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Why is smoked meat pink ?

Monday, 9 April 2012 17:19 by nico

Everyone which is into barbecue knows about the famous “smoke ring” that develops on the edge of smoked meat.

Being the son of a former chemistry teacher, I’ve always asked myself how this pink ring is being formed… And I’ve just came across the answer in Harold McGee’s “On Food And Cooking”, a kitchen classic.

Meat cooked over wood, charcoal, or gas flames – barbecued pork or beef, for example, or even poultry cooking in a gas oven – often develop “pink ring”, which reaches from the surface to a depth of 8-10 mm. This is caused by nitrogen dioxide (NO2) gas, which is generated in trace amounts (parts per million) by the burning of these organic fuels. It appears that NO2 dissolves at the meat surface to form nitrous acid (HNO2), which diffuses into the muscle tissue and is converted to nitric oxide (NO). NO in turn reacts with myoglobin (responsible for making meat red) to form a stable pink molecule, like the molecule found in nitrite-cured meats.

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