One of the big hesitations of an electric smoker is that the question of getting a proper smoke ring. That’s a big problem. The smoke ring is coveted and an enduring sign of a proper pitmaster.
Yes, you can get a smoke ring with an electric smoker. Smoke rings do not require smoke to form. A smoke ring only needs the presence of nitric oxide to form. Nitric oxide is easy to introduce to meats and a very quick way to get a smoke ring.
Let’s talk about how to make a smoke ring in an electric smoker, or even without smoke.
Forming A Smoke Ring
The smoke ring is the most coveted part of any properly smoked meat. It’s a big letdown when you prepare your meats for hours only to have no ring whatsoever. With that in mind, a smoke ring has no bearing on flavor. The ring is appetizing to the eyes but means nothing in terms of the quality of flavor.
We’re going to talk about what a smoke ring is before we get into how to make one. So let’s get going and learn about smoke rings.
What is a Smoke Ring
A smoke ring forms when nitric oxide interacts with a protein in the meat called myoglobin. This interaction must happen before the temperature reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. After the myoglobin reaches 140 Fahrenheit its structure changes and can no longer interact with nitric oxide.
As the nitric oxide interacts with the myoglobin it makes the red color permanent. This red color is the smoke ring. Since it’s just a chemical reaction, you don’t neccesarily need smoke to make it happen.
So let’s talk about different ways you can get a smoke ring and how you can get a smoke ring with an electric smoker and the different ways you can get a smoke ring without using smoke at all.
How to Form a Smoke Ring
The amazing perks of an electric smoker include their simplicity, low cost, and their convenience, though there is a downside. They don’t produce a lot of smoke. It’s very hard to get a smoke ring with them without prep work on your part. You have to properly prepare your meat in order for it to have a good smoke ring. That means that most of the smoke ring will actually be forming before you even put it in the smoker. The best ways to do this are with a brine and proper seasoning.
The depth of the smoke ring depends on the concentration of the chemicals that prevent the myoglobin from changing color with the heat. The smoke that is in an electric smoker will help, but they just don’t put off the chemicals needed to really achieve the smoke ring.
To increase the number of chemicals present for the reaction to occur you can do a couple of things. The first thing you can do is properly brine your meats before you cook them. The second way to increase the number of chemicals is to add proper spices and seasonings.
How To Use A Brine
Proper brining can greatly increase your smoke ring and take the flavors to the next level. If you brine your meats in saltpeters and seasonings high in nitrate you will increase your smoke ring.
You should brine your meats for two or more hours. After two hours your meat will get a small smoke ring. From here on your smoke ring will only increase in depth. After 5 hours your meats should have a smoke ring that is comparable to that of a smoke ring that appears in meats smoked on wood and pellet smokers.
If you leave your meats in the brine for more than two hours you should place them in the refrigerator while you soak them. Otherwise, you risk spoiling your meats and catching food born illnesses.
After your meats are done in the brine take them out and wash them off. The amount of time they spend in the brine will affect the smoke ring. After you take it out of the water the chemicals will still be doing the work unless you wash them off. Washing it off will also remove ensure that any water impurities don’t stick to your meats.
So long as you do this you will be able to get a smoke ring no matter what. Your meats smoked on the electric smoker will look just as good as anything else.
After you wash them off it is time to add the seasonsing that will form the bark.
Properly Applying NO
The second part of the preparation you need to do in order to bring out your smoke ring is to season it well. If you do this well your smoke ring will look exquisite and make mouths water all around.
A proper bark seasoning will need to include celery seeds. Celery seeds hold a high amount of nitrates. If you put celery seeds in the rub that will become your bark then the nitrates will continue to react with the myoglobin until the meat reaches 140 Fahrenheit.
Simply using celery seed in your seasoning will be enough to ensure a good smoke ring so long as you brine it first. From here on you can add anything you want to your seasonings. If you want to make sure your smoked meats have a nice dark bark you can add a little tiny bit of food-grade charcoal to your seasoning. Because an electric smoker doesn’t give you a lot of smoke your bark may not get a good bark without proper preparation.
I’ve included a video of how to get a smoke ring in an electric oven. Ovens will give you no smoke ring. That means if you can get a smoke ring in an oven then you can get a smoke ring in an electric smoker. With all of this in mind, remember that, yes, you can get a good smoke ring in an electric smoker.