Jump Into It (or Read On)
What Is Brisket Bark?
Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest of the animal. Brisket bark is the crusty outer layer of the smoked meat. Every smoker pitmaster aims for the crisp taste sensation of the bark.
How Is Bark Formed In Smoked Meat?
Polymerization is a fancy way of saying that elements react with one another to form another new element. The Maillard Reaction refers to acidic and sweet elements reacting to give flavor to browned food.
A pellicle is a “coating of proteins on the surface of meat…which allows smoke to better adhere the surface of the meat during the smoking process.” It’s like a science experiment. Get the ingredients and the method right and you can’t miss!
The bark process occurs in several steps:
• The soluble elements of the rub are dissolved by the steam produced in the smoking process
• The salt portion of the rub seeps into the meat
• The remainder of the rub stays on the surface of the brisket
• The fats of the meat will combine with the outer rub, causing it to soften
• The smoke will then adhere to the visible rub and will transform it to the classic texture and dark color you’re looking for
What Should Brisket Bark Look Like?
An uncut brisket with a good bark does not look very appealing. It looks like a football that’s been left out in the weather for way too long.
The meat is hiding behind a dark crust that could be black or a woody color, depending on the smoke produced. The more smoke, the darker the color. If there is little or no smoke, the bark will be a dark reddish color.
How Long Does It Take To Get Bark On A Brisket?
The estimate of brisket cook time is about 1 to 1.25 hours per pound of meat, so a 7-pound brisket would take about 7 to 8.75 hours.
When the internal temperature is 190F to 200F, you know your meat is cooked. You can do an initial test by sticking a fork into the meat. If you’re able to twist it, the meat should be done; just make sure to check the internal temperature.
How Do You Get The Best Bark On A Brisket?
The best bark is a result of the effect of the heat and water vapor on the rubs and wood you choose plus the fat in the meat. So all you need to do is follow the steps and it will happen.
How To Guarantee A Good Bark On Brisket
The basics required for a good bark on your brisket:
- A smoker
- A reliable meat thermometer
- Brisket with a thin layer of fat, about ¼ inch
- A binder to help the rub to stick, such as mustard, olive oil, or water
- A rub of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices
- A spray bottle of water or stock to “spritz” your brisket
- Food grade butcher paper, or aluminum foil if you prefer
- A sharp serrated knife
Before The Smoking Session
- When choosing your cut of meat:
- Check out the surface area, the more surface area, the more bark
- If possible, select meat with some good marbling
- Ensure that the meat has a layer of fat
- Choose your wood according to the meat you’re cooking. Experiment with the different flavors; hickory is a good one to try with brisket.
- Ensure your wood chunks or chips are dry.
- Prepare your brisket for smoking at least 2 to 4 hours prior to the session; the night before is even better. Wrap it in cling wrap and store it in the fridge.
- Trim your brisket to remove excess fat. Aim to leave 1/4 inch of fat on the meat. If there is too much fat, the smoke won’t be able to penetrate the meat. If there is too little fat, the moisture required to create the crust will be missing.
- After trimming, apply a binder or “slather” to the meat. This helps the rub to stick. Using a binder will help you to avoid patchy bark. Mustard is a popular binder. You could also use olive oil, mayonnaise, or even water. As long as the rub sticks, the bark will be formed.
- Apply the rub of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices to the meat. Be generous with the amount of rub you use. Rub it in gently and cover the whole surface of the meat, including the underside. We’ve included links to some great rub recipes at the end of the post.
- Remove the brisket from the fridge at least one hour before the smoking session to allow it to get to room temperature.
The Smoking Process
- After you’ve added the wood and water pan to your smoker, allow it to preheat to around 225F. Let it settle at that temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to assist the meat in cooking evenly.
- Watch for smoke. When there is a “clean” smoke, that is a thin blue smoke, the meat can be placed in the smoker.
- Place the meat on the rack. Do not use a pan; the more surface area of the meat feeling the smoke the better. Do you cook brisket fat side up or down? Find out the pros and cons in our article.
- Close the lid or door of the smoker and leave it closed.
- Keep the temperature between 225F and 250F.
- Leave the smoker to do its thing for 3 – 4 hours.
- Check the meat. If the crust has not formed, give it another 30-60 minutes.
- If the crust has formed, give it a spritz of water.
- Spray the meat generously every 30 – 60 minutes with water, stock, or the same liquid that’s in your water pan, for example, apple cider vinegar.
- When the meat has reached about 165F, check the look and feel of the bark. If it’s sufficiently crusty, this is the time to wrap it.
- When the internal temperature of your brisket is between 190F and 203F, it’s cooked.
- Remove your brisket from the smoker.
After The Smoking
- Leave the meat to rest in its wrap until the internal temperature is 170F. Resting is essential for a juicy and tender meat.
- After the resting period, you can put your brisket in the oven at a high temperature for 10 minutes to ensure that it’s firm.
- Slice your brisket and serve!
How Do You Get Dark Bark When Smoking Meat?
There are two ingredients that affect the darkness of the bark: the rub and the smoke.
- Consider a rub recipe that includes brown sugar, cayenne pepper and garlic powder.
- Smoke causes the bark to turn very dark or black. The more smoke, the darker the crust will be. It should’ve gone very dark or black (or mahogany red if there is little smoke) before you wrap it.
How Do I Get More Bark On My Brisket?
The more meat surface showing, the more bark you will achieve. If your brisket is an awkward shape in terms of surface area, you could cut it into two or more pieces through the thickest part to achieve more rub area.
Wrap Your Brisket Or Not?
Everybody in the smoker-sphere has their opinion on whether to wrap your brisket to get bark. And they have their own choice about how they wrap it. Beef brisket wraps come in several forms; we’ll have a look at each of them.
Does Wrapping Brisket Ruin Bark?
It’s not the wrapping that can ruin bark, it’s the when and how of wrapping that will ruin it.
Wrapping your meat too early will result in a soft, even wet bark. Wrapping your meat too late will mean a hard, dry bark.
What Temp To Wrap Brisket?
Wrap your brisket when the internal meat temperature has reached 165F AND the crust has formed.
Give it a bit of a prod with your tongs to test the firmness of the crust.
Does Wrapping Brisket In Foil Ruin Bark?
Some smoking pitmasters swear by using foil to wrap their brisket.
Advantages Of Wrapping In Foil
- You finish the cooking process much quicker because the foil holds the heat and the steam inside with the brisket.
- Because the moisture is held inside, your brisket will be very tender.
Disadvantages Of Wrapping In Foil
- Aluminum foil conducts heat will cook your brisket with a direct heat, which is the opposite of the favored method of smoking brisket.
- The steam is trapped, meaning that the bark will soften.
Does Butcher Paper Help With Bark?
Wrapping your meat in butcher paper ensures that the brisket gets an indirect heat. It ensures that the steam is not trapped with the brisket, causing the bark to soften. The paper “breathes” where foil does not. (Make sure you choose a food-grade butcher paper.)
How To Boat A Brisket
Should wrap brisket in foil or butcher paper? What about both?
This ingenious way of wrapping your brisket makes use of the positives of both butcher paper and aluminum foil.
Or You Could Keep Your Brisket Naked
There is no law to say that you must wrap your brisket. In this video, the former CEO of Masterbuilt shows how it’s done with his highly rated 40-Inch Digital Electric Smoker With Temperature Probe, and there’s no sign of foil or paper anywhere.
Here are the ingredients of John’s Rub:
- ½ cup Paprika
- 4 tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 4 tablespoon Onion Powder
- 2½ tablespoon Dried Oregano
- 2½ tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
How Do You Firm Up Bark On A Brisket?
After resting your wrapped brisket, you can crisp the bark up by unwrapping it and cooking it for 10 minutes at 225F.
Why Is My Brisket Bark Wet?
- Did you wrap your brisket in foil? The extra heat from the foil will release steam and hold it inside the foil with the brisket. This will result in soft or wet bark.
- You may have wrapped your brisket too early. If the bulk of the moisture has not been sweated out in the first stage of smoking, that liquid will be released when the brisket is wrapped. There will be a lot of steam while it’s wrapped and this will cause your bark to be wet.
Why Is My Brisket Not Getting A Bark?
- Was there enough seasoning on the brisket to create the bark? Make sure that the whole brisket is covered with plenty of rub. Using a binder first, such as mustard, will help the rub to stick to the brisket.
- The temperature of the smoker may have been too low; it should be between 225 and 250F.
- Waiting until the crust has formed before wrapping it is essential. If it hasn’t formed at that stage, wrapping will cause the seasoning and any hint of a crust to disintegrate.
Best Dry Rub Recipes For Brisket In Your Electric Smoker
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