smoke rings, and they can be 1/8" to 1/2" wide. The color can range from light pink to deep red. Sometimes they are actually mistaken for undercooked meat.






Smoke rings are one of the most misunderstood and one of the most sought after things in barbecue. For starters, a smoke ring is NOT caused from smoke that has penetrated and colored the meat. Smoke rings are formed when gases in the smoke interact with myoglobin. "My what??" one guy exclaimed during a discussion about smoke rings at a local tavern. Myoglobin is the pigment that gives muscle its color. Beef muscle has more pigment than pork muscle so beef has a darker color than pork. Pork loin is lighter in color than a pork shank or picnic. Chicken thighs have a darker color than chicken breasts. This is all because of the amount of myoglobin in each muscle.




Okay, here is the deal.... Most of us use wood in the forms of chips, pellets, chunks or even logs to generate smoke when cooking. Wood contains large amounts of nitrogen. When wood burns, the nitrogen combines with oxygen in the air to form nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is highly water-soluble and early in the cook, it's absorbed into the surface of the meat and forms nitrous acid. The nitrous acid travels inward and creates a colored smoke ring. Smoke rings are usually pink, but the myoglobin in the meat can produce a darker red ring. Have you ever wondered why ham, bacon or corned beef has a different color than fresh muscle meat? That's because the chemicals sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are added to salt and used to cure those products. In the old days we used potassium nitrate (aka saltpeter) to cure and preserve meats. So, should we really call them nitrogen rings? Let's not go that far, but at least we know how a smoke ring is formed.




Because I barbecue my prime rib roasts, I will even get a narrow ring on them from time to time.




The smoke ring doesn't always have to be in the form of a ring. Take a pork rib for example... they are so thin that sometimes the full thickness of the meat takes the color.




Thighs and drumsticks are another example. When the pigments in the meat turn pink from the effects of the nitrogen reaction, some folks think the meat is undercooked. The internal temperature of this boneless thigh was 180° when I took it off the smoker. It is thoroughly cooked.




Here is some meat from a smoked turkey leg. This was brined with some tenderquick so it has both a deep pink color and a ham-like texture. The point here is, it hardly resembles poultry.





Now I'm going to explain about smoke rings, how to get one, how to get a better one, and how to get one any time you want, even if you are cooking a brisket or some ribs in the oven (you know, that square thing in your kitchen with the clock. But first off, don't get smoke rings and smoke flavor confused. They are not as related as many folks think. You can have smokey flavored meats that don't have a smoke ring. And later I will prove that you can have a smoke ring .... without using any smoke.

* Smoke rings stop forming at 140°, so start your meat off cold, and run your pit colder for the first couple of hours. Remember that the ring formation stops around 140°, you can keep piling on the smoke flavor as long as you have smoke. (In fact you can make meat so smokey you won't want to eat it).

* Flaming wood produces more nitrogen than a smoldering fire. Use correct vent settings on your cooker, and maintain good airflow in your firebox, charcoal basket etc.

* Moist meat absorbs nitrogen dioxide more easily. Use a water pan in your cooker, use a ceramic cooker (they keep meats moister than many steel pits), marinate, inject baste, or spritz your meat, or use some immature wood. Don't use all green wood, just a piece or two that is not fully cured. Soak a few chips or a chunk or two, don't soak them all or your smoke production will be limited until the wood dries out. Try putting a whole onion or two on the grate, they release moisture curing the cook and are delicious. Look close in this picture and you will see 6 or 8 onions amongst the meat, there is also a coffee can half-full of water in the other end.





* Charcoal briquettes have more nitrogen than lump charcoal. If you are a lump burner add a couple of briquettes atop your fire early on in the cook. If you are using a box style electric or propane smoker, add a briquette or two to your chip pan.

* Cook larger cuts of meat and/or keep your cooker full.... More meat means more mass, more mass will retain more moisture. Select whole briskets over flats, cook two butts instead of one, don't just cook 3 thighs, buy a big pack and fill up that grate. If you have some spare room on a grate, put a fatty or two on.








* Use some Tenderquick. All you do is sprinkle some on the inside face of a brisket (the side opposite the fat cap) and let it sit for 10 minutes. Rinse it off, then return the brisket to the fridge for 1 hour. Then season and barbecue as usual. This is a TQ'd brisket.




Tip: Remember the wisecrack about getting a smoke ring in the oven? I TQ'd this brisket flat, wrapped it in foil and baked it in my oven at 275° for 4 hours.

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Unread 05-23-2010, 08:56 PM   #4
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Yeah, I was gonna say what he said.
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Unread 05-23-2010, 09:02 PM   #5
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How do you follow that post but...... I normally do not let the meat get up to room temp like some do, I do believe in brining. I do not think that too much mustard or rub would cause lack of smoke ring.....I would take meat directly out of fridge, season, back in fridge until smoker up to temp or put directly on cooker after temp is right...jm2CW though

fwiw I have never had a issue with lack of smoke ring...I cook on an offset and a UDS though...if that makes any difference?
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Unread 05-23-2010, 09:15 PM   #6
thirdeye
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Several years ago, for one reason or another a lot of folks with WSM's purchased ceramic cookers. It was really odd, but about the only complaint they commented on was a lack of (or not as good of) a smoke ring.

They were using the same meats, the same recipes, the same pit temps, the same flavor wood, and cooking about the same time as they did in their WSM. The only difference was, they switched to lump, because ceramic cookers like that better than briquettes.
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Unread 05-23-2010, 09:30 PM   #7
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By the power that I do not yet have, I proclaim Thirdeye to be Dr. Thirdeye

That is one great post.
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Unread 05-23-2010, 09:31 PM   #8
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I smoke mine a little hotter like 225-250 and use 2-3 chunks of wood at the beginning. I always end up with some smoke ring.

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Unread 05-24-2010, 04:20 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by landarc View Post
Yeah, I was gonna say what he said.
Hahahaha
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Unread 05-24-2010, 05:08 AM   #10
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Good Grief thats funky! Sliced point down, that's a tender flat portion there. Juicy too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1_T_Scot View Post
I smoke mine a little hotter like 225-250 and use 2-3 chunks of wood at the beginning. I always end up with some smoke ring.

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Unread 05-24-2010, 05:21 AM   #11
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I will warn you to stay away from the temps that are anywhere close to 212 degrees. Nothing happens below it. Nothing as far as its contribution to the tenderness and moistness of the meat. In fact, if you are anywhere near the 225 mark you can guarantee that your meat will be doing nothing for a considerable amount of time as no matter what your gauge says, the meat is in its own "sub-212" environment. You do not have to cook it as fast as I do, but if your at least in the 250 grate range temp, you are efficiently cooking your meat and your overall exposure will ensure a juicy product if you do not fiddle with it too much.

That all being said, for those of us that cook pretty fast, like 270 and above, --- I totally endorse, Thirdeye's "smoke at 200 or so just to get that ring set." Now I have noticed that this works real well when you are smoking hot and fast and only doing a small smoke, like maybe 6 or so 12 pounders. On my Brazos Pit I noticed that due to the nature of placing 30 or so briskets on at one time, the brisket's mass kept the temps at bay for a while long enough to set a great ring at 270 anyway.
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Last edited by barbefunkoramaque; 04-03-2011 at 02:31 PM..
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Unread 05-24-2010, 06:23 AM   #12
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Thirdeye nailed it above. When I switched to the Primo, I struggled on getting a nice smoke ring on my brisket as well - I then changed a few things up - I load the Primo up with lump and hickory wood chunks and setup the cyberq II and start my fire with a mapp torch in a few places I then immediately take my meat from the fridge and rub him down and put him immediately on the cooker. I set the cyberq for 200 degrees and let him bring the cooker up to temp (top vent is barely cracked open). I let him run at 200 for about 2 hours or so and then ramp it up to about 270 and finish there - I dont wrap in foil - here is one of my latest briskets doing this method - I am a firm believer that keeping him at a lower temp to set the ring helps, as does using an ATC - there is so little natural airflow in a ceramic cooker (unlike an offset for instance), that the ATC with its forced air temp control promotes a better burn of the lump and a more complete burn means more carbon dioxide like thirdeye mentioned above

Edit - I did NOT use TQ in this - the SR looks a little off color as my white balance setting was off on the cam

Last edited by gtsum; 02-01-2011 at 06:39 AM..
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Unread 05-24-2010, 06:32 AM   #13
ftwthegger
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Hey guys thanks for all the input! Thirdeye, you are Dr. THIRDEYE to me! Thanks! Of course I do feel obligated to make another attempt and this time with some pron! (trying to get with the terminology)
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Unread 05-24-2010, 09:29 AM   #14
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Smoke ring has been covered thoroughly above. As to your bark:

Lose the mustard. The high moisture environment in a ceramic smoker can make it challenging to set a firm bark anyway - the last thing you want to do is turn your rub to paste by putting it on top of a gooey coating.
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Unread 05-24-2010, 10:03 AM   #15
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Thanks Thirdeye for the great refresher on the wonders of the ring.
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