There is no denying that the best part of a perfectly smoked brisket is the delicious, blackened, smoky, bark on the exterior of the brisket. A delicious bark is what pellet grill enthusiasts desire to have when they finish each of their smoked briskets or pork butts, but unfortunately most people come up short when first trying to smoke a brisket on a pellet grill.
These tips and explanations of exactly what bark is will help you get that thick, delicious bark you desire on your next smoked pellet grill brisket.
First. What is Bark?
Bark is the thick, dark crust on the outside of your smoked brisket (or pork butt, ribs, etc). Bark is basically the outer parts of the meat that forms when it is exposed to heat and oxygen. Smoke is what causes it to be the dark black color. The more the smoke, the darker the bark. But beware just trying to darken your meat with overexposure to smoke can cause you brisket to taste too smoky. A consistent temperature around 225 degrees (f) is a good temperature to make sure your bark is dark and your brisket isn’t too smoky flavored.
In more technical terms the bark formation is called the mallard reaction. While cooking your meat long term the surface of the meat begins to dry out and the proteins on the meat’s surface bond together and form polymers which create the hard bark layer on the outer surface of your smoked brisket.
Do Rubs Increase The Amount Of Bark On Your Brisket?
The answer to this question is yes and no. Certain ingredients in rubs do help form a thick bark. Specifically ingredients that are not water soluble are the ingredients are the ones that help form that thick, delicious bark. So creating a rub with a large amount of salt and sugar won’t increase your bark, as these are both water soluble ingredients. After these water soluble ingredients seep into your meats the remaining ingredients stay on the surface and help build a thick crust that enhances your bark. So adding spices and the amount of spices in your rub affect how thick your crust is and the thickness of your bark.
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of making your own rub we suggest the following rub that contains plenty of spices and ingredients to form a nice thick bark.
Temperature is one of the main keys to thick bark!
Not only is temperature important to making a moist meat but it is important to making that delicious bark on the outside of your meat. Too high of temperature will dry out the inside of the meat and make a glazed exterior instead of bark, too little temperature will fail to make any bark on the outside of your meat. As a rule of thumb a smoking temperature of 225-235 degrees (f) is a good temperature when smoking your brisket.
Smoke is the other main key to thick bark!
Just as important as temperature is the amount of smoke your pellet grill produces to make thick bark. The longer your meat is exposed to smoke, the darker your bark will be. Pellet grills usually produce the right amount of smoke for bark around 225 degrees (f).
Should you spritz your brisket through the cook?
Spritzing or basting your meat is actually not a good idea if you want to create a thick bark. The meats naturally have enough moisture to break down any water soluble ingredients in your rub. Too much moisture will cause you to not have bark on the outside of your meats.
Fat or No Fat on your Meat?
So too little or too much fat on your brisket can hinder the bark production during a cook. It is advisable to trim the raw brisket so that the fat cap is a consistent thickness across the whole brisket. This allows for more consistent cooking and creates the bark. We try to trim to about 1/4 inch.
A couple more quick tips for creating a good bark:
Some people will tell you to wrap your brisket in foil when it gets to the stall phase (165 degrees) to speed up the cook We don’t recommend this as it will damage the bark and the steam softens the bark and makes it slimy.
If you must spritz, do it after at least 4 hours when the rub forms into a crust. Better yet, don’t spritz at all.
Sit your meat directly on your grill rack, other things will just inhibit the airflow.
Hopefully this article helps you create a great bark on your next pellet grill brisket. If you have any other tips or tricks please leave a comment below so others can learn from your lessons. Till next time, happy pellet grilling!