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How to Get a Good Bark With a Pellet Smoker: Must-Know Tips & Tricks

By Pellet Grill Pros March 01, 2022 0 comments

Smoked meat with a juicy flavor and a delicious bark is the ideal of every pellet grill enthusiast. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to get bark with a pellet smoker.

This post will show you how to consistently get that perfect BBQ bark with a pellet smoker.

What is the Bark You Get from Grilling?

Before going into the tips of how to get bark with a pellet smoker, it’s important to understand what bark is. 

Just like the bark of a tree, a BBQ bark is a thick, dark crust that forms on the outer layer of your meat when smoking meat, ribs, pork butt, or brisket. Bark formation occurs due to several chemical reactions when the outer surface of the meat you’re smoking comes into contact with heat and oxygen.

 

The dark color comes as a result of smoking while the thick tasty bark forms when fats, different spices, and the rubs used to prepare the meat to interact with moisture and heat.

Bark production can also be explained more using the Maillard reaction. When smoking ribs, pork butts, or brisket on a pellet grill, the surface of your meat dries out.

This allows proteins to concentrate and form polymers, resulting in a thick delicious crust emerging on the outer layer of the meat, known as the pellicle. 

How to Get a Good Bark from Grilling with a Pellet Smoker

Here are quick tips and tricks on how to get bark with a pellet smoker when cooking smoked meat.

#1: Make the Right Rub or Seasoning

Making a good rub or seasoning is crucial to getting a great bark from pellet smokers. The quality and quantity of the rub you use when cooking a brisket does not only play a flavor-enhancing role but also go a long way in determining the quality, crustiness, and density of the BBQ bark.

The ingredients for rubs can either be fat- or water-soluble. Water-soluble rubs like sugar and salt will dissolve in the moisture of either the meat or smoke while smoking your meat in a pellet grill. 

 

This means that salt and sugar in your rubs, no matter their quantity, will dissolve and penetrate into the meat and won’t have any direct impact on bark production or its thickness.

However, fat-soluble rubs that do not dissolve in moisture will remain on the surface of the meat to form a glaze. As the meat continues to smoke, the fats will render, dissolving the rubs to form a pellicle. This, together with any spices and herbs that wouldn’t dissolve will dry out and create a spice crust on top of the meat – the bark.

In a nutshell, making a good bark begins with having an abundance of fat-soluble rubs. A rub that is low in water-soluble ingredients is also called a dry rub. If you make the right rubs, a crusty bark will emerge on top of the pellicle and create more smoke flavor.

#2: Grill with the Right Temperature

Grilling with the right temperature is key to creating a finger-licking, sufficiently blackened bark. Most people either set the temperature too low or too high on their pellet grills, which is wrong. 

If you set the temperature too high, a glazed exterior may be formed instead of bark or the meat may become charred and unappealing. If you set the temperature too low, no bark would be formed.

 

As a rule of thumb, a good temperature range to get a good bark when smoking meat with a pellet grill is between 225°F to 235°F (107°C to 113°C). At this temperature, enough moisture would leave the meat through evaporation and the rubs would dry out, triggering the aforementioned Maillard reaction. 

This is also the temperature that produces a smoke ring that is enough to form thick delicious bark on the meat you cook on your pellet grills.

#3: Remove Excess Fat

Just because fat plays a crucial role in creating bark doesn’t mean there should be too much. You need to balance the fat content when it comes to creating a good, desirable bark while cooking.

Too much fat would prevent the proteins in the outer surface of the brisket you’re smoking from making the necessary contact with heat and oxygen. This in turn prevents the pellicle from forming properly.

To prevent this, simply leave just enough for rendering and holding of the spices, dissolved sugar, and salt. 

#4: Avoid Too Much Moisture/Spritzing

Another way how to get bark with a pellet smoker is to minimize spritzing your meat. Contrary to popular belief, basting or spritzing your brisket now and then is not ideal if you want to produce a thick bark with a delicious taste using a pellet smoker.

While moisture is required to dissolve the water-soluble ingredients of your rub, the natural moisture of either the meat or smoke is enough to handle this.

 

Too much basting or spritzing will prevent the meat’s surface from drying out for the Maillard reaction to occur while you cook.

#5: Don’t Wrap the Meat

Another thing you shouldn’t do while you cook or smoke your food is to wrap the meat. You may be tempted to place your meat in a foil to either speed up the cooking process or keep it warm. However, the steam that will be formed inside the foil will subsequently dissolve the thick bark, making the crust soft and mushy.

If you want to wrap your brisket in a foil, do so after the bark has formed, or use a peach butcher paper in place of a foil to prevent steam accumulation.

#6: Use the Right Wood Pellet

If you want to get a nice bark with a pellet smoker, consider using nut wood pellets this time. Though you may have your favorite wood chips to smoke on a grill, nut wood, such as hickory, oak, pecan, and mesquite [1], is better because it tends to release more smoke needed to form a good bark.

#7: Maintain Air Circulation

Another thing you must do to produce a good bark with a pellet smoker is to maintain good air circulation. Placing the meat in a tray or pan while you smoke the meat will reduce the airflow. 

Instead of using a tray, simply place your meat directly on the grate of the pellet grill. You can add a drip pan beneath the grate to catch drips and juices.

FAQ

1. Why am I not getting a bark on my brisket?

You’re not getting a bark on your brisket because you’re either not using the right meat with the right amount of fat, using too many water-soluble ingredients in your rub, or not maintaining a consistent temperature.

An ideal rub for bark formation should have less water-soluble ingredients and more fat-soluble ingredients. The ideal temperature range to use is between 225°F to 235°F (107°C to 113°C). Excessive basting/spritzing can also prevent bark formation on your brisket. Finally, if you place your brisket in foil while smoking, you may not get a bark.

2. How do you get the bark on a brisket in a pellet smoker?

You get the bark on a brisket in a pellet smoker by using the right rub or seasoning, using the right temperature, avoiding too much spritzing, not wrapping the meat, using the right wood pellet, and maintaining air circulation.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be a grilling expert to learn how to get bark with a pellet smoker. The simple tips we have, such as getting the right rubs, setting the right temperatures, and reducing the moisture in your meat can get you that dark bark you’re looking for.


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