How to Get Good Bark when Smoking Meat (Crispy, Chewy, and Caramelized Meaty Goodness)

Getting that delicious bark on your meat is the holy grail! Getting good BBQ bark isn’t an easy task, a lot of people struggle to achieve this.

But by no means is it impossible to learn how to get some beautiful bark on your smoked meat, so don’t let the struggle discourage you in this cooking process.

So, if your brisket has no bark read on to learn how to get a nice crusty bark on your beef brisket every time.

What Does the ‘Bark’ Refer To?

The crusty goodness that forms on meat when it is smoked in a charcoal grill, gas grill, or pellet grill is referred to as ‘bark’.

The bark is delicous and safe to eat. During the smoking process, the proteins on the surface of the meat undergo complex chemical reactions.

These chemical reactions or chemical processes are what help initiate the bark formation process. This, along with awesome spice rubs and smoke particles, from a charcoal or wood smoker, results in a delicious layer of bark.

How Do You Make Sure That Your Meat Has Good Bark?

Heat and oxygen are the two most important factors in the formation of bark.

Both the spice rub and the meat must be exposed to both of these elements. Heat allows moisture to escape from the meat. It will also allow the spice rub to form a paste.

This is what makes it eventually turn into something resembling a nice spice crust.

Temperature is Critical for Bark Formation

Temperature is another important factor in the development of good smoked brisket bark.

You must have the proper temperature.

It’s kind of like the porridge Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It can’t be too hot or too cold. In this case, the internal temperature of the smoker or grill cannot be too high or too low. The temperature range has to be perfect.

If your smoker or grill doesn’t even have an adequate temperature, then the layer of bark won’t form at all.

If the smoking temperature is too high, it will simply burn.

This is because too much heat will burn the surface of the meat as well as the caramelized sugar from the spice rub.

And you’ll be left with something that tastes like burnt toast, which is something that no one wants.

Temperature control is so important when it comes to the formation of good bark.

So, don’t underestimate this factor. You should aim for the optimum cooking temperature of 250°F.

Don’t Forget Your Spice Rub

The spice rub is the final important factor in producing the perfect bark.

There are so many variations of meat rubs that can be used to produce nice crusty bark.

However, the foundation of a good meat rub can be simplified to these simple ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Brown sugar
  • Cayenne powder
  • Garlic powder

(We find that this combination of ingredients never fails to produce tasty results. Seriously, we can’t help but summarize it as being ‘mouthwatering meat heaven’!)

Just toss all of these ingredients in a bowl and mix it nicely.

Then rub it across the entirety of your meat surface.

Once there’s a nice solid layer of rub on whatever type of meat you’re using, you’re good to go. 

What Effect Does Smoke Have On the Development of Bark?

Have you ever wondered what the smoke does then? The smoke is responsible for giving the bark that nice black matte color.

It also imparts a distinct smoke flavor to the meat. Which we can all admit that we find irresistibly tasty. It doesn’t matter what kind of smoker you use as long as you provide smoke to the meat.

But did you know that even if you lack the smoke element, you can still produce some decently nice bark? However, you should be aware that it will not have that smoky flavor. And it will appear red because there will be no smoke to produce black bark.

Water Vapor Is Your Worst Enemy

Have you ever heard of a ‘Texas Crutch? It involves wrapping your meat in the foil. This is one of the best cooking methods that are perfect for getting over the dreaded infamous meat stall during a smoking session.

This involves taking your piece of meat off the heat as soon as you notice that its internal meat temperature stops rising in the middle of your cook. After the meat is taken off the heat source, it’s wrapped in aluminum foil and placed back on the hot grill grate. 

While the Texas Crutch method can easily halve your overall cooking time, it doesn’t only trap in all that heat. The aluminum foil will also prevent all that water vapor from evaporating off.

All that additional moisture will stand in the way of the formation of a nice crusty bark layer. That is why you should never wrap your meat in foil or even parchment paper if you’re striving to achieve a good and crispy bark on your meat.

Getting Bark on Smoked Brisket

Getting bark to form your on smoked brisket is the same process as ribs. You just need to ensure you follow the steps above and you’ll be enjoying some delicious meat candy!

Recipe: Smoking Brisket on Pit Boss Pellet Grill

Our Final Tips for Getting Great Bark on Smoked Meat

Lastly, we want to leave you with some of our best tips for the development of truly crispy and tasty bark:

  • Always place your meat directly onto the grates. As we’ve stated before moisture prevents proper bark from forming. So never cook your meat in a pan. You don’t want the meat sitting in its juices or other liquids.

  • You can try cutting your pork or beef into smaller pieces,(like burnt ends). This will increase the meat’s surface area. This means that you’ll be left with more bark. This can be comparable to how the increased surface area of chocolate brownies results in a lot more lovely crackly crust.

  • Avoid shortcuts like wrapping up your meat to decrease the cooking time. Nice bark requires a lot of patience. You need to allow enough time for the meat to cook!

Those are all our tips for how to get good bark when you’re smoking meat!

Remember, the formation of perfect bark takes patience and lots of practice.

So don’t give up just allow enough time, it might mean getting up at 3 am to get your brisket on!

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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