Weekend barbecues are always something to look forward to. But if you’re the one in charge behind the grill, there’s pressure to meet the expectation of your friends and family. From the aroma of the meat, the delicious smoky taste, and, of course, the beautiful bark – everything should be perfect.
If you’re a barbecue enthusiast, getting the right flavors might be easy. But getting that bark to the proper texture can be pretty challenging. And if you’re one of those people who can’t seem to get a consistent good bark on your meat, then this article is for you.
We’re going to present some tricks that will surely help you get a good bark on one of the most delicious pieces of meat – brisket. And if you can get this right, you’ll surely be able to get a good bark on any meat as well.
In this article, we’ll be discussing:
- What is a bark
- How to prep a brisket
- Factors that might impact your brisket
What Is Brisket Bark?
So, what bark, and why is it necessary that your brisket has one?
If you look at a tree bark, what would you usually observe? It’s hard, right? And it is what encloses the inner part of a tree.
The bark of a brisket is almost like this. It’s a hard crust that encases your meat, only that it’s edible and tastier. And it’s not made by burning the surface of your meat. It involves the rubbed spices in your meat, the smoke, and your meat’s protein.
Remember this: A good bark should look glossy.
You’re not drying your meat out, and you’re definitely not burning it. If any of the latter happens, it means that you didn’t form the bark right. The meat should still be juicy inside, despite being enclosed in a hard crust.
Prepping A Brisket
To ensure that you get a beautiful bark on your brisket, you need to prepare it the right way.
Everything starts with the right cut of meat. The more surface area there is, the more you can coat it, and the more bark you can form. This is why brisket is the best type of meat to choose if you want to create bark. But if you don’t have brisket, you can also use ribs or any flat and wide meat.
Next, make sure that you trim any excess fat from your brisket. This way, you can minimize the moisture coming out from your meat which may prevent bark formation.
After your meat is ready, prepare your dry rub, and it’s important that you use a sugar-based rub. This is what helps form the bark, and because it melts slowly because you’re slow-cooking, the flavor also intensifies. Just make sure that you balance the flavor.
Lastly, prevent using trays. If you put your meat on a tray, it will stop the juices from hitting the bottom of your smoker, which can evaporate and enhance the flavor of your brisket. Trays also prevent bark formation.
You can also use a drip pan, but make sure to place it far below the meat.
The Secret Is In The Rub
The secret to a good bark formation is always in the rub. This is because how you balance those flavors will help make the meat more delicious and the bark to form.
As you start the smoking process, the moisture from the meat comes out, and the water vapor coming from the smoke helps dissolve the ingredients on the rub. The salt ingredient there will most likely dissolve and enter your meat to help form the smoke ring.
As for the other ingredients, these will just slowly melt and stay on top of your meat to create the bark. This is why it’s important to also have a sugar-based dry rub.
Because you’re cooking low and slow, the sugar won’t be caramelized. Instead, they will stay on the surface to combine with the fats and further intensify the flavor of the meat. As you continue the smoking process, the dissolved rub will help change the color of the meat until it becomes dark and rich, slowly becoming a bark.
As the process continues, all the moisture from the surface evaporates, and eventually, the rub becomes dry, creating that bark.
So, having a really good and balanced rub is crucial. You can experiment as much as you want until you come up with the perfect combination. Do note, however, that different rubs will give you different colored barks.
Here’s a good mix that you can try if you’re just starting out:
- Ground black pepper
- White sugar
- Onion powder
- Mustard powder
- Garlic powder
- Chili powder
- Cayenne powder
Remember to rub your meat with the sugar base first, and then try a mix of fresh spices (you can follow the recipe or create your own). If your meat has already been pre-salted, then no need to add more salt.
What Will Impact the Bark On Your Brisket
Aside from the rub, there are few more things that will impact the bark formation on your brisket, and we’ll discuss each of them below.
Smoke is a key factor because it is what will help give your bark that dark color. The longer you expose the meat to smoke, the darker it will become because, ultimately, more smoke combines with the melted rub.
You need to have a really good temperature control to get the best bark formation. If your temperature is too low, no bark will form, but if it’s too high, you might risk burning your meat. To prevent this from happening, make sure to stay within the 225-250 °F range.
We all want to get juicy meat. But the more fat your brisket has, the harder it is to get a really good bark. That’s why we advised you to trim excess fat in the first place.
However, you need to be very careful not to trim off any more than you should. Fat is still necessary because it dissolves the rub that stays on the surface of the meat.
Moisture is also very crucial in the making of the bark as it helps dissolve your rub and spices. But you need to remember that the moisture in the meat and the smoke is already enough. There’s no need for you to add more as this might only prevent bark formation.
Getting a good bark on your brisket is not as hard as you think as long as you remember the following:
- The secret is in the rub, so make sure you have a good recipe
- You need sugar for perfect bark formation
- Trim excess fat
- Control temperature well
- Don’t use pan
And that’s mainly it! With the right rub, proper temperature and smoke control, and enough fat and moisture content, you can now perfect the bark on every meat you cook.