Smoke Ring: How to Get It Correctly


A good smoke ring is a badge of honor for grill fans and grill masters around the world. Find out how to smoke the perfect pink meat with our BBQ Smoke Ring Controller Guide.

Smoke ring barbecue guide

Grilling meat with a smoke ring is a badge of honor among grill lovers. The beautiful pink ring around the center of the meat is the proof many people need to prove they know how to grill. 

Less experienced grillers can get frustrated when the smoke ring eludes them, but there’s no need to get frustrated. Various factors can contribute to bringing the ring to life, and surprisingly, a deep understanding of the science can be a lot understandable. 

What is a smoke ring?

When you cut into a freshly smoked piece of meat, you can see the smoke ring as a layer of still-pink meat just below the thin surface. Less experienced eaters or smokers may find it odd that the center seems more “cooked” than the outside, but that’s not the case. 

Many smokers and grilling enthusiasts take the ring’s appearance as a sign that the piece in question is perfectly cooked and full of flavor. The smoke ring appears through fact rather than theory, and a scientific backlash is to blame.

Pink smoke ring a lamb ribs

Is it good or bad?

Honestly, none is. While many grill masters like to boast that the presence of a smoking ring means food is perfectly cooked, it is simply a chemical reaction of the smoking process. A smoking ring does not affect the taste or quality of the meat. 

Although not known to add anything to meat, this chemical phenomenon is still sought after by many smokers as a source of pride in their kitchen. Thanks, a few tips can help you steady yourself alongside your fellow grillers even if you know the secret of the ring.

What causes a smoke ring?

Most vertebrates have a protein called myoglobin. Myoglobin is able to hold oxygen in the muscle cells and is also directly responsible for how long an animal can hold its breath. 

Myoglobin contains pigments that contain iron. This iron imparts a familiar red color to the flesh of cattle, while much higher concentrations in whales or dolphins render their flesh almost purple. When exposed to air, the red fades to brown as the iron oxidizes. 

Something that will keep the meat from losing its pink or red color is if it’s smoked. More specifically, when NO(nitrous oxide) and CO(carbon monoxide) combine with the iron in myoglobin and prevent it from oxidizing. This keeps the meat pink even when exposed to air.

What causes a smoke ring is that it does NOT lock the iron into the meat and prevents the oxidation process. The ring is just below the surface of the meat, allowing deep smoke to penetrate and affect myoglobin.  

Sliced ​​smoked brisket on cutting board

How do I get a good smoke ring?

If the talk of badges of honor or pride crickets for the functionality of a smoke ring hasn’t warned you, making one appear isn’t exactly easy. Different factors can improve the chances of an appearance, and their combination is the key to success.

Choice of wood

The deeper the smoke penetrates the meat, the better the smoke ring looks. You want wood that gives off a lot of smoke when it burns so it can fully penetrate the meat. 

Fresh or green wood produces a lot of smoke when burned, although it does not burn as quickly as regular seasoned wood. However, seasoned wood tends to give off less smoke. Don’t use only green wood, however, as too much can add a bitter taste to the meat. 

Feel free to avoid using charcoal as it produces less nitric oxide than you need for a smoke ring. A useful source of fuel is bark, as the amount of nitrogen in the bark is surprisingly greater than in the wood itself. 


Moisture is a double-edged sword when it comes to achieving the perfect smoke ring grill. YOU want to prevent the fuel from GETTING wet, but spraying water on the meat IS essential to getting a quality smoke ring. 

Wet fuel produces more smoke, but it’s not the kind of smoke you need. NO WILL BE BY THE COMBUSTION CAUSED BY THE FLAME, SO THEY REDUCE THE SMOKE RING POTENTIAL BY USING WET FUEL. 

Splashing water on meat doesn’t mean soaking it, just keeping a layer of moisture on it for the first hour of cooking. This layer helps trap the smoke on the surface and improves your humidity chances of getting the smoke ring you want.


Especially in the early stages of the garden, you want to keep the temperature low at first. Most of the chemical interactions between nitric oxide and meat occur in the early stages of combustion, so it’s best to start at around 225°F. 

You should start cooking before the meat reaches room temperature. Don’t slam a piece of frozen meat on the grill, but don’t let it thaw completely. DO NOT allow more time to combine with the myoglobin and allow the smoke to penetrate even deeper into the meat. 


The first hour of cooking is dying when it comes to getting the incense ring. This is when the smoke can fully attack the meat and form the ring before the meat can overcook. 

Once the meat has reached 140°F, it will no longer be affected by the smoke. If you still don’t have a smoke ring at this point, you’re just out of luck until your next try. 

Smoke levels

Your smoke production should be at its strongest during the first hour of cooking. Allowing the fuel to smolder while following the other tips gives the smoke a better chance of penetrating the meat. 

Once you hit the 140°F mark, your smoke levels don’t matter. The NO should now create the perfect ring of smoke in your meat, and now when & YOU just finish the cooking process.

Avoid using barbecue rubs

This might seem like an odd rule when you want flavorful meat, but BBQ seasoning can actually make your chances of getting a smoke ring unexpected. 

Rubbing or seasoning on the surface of the meat quickly acts as a shield against smoke, which is exactly what you don’t want. The spice is fine as long as it spreads enough to let the smoke in, but grilled spices tend to be heavier and take up more surface area. 

If you want to add a seasoning or sauce to your meat, wait until it’s done cooking or after the 140°F mark. At this point the smoke ring is the best you can get and adding more stuff to the meat isn’t going to affect it anymore. 

Tips for the chest

Smoked brisket tends to be high in fat, and this fat can damage your smoking ring. You don’t want to remove all of the fat to preserve flavor, but cleaning the surface of the meat allows the smoke to fully penetrate.

Tips for the ribs

Ribs are the type of meat where it’s most important to start cold. You need more time for the nitric oxide to work its magic. Also make sure there is very little time between the ribs that come out of the fridge and end up on the grill.

Slowly roasted beef rib being held with a knife

Tricks to get a smoke ring

As you can see, it takes a lot to get a smoke ring in the flesh. What if you don’t want to fulfill all that work and prep time and excitement? It’s a way of “cheating” to get a smoke ring that requires a lot less work but also offers less satisfaction.

The nitrates in NO create the smoke ring, regardless of the smoke itself. The result of these chemicals on meat is the same as trying to get it out of the smoke and flames. 

Most curing solutions contain the necessary chemicals, so adding them to the surface of the meat or brine will give it a noticeable smoke ring. Use them sparingly, however, as too much can be toxic. 

How to get a smoke ring with an electric smoker

Without doing something to your electric smoker or meat, getting an incense ring is impossible. Depending on the size of your electric smoker, you have a few options if you really plan on going for the ring. 

If it is a larger smoker, you can put some wood chips in the smoker at the beginning of the cooking process. It’s not the same as using a regular grill, but it should still get the job done.

If your smoker is too small to add extra wood chips, you will need to use the pickle solution. It will get the job done and you can still puff it out of your electric smoker with confidence. 

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