How to Get Bark on a Brisket in an Electric Smoker

Finish a brisket with a perfectly cooked crust. The bark will give your meat the perfect flavor and texture.
Milton Greenaway

A perfectly smoked brisket is easy to spot in by the bark but it takes some know-how to get it just right.

Call it the bark, call it the crust, call it whatever you like but getting that crispy outer layer on a brisket when using an electric smoker is no easy feat. But in a few steps, you can master this skill, and we’re going to look at how.

What is the Bark?

The bark is the crusty outer layer on the top of the brisket. It is made during the smoking process and is formed as a result of the rubbing of spices and the proper wrapping of the brisket. 

During the smoking process, the rub’s spices and salt seep into the meat. This helps create the desirable smoke ring and in turn, fine bark. The smoke combines with the rub on the bark, creating a dark, smokey crust. 

Pick the Perfect Brisket

It all starts with the meat and there are a few tell-tale signs of an ideal brisket for developing that smokey bark.

Firstly, consider the marbling. This is where the fat striations in the meat can be seen, and the more marbling, the better the quality of the meat. Marbling is crucial for creating a juicy brisket.

Next, look for meat that can be moved and bent with ease. If you want a tender brisket, you don’t want meat with too much connective tissue that can make it inflexible.

Then, check the size. Brisket is available in a variety of sizes and should be selected according to how many people you are cooking for whilst considering the size of your smoker. The weight will determine how you cook it.

Have you heard of the point and the flat before? The point is the fatter area of the brisket, and the flat is the lean end. If you find yourself considering a packer cut (a cut where the fat isn’t trimmed and the flat and point are connected), then make sure you find one with a thick flat. 

Otherwise, you will find yourself with a flat end that cooks faster, and you want an even cook for optimal bark.

How to Prepare Brisket to Get Good Bark

The Ideal Cut

Consider the surface area before anything else. This is where you lock in those flavors with scrub and spices on the outer layer of the brisket that turns into that crispy crust so the greater the surfer area, the greater the flavor you can create.

The Fat

Too much fat around the crust can be detrimental. It’s a fine balance, and too much of it can create a crust that is too hard, and sometimes too soft. Hard fat creates too much moisture so it is important to find the right balance. 

If you notice there is a deep layer of fat on top, trim a little to allow the smoke to penetrate the meat. 

Add Dry Rub

A quality dry rub will enhance the smoky flavors of your wood chips. Sugar-based rubs contribute to a tasty smokey flavor that has a little sweetness and is irresistible. Marinate it overnight to give the flavors a chance to seep into the meat. If adding sugar later, wait until the meat browns to avoid burning your crust.

A good technique for adding dry rub is to do it twice. Rub one coating all over, adding a little pressure to help it sink in a little. Then, allow it to moisten for a few minutes before applying another coating. 

How To Smoke a Brisket With Good Bark

Working with an electric smoker can be easy. We all want a finely textured bark, and when you know-how, it’s easy to get it right every time. There are two vital things to remember:

Preheat The Smoker

Before adding your meat, be sure that the smoker has reached and stabilized at the optimal temperature for smoking.

Anything between 200 to 250°F is ideal, or 225°F if you want to stick to the techniques used by the experts. Maintaining this temperature will give your brisket an even distribution of heat, allowing the connective tissue to break down for a tender and juicy brisket. 

Use Dry Wood Chips

Too damp and there will be too much smoke, but dry wood chips can enhance the flavor and help create optimal bark. Wait for clean smoke before you add the brisket. Thin blue smoke is best otherwise, you’ll be getting a bitter smokiness. 

Three of the best flavor wood chips for brisket are mesquite, hickory, and cherrywood. 

Get the Right Temperature

Temperature is key to smoking the perfect brisket and plays a vital role in creating the bark. For prepping bark, go for a temperature between 200 to 250°F. Cook at a temperature that is too high, and you risk burning the bark too much, too low and it won’t have the same texture as the spices will evaporate.

Wrap Properly

Steaming your brisket is crucial for making fine bark. When the brisket reaches an internal temperature of around 165-170°F, you can start to wrap, but not everyone uses this approach.

Use aluminum foil for the original Texas Crutch method and wrap two arm-length pieces over the brisket, wrapping it as tight as you can. Some people prefer to wrap their brisket when it gets to the above temperature, whilst others will wrap when the bark is the color or thickness they are looking for. 

How Do I Get More Bark On My Brisket?

The greater the surface area, the more bark there will be. The shoulder brisket is easy to work with as there is a flat surface and plenty of it. The rub is also important for creating more bark, make sure it covers the entire top layer. 

How Long Does It Take To Make Bark On A Brisket?

Creating the perfect bark requires patience. It can take a large brisket up to 12 hours to darken the bark in an electric smoker.

Final Word

Whilst you may have been disappointed in the past, you now know the route to the perfect brisket crust.

Your smoker will do all the hard work, so be sure to prep it properly, allow plenty of time for your rub to sink in, and keep an eye on the optimal temperature before wrapping that meat for bark that has your taste buds tingling.