The Dark Side Of Food Smoking: How To Avoid The Deadly Smoke Ring

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Last updatedLast updated: April 30, 2021
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If you have ever bought smoked food before or watched a cooking show with a chef smoking food, you’ve probably heard them bragging about the perfect smoke ring. Traditionally, these smoke rings are often a sign of great taste and flavor and are usually taken as meat that is well cooked.

Whenever you throw a backyard party at your house, you would want to use your food smoker to have perfect smoked food available for your family or friends. Great smoked meat should entice three of your senses – smell, sight, and taste. Let’s be honest; we all have people who act as judges, who pass comments while eating food. But most of them don’t realize that smoke rings are caused by a chemical reaction and are not always something that represents great cooking skills.

The Dark Side Of Food Smoking: How To Avoid The Deadly Smoke Ring

The Deadly Smoke Ring

Many people, when they start smoking food are obsessed with those smoke rings, but have you ever given a thought about how are they produced, and what type of chemical reaction goes into this process?

Our muscles need oxygen and various other compounds to power themselves. A protein, namely hemoglobin, present in our red blood cells, carries oxygen from the lungs to different parts of the body as well as to our muscles. Muscles contain a protein called Myoglobin, which stores the oxygen supplied by hemoglobin. Myoglobin acts as oxygen storage and is responsible for releasing it when needed.

When an animal is slaughtered, hemoglobin is drained, but most of the myoglobin water, known as myowater, remains trapped in muscle fibers. The myowater gives moisture and pink color to the meat and accounts for about 75% of its weight. When cooked over wood or charcoal, the myowater reacts with different gases, particularly nitrogen dioxide. The gas dissolves in the meat and forms nitric oxide causing it to turn pink. Some muscles have a higher amount of myoglobin than others, making them pinker.

The Dark Side Of Food Smoking: How To Avoid The Deadly Smoke Ring

Why you do NOT want to have a smoke ring on your food

Smoke rings look cool and tell you how well you have cooked the meat. But honestly, it doesn’t bring any flavor to smoke foods. Instead, smoke rings signify the high amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) that you and your family are consuming. Ingesting nitrogen dioxide in large amounts is harmful and can cause health problems in the long run.

Check out Bradley’s comprehensive guide on why you don’t want a smoke ring on your food. It’ll blow your mind!

When you grill with wood, gas, or charcoal in the open air this isn’t a problem because the NO2 is naturally released in the process and doesn’t set into your meat. However, for food smoking, this is a different story. When wood, charcoal, and other fuel sources turn to ash, they release the NO2 along with other chemicals that are absorbed in the meat. This gives the meat a foul taste and isn’t good for you or your family to ingest.

To solve this problem, we created the Bradley Bisquettes. Our bisquettes are specially designed to give you the right amount of smoke and automatically extinguish before they turn to ash so NO2 isn’t released into your smoked food.

How to prevent the smoke ring

There are several ways of preventing the formation of a smoke ring on your meat. One way is to smoking food faster and hotter. When the meat is cooked faster, the nitrogen dioxide cannot penetrate deeply into the meat, preventing it from turning pink. Also, when you cook fast, the muscle proteins break down before the naturally pink myoglobin denatures, preventing it from causing smoke rings.

You might have experienced this phenomenon in braised meat, such as a beef stew, which is cooked for hours in a liquid at low temps yet is far from being pink from the inside. However, this is less than ideal when you want tender and juicy smoked meat.

The Dark Side Of Food Smoking: How To Avoid The Deadly Smoke Ring

How to get the best smoke flavor without the ring

Well, you read that, right! You can still get an amazing flavor for your smoked foods as NO2 can give your meat a foul taste and isn’t healthy for you. The Bradley smoker and Bradley bisquettes are specially designed to give you great smoke flavor every time without the NO2.

What’s our secret? Our competitors’ food smokers use wood pellets that lack a consistent density which causes them to vary significantly in the amount of heat they give off, the amount of smoke, and critically they burn down to ash which releases the NO2. Instead, we make our bisquettes out of hardwood sawdust and then use a secret process to compress them down so you get the right amount of heat and smoke every time. Additionally and most importantly, they automatically extinguish before they turn to ash so they don’t release NO2 into your smoked food!


Food smoking is a great way to add amazing flavor to meat, vegetables, nuts, and more. Today, we showed you that you can smoke tender and juicy meat without the toxic smoke ring that many celebrity chefs brag about.

The Bradley Smoker and bisquettes give you healthier and tastier smoke foods that will turn out perfect every time. Check out more of our blog for more Bradley tips and tricks on food smoking to get mouth-watering results.

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