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BBQ Class Is In Session. In Today's Lesson, The Smoke Ring Means Absolutely Nothing When Indicating Great Barbecue

Matthew Margolis. Getty Images.

Alright so everybody find a seat and settle in because it's time to take you bitches to school real quick. 

The smoke ring. Chances are that if you've ever heard anything about barbecue, the smoke ring was probably the first. It's that thin strip of reddish pinkish hue you see going across the top of those brisket slices above. Now if you've ever watched BBQ Pitmasters or any sort of bbq competition show before, then you're probably under the assumption that the smoke ring to a slice of brisket is like the championship rings to an athlete. A clear, visible indicator to determine who or which is the greatest of all time. A trump card you can throw down to end any and every debate. That the smoke ring is the be all end all of a perfect slice of brisket. 

When in reality…well it means nothing. 

Giphy Images.

Okay so maybe I shouldn't say that it means nothing. But essentially it means nothing. Because all the smoke ring is, is science. It doesn't mean that a slice of brisket tastes any better or worse. It doesn't mean that a slice of brisket is dry or moist. It just means that a scientific reaction occurred. 

So first off, let's just make it clear what the smoke ring actually is. Have you ever wondered by raw meat is red but it turns brown as you cook it? That's because of a protein called myoglobin in the meat. It stores oxygen in muscle cells and gives the meat its color. Once the internal temperature of the meat goes past 140°, the myoglobin breaks down and starts to lose its color. Once the internal temperature of the meat reaches 170°, that's when the meat starts to turn brown. 

Giphy Images.

I'm sure most of you didn't give a shit about any of that. Which is totally fine. But for those of you who are still here, this is where we get to what the smoke ring actually means. Because once you introduce smoke to the meat, it will stop the myoglobin from breaking down. Hence leaving that reddish pinkish ring around the top of your brisket, or whatever other meat you're smoking for that matter. It just shows how much smoke penetrated the meat before that internal temperature reaches 140°. So in theory, if you want to get the deepest smoke ring possible then you can just start with a frozen brisket. 

So at the end of the day, yes, it shows that clearly the meat was smoked. But it doesn't take into consideration how clean or dirty the smoke was. It doesn't give any indication if the meat is tender and juicy at all. It doesn't provide any additional flavor. All it shows is how much smoke the meat took on before the internal temperature reached 140°. 

You could have the deepest, most defined smoke ring of all time and that slice of brisket could still taste like shit. You could have very little smoke ring at all and still end up being some of the best brisket on the planet. 

You could have a massive smoke ring and it could be great. You could have no smoke ring at all and it could be dog shit. The point I'm trying to make here is that smoke ring or no smoke ring doesn't determine what is quality barbecue. It just tells you how much smoke got onto the meat before it reached a certain temperature. It's certainly cool to look at. But it doesn't provide any additional flavor, it doesn't provide tenderness, it doesn't provide any juicy succulence, it does nothing but indicate a scientific reaction occurred during the cooking process. 

Giphy Images.

Sidenote: This blog was inspired by a comment on the bbq video I posted yesterday. Yes, bloggers read the comments.