A crispy bark and a nice smoke ring are a sign of a well-smoked brisket. The crusty outer layer of the brisket takes some practice to master, but if you follow a few simple tips, you can get a good bark on your smoked brisket every time. I found everything I could about brisket bark from some world’s best competition barbecue experts.
There are two main ways to develop a bark on the outer layer of a brisket. First, there needs to be a thick layer of rub applied to the meat. Second, avoid wrapping the brisket too early otherwise the bark will soften. Smoking the brisket unwrapped will guarantee a hard bark but the meat may turn out dry. Smoking the brisket without wrapping will guarantee a firm bark, but the meat may lose moisture. If the bark is soft after the resting period, place the brisket back over the heat for ten minutes just before slicing.
Why Is My Brisket Bark Soft?
Steam will cause the bark to soften once the brisket has been wrapped in foil. If you have developed a crusty bark to begin with, then the crust should survive the wrapping phase of the cook and harden with a short stint at high heat just before slicing.
How to Get a Good Bark on Brisket
- Apply a thick layer of rub to the brisket.
- Use a binder such as mustard to hold the rub in place.
- Spritz/mop the brisket every hour to help set the bark.
- Don’t wrap the brisket until it has a firm bark.
- If the bark is soggy after resting, place the brisket back over the heat for 10-minutes to dry out the bark.
- Smoke the brisket unwrapped (this method will guarantee a firm bark but the meat may become dry).
Can You Smoke Brisket Unwrapped?
Smoking brisket unwrapped will produce a hard, crunchy bark, but the meat will not be as juicy as a wrapped brisket. An unwrapped brisket will also take longer to cook because wrapping helps the brisket push through the stall.
Wrapping brisket or the ‘Texas Crutch’ is the most popular method of smoking brisket, however, old school Texan pitmasters don’t foil their brisket. If you choose to smoke the brisket unwrapped, then make sure you get everything else right. Otherwise, it will end up too dry. To give your brisket the best chance, make sure you brine the meat beforehand and inject some extra liquid into the brisket prior to cooking. Also, make sure you have good control over your pit if you’re cooking on a charcoal smoker. Keep the temperature low-and-slow and spritz/mop the meat every hour to keep the meat moist.
Does Butcher Paper Make Better Bark?
A brisket wrapped in butcher paper will produce a better bark than a brisket wrapped in foil. This is because butcher paper allows the brisket to breathe and doesn’t trap as much steam, so the bark won’t soften.
The different wrappings alter the texture of the bark, and this was clear in an experiment conducted by brisket master, Aaron Franklin who smoked three briskets; one wrapped in foil, another wrapped in butcher paper, and he smoked the other brisket unwrapped. The brisket wrapped in butcher paper had a crunchier bark than the foil wrapped brisket.
The only way to find out the difference is to experiment yourself. If you have never used butcher paper, buy the right one. The butcher paper used for brisket is very specific and is free from wax and other products. You can find butcher paper for brisket on Amazon here.
What Makes The Bark on a Brisket?
The hard, crunchy crust on a brisket results from the Maillard reaction, a series of chemical changes that take place on the outer layer of the meat. The meat rub ( a combination of salt, sugar, herbs, spices) also plays a key role in the crust’s formation, because the ingredients in the rub dry, then dissolve in water and fat. If the meat rub contains sugar, caramelization will take place as the sugar burns. All these chemical reactions combine to create the dark mahogany skin-like layer on the brisket that we call bark.
Rub for Brisket Bark
The rub plays an important role in the bark’s formation, so before you smoke a brisket, cover the meat in a thick layer of rub. Most people apply some kind of binder to the meat before adding the rub. Mustard is a popular choice as a binder and is used by many competition pitmasters. Mustard doesn’t influence the flavor of the meat, but works as a glue to bind the rub to the meat. If you choose a sweet rub, the sugar will caramelize and add another layer of complexity to the bark. However, keep in mind that if the sugar burns, it will make your meat taste bitter.
Best Rub for Brisket
If you asked ten pitmasters to name their favorite brisket rub, you’ll probably get ten different answers. Favorite rub discussions are like asking people what their favorite wood flavor; there’s no right or wrong answer. The only way to discover your preference is to experiment. If you don’t know where to begin, there are several brisket rubs on the market that work brilliantly with brisket.
Legendary pitmaster Malcolm Reed produces several rubs, and his TX Brisket Rub has an authentic Texan flavor. Malcom’s brisket rub contains salt, spices, garlic, onion powder. However, the rub and a small percentage of anti-caking agents and soybean oils.
Sugary Brisket Rubs
Some pitmasters believe sugar content is an important ingredient for brisket rubs, which is missing from many Texas rubs. Turbinado sugar is a popular choice in the meat smoking community because it can withstand heat and not burn. Burned sugar will make your brisket taste bitter, which is why some people avoid using it as an ingredient for their rub.
If the rub recipe calls for sugar, use turbinado sugar because it can withstand heat and won’t burn like brown or white sugar. Turbinado sugar is a raw brown sugar that isn’t as refined as other sugars.
Make Your Own Brisket Rub
A homemade brisket rub using fresh ingredients is the best way to have control over all your quantities. Also, if you don’t like products with additives, making your own is the way to go, and it’s not as complicated as it seems. Most rubs that you buy in store or online will have anti-caking agents and other additives. Making your own rub is the best way to control the salt and sugar content within the rub. Most people dry brine with kosher salt beforehand, so a rub high is salt can mess with your calculations. Find a simple homemade brisket rub recipe and then make one change at a time.
Famous brisket master Aaron Franklin keeps it simple when applying rub to his brisket and uses a 1:1 ratio of kosher salt and black pepper. Aaron believes in allowing the smoke and natural meat flavors to do their work.
A basic brisket rub can be made with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. For the seasoning, many pitmasters use Montreal Steak Seasoning. Again, it all depends on your taste and whether or not you like sweet or spicy flavours.
The Best Salt For Brisket Rub
When choosing salt, kosher salt is the preferred salt of most pitmasters and chefs. Kosher salt has larger grains than other salts and because it contains anti-caking agents, it won’t stick together. Mortons is the most popular brand of kosher salt and it can be found in most grocery stores. Diamond Crystal is another popular choice of kosher salt and is a best seller on Amazon. Check the latest price here.
Bark on Brisket in the Oven
Some people like to finish their brisket in the oven to harden the bark just before slicing. When wrapping brisket in foil, the bark often goes mushy so to avoid this, many pitmasters return the meat to the smoker for 10-minutes for harden the bark. However, if you are using a charcoal smoker, often the fire has gone out while the brisket was in its holding/resting phase which can last for up to 4-hours. Pre-heat a conventional kitchen oven and crank the heat as high as it will go and then place the brisket inside for a short stink. Be very careful not to leave the brisket in for too long. The idea is to lose the soggy crust and help it dry a little just before slicing.
Bark on Brisket Electric Smoker
If you’re smoking a brisket in an electric smoker, finish the brisket in the oven to harden the bark. The disadvantage of using an electric smoker is the temperature will only go so far. For this reason, it’s difficult to get a crispy chicken skin or a firm brisket bark. The way around this problem is to place the brisket in the oven unwrapped for 10-minutes just before slicing.
Here are smoke of my favorite meat smoking tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking meat that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Remote Digital Thermometer: If you’re looking for your first thermometer, I highly recommended the ThermoPro TP20. This was my first thermometer, and I still use it to this day. For around $50, you get a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes so you can track the temperature of your pit with one probe and your meat with the other probe. The TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings. See the latest price on Amazon here.
Instant-Read Thermometer: I use the TP19 by ThermoPro, a more affordable version of the famous ThermoPen. The TP19 can do everything the ThermoPen can do, except for a fraction of the price. If you can afford the ThermoPen, then go for it. I think it’s worth every cent. But if you don’t want to fork out $100 for a thermometer, then check out the TP19. Check it out on Amazon here.
Pink Butcher Paper: If you haven’t tried wrapping your brisket in butcher paper, you should definitely try it out. Foiling is perfectly fine, but butcher paper is much kinder on the bark. You can’t use any old paper when wrapping meat, it has to be non-waxed peach paper. There are a few products available on Amazon, but I recommend this butcher paper. Check it out on Amazon here.