25 Jan Bark: What It Is and Why We Love It
Any pit master worth his salt knows and understands the importance of bark. They’ve perfected the texture, thickness, color, taste and smell of it. Now, if you’re not a tenured barbecuer, we’re here fill you in and give you the 411. What it is, why we love it, and how to get it.
What is Bark and What’s the big deal?
Bark is a crust that forms on the outside of smoked meat. It is actually the result of some complicated chemical reactions, but in simple terms it is because it’s exposed to oxygen and heat. The bark is made up of caramelized sugar, spices, melted fat, and smoke that is cooking on the surface of the meat. As one can imagine, this crust is incredibly flavorful and is an integral part of good barbecue.
The color of the bark can be dependent on the type of wood chips used and how long the meat has cooked. First time consumers may think their meat is burned based on the dark colored bark; a common misconception. But barbecue connoisseurs know that a dark, crusty bark is coveted.
Bark gives the smoked meat a crucial flavor and texture. Bark is strong in taste and has a concentrated flavor due to the ingredients of the dry rub and rendered fat in the meat. The crispy bark and the juicy, tender meat inside result in a harmoniously balanced bite in texture and taste.
Perfecting the Bark Art
Every person deemed a “pit master” has indeed mastered the art of the bark. If you’re not quite there yet, that’s okay! Thankfully mastering the perfect bark won’t take a lifetime and with a bit of practice and the correct cooking conditions you’ll be the Bark Master in no time. Here are a few things to keep in mind during your journey to becoming Pit Master:
The dry rub: A typical spice rub is comprised of pepper, salt, sugar, and paprika. It might also include garlic or onion powder, ginger and maybe a secret ingredient or two. These ingredients play a large part in how your crust is formed.
The smoke: The formation of bark cannot happen without smoke. The longer your meat is exposed to the smoke, the darker and thicker it becomes. Meat that is smoked for 10-13 hours will look burned. It’s not, however. If done right, that dark bark is sought out by many.
The temperature: Like with all barbecue, the goal here is low and slow. The temperature has to be just right. If the temp is too low a crust cannot form, however if it is too high, the meat with char and can taste bitter.
The meat: There needs to be a layer of fat on the outside of the meat. This fat is critical in a good bark forming. If the fat layer is too thick, trim it down.
The surface area: The more surface area, the more area there is for bark to form. The meat should have has much exposure to the air as possible.