What is Brisket Bark? How to Get it Right

Brisket bark is the perfect finish to any smoked beef. Learn the meat science behind it and how to develop the perfect bark on your next barbecue smoked brisket.

what is brisket bark

Barbecue is about texture just as much as it is about taste. A sharp, crunchy mouthfeel completes the rich smoky tastes from any cut of meat. The best way to get this texture is by developing a bark on your meat.

What factors make this jerky-like meat rind? Find out everything you need to know with our brisket bark guide.

What is bark?

Think about what tree bark looks like. Then picture that, but on meat, and with a lot more flavor. Bark on smoked meat is the tough exterior created outside of the meat that rubs on spices and marinades. It is a combination of rubs and spices and the smoke-infused, which is why the taste depends on what you use, including the type of wood you use.

Bark on brisket can look like it is burnt. But it serves as a flavorful casing for the tender meat on the inside. Technically speaking, the bark is made through the polymerization and the Maillard Reaction processes. During these processes, the food’s protein is broken down and mixes with the meat’s natural sugars. The smoke brings this on to create a smoke ring in the meat.

The evaporation process and smoke will cause the rubbing ingredients to melt and form the bark. Take a good look at your brisket and look for the pellicle membrane. It is the best place for the bark to form. If there is a lot of fat, it can prevent pellicle from forming. Also, it does not dissolve. Pellicle will form as you continue to cook.

smoked brisket on chopping board with dark bark on top

Factors that can affect the bark

Getting the perfect bark may not be as easy as it seems. There are certain factors that will determine how well the bark forms.

Dry rub

The rub that you use plays an essential role in getting a good bark on your brisket. The bark is a result of chemical reactions happening in the smoker, with the dry rub ingredients. The bark is a result of a combination of factors, most significantly, the dry rub. The rub will specify the flavors of the bark.

The ingredients in the dry rub play a part in the formation of bark. The different ingredients in the dry rub, water-soluble, will dissolve in the brisket moisture or smoke. The ingredients that are not soluble remain on the skin, and they form a glaze on the skin, which gives you a rich color.

The ingredients in the rub that are fat-soluble will dissolve as the meat continues to cook.

Smoke

The smoke imparts a particular flavor. As such, you need to be deliberate about the wood chips. They bring their flavor to the party. So go for wood that can impart the right flavor for your brisket. Smoke does more than impart flavor. It also adds to the flavor of the bark. However, don’t overdo it, or it may look burnt.

Smoking temperature

The right temperature is critical. In the same way that you cannot shoot in the dark with barbeque grilling temperatures, you need a specific temperature to get good brisket bark. It will avoid you ending up with a soggy bark or burning unevenly or to a crisp. You don’t want that. You can set the smoker to 225˚F to 250˚F.

If the temperature is too low, then some of the chemical processes, such as the Maillard reaction, can not kick-off, and hence there will be no bark formation.

Fat content

The amount of fat also plays a role in how the bark turns out. It is about having just the right amount rather than measuring how much you have. It is an essential factor in the formation of the bark. The brisket should not be too fatty because it will upset the balance. It has the possibility of stopping the formation of the pellicle, which is necessary to form the bark.

Fat from the rub will dissolve and add to the bark formation as well. It is crucial to make sure that you leave just enough fat on the meat so that there’s a glaze on it. Trim off any excess fat.

Moisture

Moisture is an integral part of bark building. You don’t need to add anything extra to get it. The moisture from the meat and the smoker will be enough. Be careful not to add too much-basting liquid. Excess moisture can stop the bark from forming nicely.

Tips for getting a good bark

Don’t use foil

Foil is often used as a way to speed up the cooking process. It acts as a heat conductor and insulator. But in the event where you need it to trap heat instead and make the bark soggy. So wrapping the meat up in foil is not a good idea. This method is also known as the Texas Crutch. It is mainly used to tenderize the meat and to speed up cooking. At the same time, faster cooking may be great for bark formation. You don’t want it to be soggy and too tender. The foil will do that.

Trim the fat

Too much fat on your brisket is not a good thing. You will need to trim it. When it is in excess, it stops the pellicle from forming, affecting the bark. When you trim the fat, you get more meat that you can turn into the bark.

Don’t use a pan

Using a pan will shield the meat from the full effect of the smoke. It decreases the airflow around the brisket, which is critical in the cooking process. It is better to allow the smoke to reach the brisket so that the bark forms fully. This way, all the surfaces of the meat are exposed to the smoke and will cook better.

Hold off on the mop

When you spritz or mop your meat, especially within the first two hours of smoking, you will be removing the dry rub, which plays an integral role in creating the bark. Also, you may impede the crust from forming by introducing excess moisture at an early stage. Wait until at least two hours into smoking until you bring out the mop.


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