How to Bark Brisket for Smoking

by Jeffrey Brian Airman ; Updated September 28, 2017

Beef brisket is available on-hand or by order through most butchers.

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Surface treatment and temperature control techniques create a thick seasoned bark on smoked brisket. Beef brisket is a relatively tough and inexpensive portion of meat. Briskets often require several hours at warm temperatures to become tender. The fatty section on a brisket, often called the fat cap, melts in the heat of the smoker and provides moisture to the leaner beef in the brisket. A robust brisket bark seals in juices over the long smoking time.

Rinse the brisket thoroughly in cold running water. Pat the surface of the beef dry with paper towels.

Trim the excess fat from the brisket until the cap is ¼-inch thick. Score the fat cap remaining on the brisket in a crosshatch patter with the tip of a sharp knife.

Sprinkle the brisket dry rub liberally all over the beef. Massage the seasonings into the surface in a circular motion. Tiny abrasions caused by the coarse seasoning create more exposed surface area for a more substantial brisket bark.

Pack more dry rub onto the surface of the brisket. Pat the seasonings lightly to stick as much as possible. Wrap the dry rub-coated brisket tightly in plastic wrap.

Lower the wrapped brisket into a plastic tub. Slide the tub in the refrigerator for a 12 hour chill.

Peel the plastic wrap off the brisket. Lower the meat into an aluminum baking pan with the scored fat cap down. Place the aluminum pan into smoker that has been preheated to 180 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Smoke the brisket for one hour for every pound of its raw weight. Take an internal temperature reading with a probe thermometer. Pour 1 cup of apple juice into the aluminum pan when the internal temperature of the brisket is over 160 degrees F.

Fill a spray bottle with apple juice. Mist the surface of the brisket lightly as it continues to smoke. Remove the beef from the smoke when the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F.


  • Crisp the bark by placing the brisket directly over the heat source for a couple minutes on each side. This is usually done just as the meat is coming up to the finished temperature.

    Make a dipping sauce from the remaining dry rub spices and apple juice to serve with the brisket. Simmer the ingredients for 30 minutes to combine flavors and lower the moisture content.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Brian Airman is a writer, musician and food blogger. A 15-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Airman has used his experience to cover food, restaurants, cooking and do-it-yourself projects. Airman also studied nursing at San Diego State University.