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I'm in the process of working on my first article for the CS Online newsletter.

I have three brisket flats in the fridge and I'm going to do a little "smokin okie" test to show the true cause of a smoke ring.

Here's my plan. If you have any questions, would love to hear them so I can include questions & answers in the article.

1. Smoke a straight flat, normal rub, in a CS (it won't show a smoke ring).

2. Smoke a flat with curing salt applies (the salt will "cure" the outside and create a smoke ring).

3. Smoke a flat with Lump Charcoal added into the fire box (has natural Nitrates which will create the smoke ring.)

There will be a lot of explaination, etc about the above. Just want to create some photos to show the results.

Also, I'm going to give pointers on how to smoke a flat since many seem to have difficulty.


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Smokin I thought you were keeping that info to yourself!! LOL
Got two briskets on since 10 pm last night, these brisket were given to me some boys out of Eugene OR that have tied up with a processor that is sending beef to Japan. The briskets are as close to prime as I've ever seen. Will be interesting to see how long these babies take and what we have for flavor.
Good one on you and the Mrs.
Always the "inquisitive" one, I've heard this urban legend.

Preliminary results, it certainly does turn the meat pink.... more later.

Now, as for the 140. That's one where the Meat Science guys talk, and others disagree. How would we test that? Don't need to answer now. You can start a new thread if you want and we'll chat there.

Preliminary results...the photos.<br />I'll do a writeup in the CS newsletter.<br /><br />Brisket, no Smoke ring, straight Hickory<br /><br />


I may not show up in this photo, but the meat has a Pink Tint to it, all the way through.<br /><br />Brisket, Lump Charcoal, 3 oz. added to wood box


I rubbed 1oz of tenderquick on brisket top, waited 10 min, here's the result. Bottom half I rubbed for 1 min.

Thickness of "ring" is 10mm<

Brisket, Tenderquick rubbed on

<br /><br />initial Conclusion:<br />Smoke Ring is indeed caused by the meat being "cured" from Nitrates/Nitrites, not from straight wood, prior to it becoming charcoal.<br />comments/questions?
Last edited by Former Member
Wow! The TQ sure soaked in Quik! An ounce is like 2 rounded tablespoons, right? so it might be saltier than everybody'd like. Assume you didn't rinse it off before cooking.

Is it my imagination or is there just the tiniest red edge on the untreated brisket?

Just a suggestion - may want to hold a small ruler in front of the meat to give an idea of dimensions.
Good idea about the ruler.

Don't think there is red on the untreated one, I just need a better photo.

I DID rinse it off, in fact it was 2 tablespoons, rubbed on, set 10 min, rinsed off (with Smokin'Jr. on the stop watch).

there was just a "slight" taste of salt, but didn't seem like a lot. Mrs. Smokin' liked it because it was slightly saltier.

Outstanding test with good photos to prove the point.
Since a smoke ring supposedly can't be used in judging, why do contestents insist on adding an artificial smoke ring.
From the photos, I liked the color of the charcoal-added brisket best. I'm going to try that next time I cook up a shoulder or brisket, take a digital photo, then I'll post.
Probably won't be till July, though, since I'm going out of town for a couple of weeks.
Thanks for the test and the photos.
Thanks for the info about rinsing and the illusion of red. I wonder if you could "cure", then rinse, then rub with spice and store overnight, then cook with same result. Seems like you could. However, I agree with peines that the charcoal one is most appealing. You said 3oz lump charcoal - how much wood as well?

Do you usually wind up with brisket that lean? It looked like there was almost no exterior fat - did you trim it that tight, or did the fat melt off?

And the biggest question - other than the bit of extra salt, did they taste any different?

Also, I heard somewhere, and have not verified, that briquettes like Kingsford are jazzed up with a bit of saltpeter to make them light faster. And that MatchLight is the same thing with a bit of paraffin added to get it going.

The question is a good one.

All of us eat with our eyes first and when you see a good looking entry that looks like it is built with all the speed,comfort,and staying power that ya dream about,it is difficult to not let it stick in your mind.

KCBS and FBA says judge it against the best you've had ,MIM judges against the best that day.

Every entry should be able to be a max. score for appearance by good cooks,so it "shouldn't make any difference".

Then that pix of Bo Derrick, drifting across the sand, comes to mind and think about the little edge that decides the difference among top cooks. Wink
posted June 08, 2002 08:34 AM
I'm in the process of working on my first article for the CS Online newsletter.
I have three brisket flats in the fridge and I'm going to do a little "smokin okie" test to show the true cause of a smoke ring.

Here's my plan. If you have any questions, would love to hear them so I can include questions & answers in the article.

1. Smoke a straight flat, normal rub, in a CS (it won't show a smoke ring).

2. Smoke a flat with curing salt applies (the salt will "cure" the outside and create a smoke ring).

3. Smoke a flat with Lump Charcoal added into the fire box (has natural Nitrates which will create the smoke ring.)

Or, 4., get a Brinkman.

3/8 inch smoke ring, derived from smoke, not additives, guaranteed.

Oh, well, I'm here all alone. So lonely...

All, I'll work on a few more photos, these were just the first draft.

Sorry I2, guess you forgot to read the rest of the post. Let me guess, you're using charcoal/lump?

The whole point of the above is to show that the ring isn't caused by smoke (hence, CS owners love their brisket for the smoke taste, not the ring), if you had one, you could taste a brisket for the smoke flavor without the cure ring.

The ring is actually a "cure" that can be simulated by the Tenderquick. The ring you are getting is from Nitrates/Nitrites created by your heat source.

Just trying to explore one of those Myths about BBQ, "the smoke ring" you can get it, it's pleasing to the eye, but it's not's only carried by it.

Given I2's experience, another interesting question would be why does a Brinkmann smoker provide a defined ring, while using charcoal in a 'shack produces an overall pink color. A theory: the Cookshack operates at a lower temperature, thus allowing nitrate-laden smoke to penetrate all the way through before the meat becomes so warm that the smokering reaction stops. In the Brinkmann, the inside of the meat is already grey by the time the smoke has penetrated 3/8".

Another experiment which could be a final proof would be to treat a brisket with TQ as above, then slow-roast it on a rack in a regular oven. Even though it's not BBQ at all, it should have a smoke ring. Might be a waste of a brisket, altho it might be ok as pot roast.
My thought was that if any smoke ring diehards are unconvinced by the three pictures above, you could trot out one of a brisket that has a smoke ring, but isn't smoked at all.

Of course, one could take off with Peines's idea and just slather on a bit of Instacure mixed into some KC Masterpiece, toss 'er on the electric grill - it'd have a smoke ring, so it must be real BBQ! Big Grin
Nitrites are just about every where.
You can even get a "smoke ring" in your gas fired oven at home from the gas fumes.
They can even be carried over in a processing plant or butcher shop if the cured meat part of the plant/shop isn't far enough away from the fresh meat section.
Also, cross "contamination" can occur if a small shop doesn,t clean the work area well and goes from making cured product to fresh.
Another source of nitrite is fertilizers used on farms.

My 2

Joe Ames
Wow, interesting thread. This "smoke ring" issue is akin to religion, there are some opinions about it, but I think Smokin' has nailed it down.

The fact that the food you cook in a Cookshack oven is not cooked with wood-fired heat is the reason.

Does that mean that the BBQ is inferior? I don't think so. It means that your BBQ will not feature a smoke ring. It may taste even better than BBQ with a smoke ring, but it dosen't have it.

Smokin' talked about the fact that the Cookshack is a "smoking oven", which is precisely what it is. I had an Oklahoma Joe Vertical Wood Roasting Oven (product name), and that was precisely what that was. The OK Joe was wood fired, you put logs in it. The food came out with a smoke ring.

The OK Joe was also notoriously difficult to keep up to cooking temp, even with massive stokings, and it put waaaayyy too much smoke on the food, mandating foiling. Keeping the cooker in the temp range required constant tending. Constant. You all know that that is a huge pain.

What we have here is an oven, like my wood fired, but this one is electric. Chunks of wood smolder inside, but they do not burn. The smoke lingers with the food, but the wood is not the fuel source. This is an electric smoking oven.

I, for one, am delighted at the idea of putting a brisket in the cooker and letting it cook all day, when I'm at work, and then having some pretty damn fine food when I come home in the evening. That is simply not possible with a wood fired cooker. I'm also very happy with the smoke treatment the food gets, which is very good. My experiences up to date have me very pleased. I don't want to spend the whole day cooking with wood, so I'm willing to live without the smoke ring.

Is the food that comes out of a Cookshack wood fired BBQ? No, not in my opinion. Is the food that comes out of a Brinkman smoker fired with charcoal wood fired BBQ? No, it has a different taste, as well. It will give a smoke ring, but it will give other clues to the fuel that cooked it.

Traditional BBQ is wood fired. I sure like being able to cook a delicious meat product in my Cookshack, and it is BBQ, but it isn't traditional, and that's just how I see it. I do see the value in the trade-off, if it makes any difference.

That's just me, y'all!


P.S. Smokin', the TQ brisket smoke ring just didn't look natural to me. I, for one, prefered the first brisket color.
OK, I�m going to throw a monkey wrench into the nitrite smoke-ring debate.

First, it�s not nitrites that cause the pink smoke ring, it�s actually nitric oxide. Nitrites get converted to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide gets absorbed by myoglobin in the meat. If the meat is cold-cured, such as a country style ham, it will have a deep red color. This deep red color is caused by the nitric oxide myoglobin. When the myoglobin gets heated, aka cooked, it turns pink yielding the beloved smoke-ring.

Given the fact that nitric oxide is a byproduct of combustion, it seems logical to conclude that there are no nitrites or nitrates in smoke. It�s the nitric oxide (NO) gas that�s created by burning wood that causes the smoke-ring.

A fun experiment just came to mind: Since nitric oxide gas is produced by internal combustion engines, a person could create a smoke-ring by running the exhaust of the ol� lawnmower into a box containing a brisket. Theoretically, this will produce a smoke-ring, albeit an inedible one.

Here are a few reference sites that will provide more detail on all this:

While searching, I found an article that talks about nitric oxide and it�s role in the human body. Apparently, nitric oxide is produced and secreted by cells lining the inner wall of blood vessels, causing them to widen thus increasing the flow of blood. Now here�s where it gets good, at least good fodder for BBQ contest bragging, lying, and story telling. During sexual stimulation, nerves in the penis release nitric oxide�[snip]�causing the spongy tissue of the penis to fill with blood and become erect. The article goes on to say that this discovery led to the development of Viagra. So, any bragging lying story telling barbecuer worth his weight in salt would conclude that eating smoked meats is responsible for his�, well let�s call it his stout manliness.

There you go ladies. The next time he wants to Q instead of mow the lawn don�t complain. He�s doing it all for you.
Holy smokes, as it were. I've never heard of such a thing. Viagra que! Come on over to Brinkman and bring your 20lbs of Kingsford and a box of split red oak.

Now, I gather nitrous oxide is another thing, right? Laughing gas. So, you wonder, can you use the two oxides simultaneously to any profitable extent? Intriguing possibilities for the future. Cool
Not a wrench, just hadn't taken it that far, after all the article doesn't come out till later. Thanks for the sources, they're good input.

There are contrary theories, but essentially Nitrites/Nitrates/Nitric Oxide equal smoke ring...not the smoke, that's the point of this experiment.

A smoke ring doesn't equate to good Q., BUT, we'll never convince anyone.

Hi Smokin, et al,

Smokin, I have a suggestion for another aspect of the smoke ring experiment. Try adding the charcoal piece after the meat reaches an internal temp of 140 degrees. You would predict that no smoke ring would be seen since the smoking process is supposedly finished when the meat reaches this temp? Almost like a double-blind crossover effect on the study!

I'm visiting my kids in New Jersey and just checked the forum.

I have used a few small pieces of charcoal along with wood chunks to make a smoke ring on ribs and brisket in my Smokette. It does not take much.

Hey, KG-- what is salt peter? Doesn't it have an effect opposite to Viagra? And, is it used in pickling or smoking at times?
Bobby Que,

I believe Salt Peter is potassium nitrate, and it was used to cure meat just as sodium nitrate is used today. Perhaps Sodium Nitrate is safer and easier to use, hence the switch from Potassium Nitrate. I don�t know, just guessing.

As for Salt Peter�s affect on the human sex drive, I really can�t comment. I have never researched it to determine if it is fact or fiction. However, the article states that Nitric Oxide is the Viagra counterpart, not Nitrates. In large enough quantities, Nitrates and Nitrites are toxic to the human body. For that matter, so is Nitric Oxide.

My uncle was right when he said, �too much of anything is no good for you.�
Saltpetre is indeed, Potassium Nitrate. But, used by itself it does not cure meat. It is what gives the distinctive color. It has to be combined with Nitrite and salt, to cure.
My big bottle of it sitting next to me sez a warning on the label: Warning! Keep Out Of Reach Of Male Children!

So, men who eat Viagra like candy, were essentially raised on cured meats. I think they just need tighter casings! LOL! Eeker
As for Salt Peter’s affect on the human sex drive, I really can’t comment. I have never researched it to determine if it is fact or fiction.

Fact or fiction? Can you believe the 5th Fleet? It was lore throughout the Navy. They said the chefs doused the chow with Salt Peter to keep the crew subdued while confined to that miserable ship.

"How long till we tie up in Naples..."

Are we sure that the smoke ring doesn't have a flavor? Certainly corned beef tastes different than brisket. And ham tastes different than fresh pork roast. Not trying to say you must have a smoke ring to call it BBQ - I don't believe that at all. But, if the smoke ring has a different flavor, then, it could be a point of distinction in the competition BBQ game.

What'cha all think? Confused
I have been intrigued by the smoke ring for a long time and while I don't know that it adds flavor, I like to see it. Love this thread.
Now, let me ask this: Why couldn't one replace a portion of the salt in his/her rub with some TenderQuick, thus eliminate extra saltiness, and obtain a smoke ring routinely?

Would doing this penetrate the fat cap on a packer cut brisket?

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