One of the delights of perfectly barbecued brisket is the smoky, flavorsome crunch of the bark. Barbecue experts can debate the many elements that go into bark creations for hours: they discuss seasoning, the wood, the meat quality, and the temperature, all of which combine with the smoker to make magic. Can you create perfectly smoked bark if you’re oven-baking your brisket?
To create bark on an oven-baked brisket, trim the fat for increased area. Coat the brisket with a dry rub with charcoal and liquid smoke, and rest overnight. Bake the brisket, covered with a foil tent, for six hours. Uncover and bake for two hours to develop the bark. Broil for 15 minutes for crunch.
The bark on a piece of brisket is a dark brown crusty, spicy layer that forms outside the meat during smoking and barbecuing. Most barbecue fans will argue that you need the extended smoking process to create this layer. An oven won’t be able to provide the smokiness, char, and savory flavors. Well, the purists are wrong. Here are 11 steps to get perfectly smoked bark on your oven-baked brisket.
How To Get Perfect Bark On Your Oven-Baked Brisket
If you don’t have a smoker or smoke box, follow these steps to create a brisket with crispy oven-baked bark and succulent inner meat.
Trim The Brisket
The first step in creating bark is trimming the fat and silverskin on your brisket. (Your butcher may do this for you, in which case you begin with a pre-trimmed brisket.)
This step is crucial, as it allows the brisket to cook evenly and absorb the seasoning that makes the bark taste so good.
Although bark can’t form on top of fat, you need to retain a little fat for the spices to dissolve in as a basis for the bark. Fat also infuses the meat with juiciness and flavor.
Hence, a well-trimmed brisket provides the maximum surface area for bark formation while keeping enough fat.
To trim brisket, follow these steps:
- Get out a large cutting board and a sharp paring knife.
- Lay the brisket flat, fat side up.
- Trim off the entire silverskin.
- Use the knife to gently shave off a small layer of fat at a time. This prevents you from cutting off too much fat from the fat cap.
- Remove the fat until you have ¼ inch left on the flat side of the brisket.
Dry Brine With A Salt And Pepper Rub
The basis for the bark is a dry rub containing salt and pepper. This coating has three functions: it seasons the brisket, protects the juicy inner meat, and creates a crisp crust.
You can use the rub as a dry brine if you apply it the day before. This extended rest gives the rub time to penetrate the meat, tenderizing it and imbuing it with rich flavor. Leave the brisket in the refrigerator overnight.
There are as many spice rubs for brisket as stars in the sky, so choose one that you find tasty. A traditional Texan brisket would have mustard and pepper flavors, while other typical rubs for brisket contain:
- Coarse kosher or sea salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Mustard powder
- Chili powder or flakes
- Cayenne pepper
- Brown sugar (Go easy on sugar as it can burn rather than create bark.)
First, coat the rub with mustard, water, ketchup, cooking oil, or mayonnaise to get the rub to stick to your brisket. Without this moisture, the seasoning may become patchy and uneven, unable to form a hearty bark layer.
The liquid binder (or slather) doesn’t significantly influence the final flavor, so choose whatever appeals to you. The flavors of the rub are more important.
Then apply your rub, ensuring you have covered the whole surface, including every fold and corner of the meat. Massage it into the meat for succulence.
There is a balance between applying too little rub and having no bark, and too much, and overpowering the meat. You’ll need about half a cup of rub for a medium-sized brisket. If the layer is too thin, add more rub during cooking if necessary.
Add Smoke And Charcoal To The Rub
Because oven-baking means that your brisket isn’t exposed to woodsmoke, you need a couple of tricks to get that authentic smoker flavor.
Add a heaped teaspoon of food-grade charcoal to your rub to get an authentic-looking black bark. A little charcoal goes a long way, so don’t overdo it.
Another secret is to add liquid smoke if you’re marinading the brisket. Two tablespoons of hickory smoke should add enough flavor. You can also rub it directly on the brisket.
Rest The Brisket Overnight
Once you have applied the dry rub, cover the brisket and place it in the refrigerator overnight, at least for 10-12 hours.
It’s easiest to place the brisket on the rack and baking sheet you will use in the oven. Tent the meat and pan with aluminum foil.
Return Brisket To Room Temperature
Remove the brisket from the refrigerator. Let it rest, still covered, until it reaches room temperature.
If you put a cold brisket in the oven, it won’t cook evenly. The meat will take ages to heat through, with the outside cooking more quickly than the inside.
Bake Brisket On A Rack
When you prepare a brisket in a smoker, the meat is surrounded by smoke.
There is no way to replicate these conditions in a regular oven, but you can expose more of the meat to heat by cooking it on a roasting rack.
Place the rack over a baking sheet or pan to catch the drippings, but don’t lay the brisket flat in a pan. The brisket will then cook in its own juices and fat and won’t develop bark.
Roast Low And Slow
A brisket will smoke for 12 to 18 hours in a smoker at a temperature of 250⁰F. Temperature is an essential factor in bark formation. However, this extended baking time is impossible for a regular oven, as the meat will dry out completely.
You can still bake your brisket at a low temperature and for an extended period, so there is enough time for the crunchy bark to form. Slow oven roasting, around eight hours, is enough time to gently render the fats and tenderize the meat, leaving it juicy and luscious inside. It is also long enough to create bark.
Place the brisket, pan, rack, and aluminum tent in a preheated oven at 300⁰F. Cover the brisket with aluminum foil for the first six hours to prevent it from drying out.
Insert a digital thermometer into the brisket’s thickest part: if it reaches 180⁰, uncover the brisket.
You may be tempted to increase the oven’s temperature to speed up the cooking process. Do not yield to this temptation, as your brisket will develop a charred, bitter bark and end up tough and dry.
Another temptation may be adding a pan of water to the oven so the meat won’t dry out. Don’t be tempted. Wrapping the meat in foil will stop it from drying out. The water evaporating from the pan will prevent a crunchy bark from developing.
Uncover For The Best Bark
The final stage in bark formation is allowing your brisket to roast uncovered for the last two to three hours of cooking.
Because the brisket has been cooked at a low temperature, the caramelization or browning that makes bark has not occurred. The so-called Maillard Reaction, where fats and proteins are transformed by heat, has been postponed.
Instead, the surface rub has been gently basted in the meat’s fatty juices, boosting the flavor. The spices and sugars have dissolved in the water and fat, creating a slurry or glaze on the brisket.
This is the basis of the bark, but crunchy bark won’t develop properly in such a moist environment. Humidity is the main reason bark doesn’t form even when prepared in a smoker.
Once the meat is uncovered, the surface moisture evaporates, allowing the dissolved rub to dry and harden.
As the rub and fat bake, the Maillard reaction occurs. The crust becomes crisp and dark brown, forming the delicious bark layer.
Don’t worry about basting or spritzing the brisket for this period – you want to minimize moisture.
Keep The Temperature Steady
While the bark is forming, you don’t want the interior of your brisket to dry out.
Over the last couple of hours of cooking, check that the inner temperature of the brisket remains at 200⁰F for at least an hour, using a digital thermometer. Check every 30 minutes until the brisket is done.
Your brisket is cooked once it has a finished temperature of 195-205⁰F. The outside should be crisp and brown, and the inside tender and succulent but not falling apart.
An old pitmaster’s trick is picking the brisket with tongs and holding it in the middle. If the brisket bends, it is done. If it breaks, it is overcooked.
Broil For Crunch
Just as chefs reverse sear a steak, creating a crisp crust, broiling your brisket for the last 15 minutes can help form bark by encouraging the Maillard or browning reaction.
Turn the broiler on and allow your brisket to bake for only 10-15 minutes. Broiling for longer can burn rather than char and dry out the succulent meat.
Rest The Brisket Before Slicing
Once the brisket is done, remove it from the oven and place it on a large cutting board. Let the brisket rest for 30 minutes to two hours to be juicy when you eat it. You can cover it again while resting.
Slice the meat thinly, working across the grain so that each slice has a layer of peppery, crunchy bark.
Serve Texan-style with sauce on the side.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Get A Bark On My Brisket In The Oven?
You can develop bark on an oven-baked brisket. For bark to form, you need a combination of seasoning spices, particularly salt and sugar; low temperature cooking around 250⁰F; and smoke. You can replicate the seasoning spice and the low, slow roasting in the oven, then add liquid smoke for flavor.
How Do I Get More Bark On My Brisket?
Increasing the amount of bark requires you to increase the surface area exposed to seasonings and spice. An excellent first step is trimming the silverskin and fat from your brisket. Secondly, coat the brisket thoroughly with a salt and pepper rub. Thirdly, cook long and slow in the oven, with the brisket exposed to direct heat for the last two hours.
Can You Develop Bark In The Oven?
You can develop bark in the oven, although you face the challenge of not having smoke surrounding the brisket. To prevent a brisket from drying out in the oven, you must cook it in foil for the first six hours.
However, you can develop bark in the last two hours by uncovering the brisket and allowing the seasoning layer to crisp up. Another method would be to turn up the broiler for 10-15 minutes and sear the exterior of the brisket.
How Do You Get Bark On Meat In The Oven?
To get bark on meat in the oven, coat it with a generous layer of seasoning. After cooking the covered brisket low and slow, uncover it for the last couple of hours. If there is no attractive bark, blitz it with the broiler for 15 minutes.
Purists will argue that it is impossible to create actual barbecue conditions indoors. Your brisket will never have bark with the smoky char you get in a smoker. However, you can roast a delicious brisket with tasty bark in a regular oven: coat it with your favorite rub, roast it covered for six hours, and then open it up for the last couple of hours to form the bark.