The bark is also a key visual aspect that impacts how we rate meat. We eat with our eyes first, and great bark can really encourage you to eat.
I know that many people struggle with getting at least satisfying bark which is why I prepared a guide for you where you will learn how to get a good bark when smoking meat.
Contrary to a popular belief, this procedure is not difficult, all you have to do is properly prepare the meat and take good care of it throughout the entire smoking process. The creation of bark is influenced by many significant factors that I will try to discuss below.
But what is Bark ?
Bark is a thicker skin that is formed on meat’s surface. It is a result of perfectly preparing meat in the right temperature and the right conditions over many hours. The bark is influenced by many significant things, such as the amount of fat, rubs, smoke or even the type of wood.
On the technical side, it is a result of complex chemical reactions that take place throughout the entire cooking process. Meat exposed to oxygen and heat produces a thicker layer on the meat’s surface called bark.
Polymerization and the Maillard Reaction are two important terms that play a key role in chemical reactions that cause bark to be formed. During cooking, moisture in the meat and water vapor in the smoke dissolve the water soluble ingredients of rubs. Some of the ingredients, like salt for example, soak into the meat after getting dissolved, whereas the other ingredients of rubs remain on the meat’s surface where they gradually dissolve in fat.
What matters is that everything takes place in the right temperature below 300 degrees F. If the temperature is too low, the bark won’t be formed, whereas if it’s too high, you will burn the meat.
Contrary to a popular belief, table sugar doesn’t result in dark crust getting formed. Table sugar caramelizes when it reaches a temperature of 300 degrees F which can never occur when you cook meat at a temperature of 200-250 degrees F ( which is the perfect temperature for bark to be formed ).
The bark’s color is influenced by smoke, which sticks to dissolved rubs. For example, without smoke bark becomes dark red, whereas with smoke it gets a black color ( making it look like it was burned, but in reality that’s not the case and the flavor is really great ).
How to Get Good Bark
Regardless of what results you get, the information below will help you perfect your technique for getting good bark on the meat’s surface. Follow all of the below guidelines and you will certainly get great results.
Maintain the right temperature – When smoking meat, you have to keep the right fixed temperature, the perfect temperature for getting good bark is the range of 200-250 degrees F. Anything below it will result in bark not getting formed, whereas anything above 300 degrees results in caramelization and causes the surface of the meat to be burned.
Remove the excess fat – Always cut off the excess fat, only leave a little of it as it is needed for the bark to be formed. Too much fat on the top reduces melting to a degree and prevents pellicle on the fat underneath.
Don’t wrap the meat in tinfoil – The steam generated inside the foil can very often have a negative impact on the bark’s formation. I know it can speed up the cooking time, but keeping meat inside tinfoil for too long causes the risk of large amount of steam turning the crispy bark into a soggy mess.
Place the meat directly on the grill’s grates – I understand that many people want to stop the meat from dripping and simply place it on a frying pan. Don’t do this – if you want to successfully stop the dripping, simply place a dripping tray under the meat. That way you will get more smoke and convention over the entire surface.
More surface – When possible, cut the meat into two smaller pieces, for example ( if there is a bone, remove it ). That way you will get more surface which will result in a higher bark to meat ratio.
Smoke – Remember that smoke influences the bark’s color. So if you want to get a dark crispy bark, you have to remember about smoking meat for many hours with smoke present. The end result might look like the meat was burned but if you maintain the right temperature I can assure you that the bark will be delicious ( no burned taste of any kind ).
The right Rub – That’s where it all starts actually, experiment by using different rub recipes to discover the ones that suit you the best. As I already mentioned before, certain ingredients of rubs soak into the meat while the others dissolve on the meat’s surface, gradually creating bark.
Getting a good bark on meat is a very valuable skill that allows you not only to increase your meat’s attractiveness but also its flavor. Of course such skill requires practicing and plenty of time to perfect it.
I hope that all of my information above helped you understand what bark is and what steps to fulfill to get it or perfect it. If you have any valuable advice or questions then I invite your to a discussion.
BBQ and grilling are my biggest passions.