A crispy bark is one of the best features of the smoked brisket. Bark is a combination of rub, dehydrated meat and fat. The bark is formed through a series of chemical changes that take place on the outer layer of the meat called the Maillard reaction. 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.
This brisket injection marinade is the secret used in competitions and made by a World Barbecue champion.
1. Apply a Thick Layer of Rub to the Brisket
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. The meat rub ( a combination of salt, sugar, herbs, spices) plays a key role in the crust’s formation. As the meat cooks, the ingredients in the rub will dry out and dissolve in water and fat on the surface of the meat. 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.
The best brisket rubs on the market are Killer Hogs, Slap Yo Daddy, Meat Church and Butcher BBQ. You can’t go wrong with any of these pre-made rubs because they are produced by the champion pitmasters themselves. 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.My go-to rub is made by legendary pitmaster Malcolm Reed, who produces several rubs under the brand name Killer Hogs. The TX Brisket Rub has an authentic Texan flavor and contains salt, spices, garlic, onion powder. However, the rub and a small percentage of anti-caking agents and soybean oils. For more information on brisket rubs, check out my Brisket Rub Guide where I review the best pre-made dry rubs on the market, and give you all the best homemade rub recipes used by champion pitmasters.
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2. Leave the Brisket Alone For The First 3 to 4 hours
For the first 3-4 hours of the cook, leave the brisket alone. This first phase is crucial for bark development. You don’t need to spritz or mop the meat during this time, just give the meat time to absorb the smoke and form a crust. After about 3 to 4 hours, begin spritzing every hour to keep the brisket moist. If you spritz too early, the rub will run off the meat, so timing is everything.
3. Don’t Wrap the Brisket Until the Bark is Firm
Make sure you have developed a crusty bark before wrapping the brisket. Steam will cause the bark to soften once the brisket has been wrapped in foil. So if you haven’t developed a crusty bark to begin with, the crust won’t survive the wrapping phase of the cook. Some people wrap once the meat has reached an internal temperature of 150°F or 160°F, but it’s more important to go by the feel and look of the bark rather than temperature.
4. Use Butcher Paper Instead of Aluminium Foil
A brisket wrapped in butcher paper will produce a better bark than a brisket wrapped in foil. 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.
Different Butcher Papers For Smoking Meat
|Bryco Goods||175 Ft||18”||19.5 k+ Plus Reviews (Amazon Bestseller)||$16||Amazon|
|Bryco Goods||175 Ft||24”||7k plus Amazon reviews||$22||Amazon|
|Meat Hugger||175 Ft||17.25”||11.5k plus Amazon reviews||$20||Amazon|
|Reynolds||225 sq. Ft||20”||4.6k plus Amazon reviews||$30||Amazon|
|ABCO||1000ft||24”||Used at Franklin’s and Kreuz||Check||ABCO Paper|
|DIY Crew||200ft||24”||2k plus Amazon reviews||$25||Amazon|
|Reli||350 ft||18”||200 plus Amazon reviews||Check||Amazon|
|Tenderlicious||175ft||24”||8k plus Amazon reviews||$25||Amazon|
|YRYM||175 ft||18”||1300 plus Amazon reviews (Amazon Choice)||$15||Amazon|
5. Try An Unwrapped ‘Naked’ Brisket
Wrapping brisket or the ‘Texas Crutch’ is the most popular method of smoking brisket, however, many old school Texan pitmasters don’t foil their brisket. An unwrapped smoked brisket will produce a hard, crunchy bark, but the meat will not be as moist and juicy as a wrapped brisket. An unwrapped brisket will also take longer to cook because wrapping helps the brisket push through the stall.
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.
6. Return the Brisket To The Heat Before Slicing
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 increase 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.
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7. Spritz the Brisket to Help Set the Bark
Spritzing the brisket during the first stage of the cook is an important step in bark formation. The added moisture will help the rub fuse to the meat, forming the bark. Spraying liquid onto the brisket will also attract more smoke-which means more flavor. Be careful not to spritz too early, otherwise the rub will run off the meat and make the bark patchy. Bark formation is only one of the reasons we spritz brisket, but the main benefit of wetting meat during smoking is to slow down the cooking and keep the roast nice and moist.
8. Use A Sugary Rub to Caramelize the Bark
If you choose a sweet rub, the sugar will caramelize and add another layer of complexity to the bark. Some pitmasters believe sugar content is an important ingredient for brisket rubs, because sugar helps with the browning. However, keep in mind that if the sugar burns, it will make your meat taste bitter.
Turbinado sugar is a raw brown sugar that isn’t as refined as other sugars, and is the best sugar for rubs.Turbinado sugar can withstand heat and not burn, which makes it the best sugar for smoked brisket. Burned sugar will make your brisket taste bitter, which is why some people avoid using it as an ingredient for their rub.
9. Use a Binder to Avoid Patchy Bark
Most people apply some kind of binder to the brisket before adding the rub. A binder, or slather, helps the rub stick to the meat and avoid patchy bark. Mustard and olive oils are popular choices among many competition pitmasters. Mustard doesn’t influence the flavor of the meat, but works as a glue to bind the rub to the meat. Check out my article: Should I Slather Brisket?
How To 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. To learn how to make your own brisket rub, check out my article containing Homemade Championship Brisket Recipes.
- - ½ Cup Paprika
- - ½ Cup Salt
- - ½ Cup Sugar
- - ½ Cup Granulated Garlic
- - ¼ Cup Granulated Onion
- - ¼ Cup Chili
- - ¼ Cup Cumin
- - 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
- - 2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
- - 1 Tablespoon Cayenne Pepper
- Combine all the spices together in a large mixing bowl
- Store rub in rub shakers
How To Make Aaron Franklin‘s Texas-Style Brisket Rub
Famous brisket master Aaron Franklin keeps it simple when applying rub to his brisket and uses a 1:1 ratio of kosher salt and 16-mesh cafe grind black pepper, and paprika for color. Aaron believes in allowing the smoke and natural meat flavors to do their work, rather than relying on the seasoning. For more information about the black pepper used in Texas rubs, you might be interested in Best Pepper For Brisket- How To Make Texas Rub.
Pre-Made Brisket Rub Comparison
|Dry Rub||MSG||Size||Description||Ingredients||Price||Where To Buy|
|Killer Hogs||Yes||12 Oz||Championship winning rub made by Malcolm Reed, the guy with the number 1 barbecue YouTube channel ‘How To BBQ Right’.||Brown sugar, sugar, paprika, salt, spices, dehydrated garlic, oleoresin paprika, dehydrated orange peel, natural flavor, and less than 2% tricalcium phosphate added to prevent caking||$20||Amazon|
|Slap Yo Daddy All Purpose Rub||No||12 Oz||Multiple barbecue world champion Harry Soo now shares his competition-winning secrets with his line of barbecue rubs.||Sea salt, cane sugar, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, chipotle powder, black pepper, rosemary, cayenne pepper, rice concentrate, spices, parsley flakes, natural flavors||$20||Amazon|
|Meat Church||No||14 Oz||Well respected name in barbecue. Southwestern style rub. Versatile, works on beef, chicken, pork and seafood. Adds great color to your meat.||Sugar, salt, spices including paprika, dextrose, dehydrated garlic, celery, silicone dioxide & spice extractives. Gluten free. No MSG.||$15||Amazon|
|Butcher BBQ||No||16 Oz||Works on great on beef, pork, chicken, wild game, and vegetables. Championship winning formula made by David Bouska, World BBQ Champion and featured on TV show Barbecue Pitmasters.||Sugar, salt, garlic, onion, spices, lemon powder, corn syrup solids, natural flavors and BHA as an antioxidant||$20||Amazon|
|Kosmos Killer Bee Honey Rub||13 Oz||Award winning rub. Sweet, savory rub. Works well on brisket, chicken and pork.||Sugar, Salt, Honey Powder (Refined Syrup, Honey), Spices Including Paprika, Dextrose, Dehydrated Garlic, Celery, No Greater Than 2% Silicon Dioxide To Prevent Caking, And Extractive of Paprika||$16||Amazon|
|Killer Hogs Texas Brisket Rub||Yes||16 oz||Award-winning Championship brisket rub made by barbecue guru Malcolm Reed.||Salt, spices, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, dehydrated parsley, refined soybean oil, and less than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking||$20||Amazon|
|McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning||No||29 oz||Made with all natural herbs and spices. Very popular seasoning from a well-known brand.||Garlic, extractives of paprika, and coarsely ground pepper.||$20||Amazon|
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.
Can You Get Brisket Bark on an 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 as high as 275°F. 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.
My Favorite Brisket 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 brisket 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.
Meat Injector: Injecting meat is a great way to take your barbecue to the next level and help you make competition-style brisket. An injector is the only way you will be able to get flavor and moisture into the middle of the meat. The Beast Injector is a stainless steel injector that is sturdy and affordable. Check the latest price on Amazon here.
Brisket Marinade: The best injection solution on the market is the Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection. This marinade is used in competitions and is made by World Barbecue Champion pitmaster, Dave Bouska. You can find the marinade on Amazon here.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Brisket Rub: These days I make my own rub when possible, but I always have a few pre-made rubs for when I’m running low. Barbecue guru Malcom Reed produces Killer Hogs, one of the best brisket rubs I’ve found over the years. Another great rub is Slap Yo Daddy, made by brisket master and multiple World Barbecue Champion, Harry Soo.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro 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.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBooard website here.
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