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Bark Problems on my WSM

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
To my smoking brethren....

I have been smoking like a champ all summer long, and have refined my art with each smoke turning out better Q each time. I started this journey last summer with an MES 30 and have graduated to a WSM 18.5 this year. I've put a few hundred pounds through the WSM so far, with 40 lb of pork butt being my crowning achievement. The one hang up I have is that my bark has left something to be desired. It's not nearly as crispy as my MES turned out. Am I using too much rub?? Could it be from the water pan??

I just wanted to see if anyone else had these issues and could lend some advice. Thanks in advance, and btw, I have a small brisket flat right now at 160 IT.

Thanks guys!!
post #2 of 14

Are you using water in the pan?

post #3 of 14

I would try using sand instead of water in the pan and see if that helps. 


I don't use water in my MES or my UDS and the bark is much better on my UDS. 

post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 
I am using water. Does the sand make temp,control more difficult??
post #5 of 14

Do you by chance foil?  I use the same smoker and my bark comes out fantastic every time, and what temp do you run at?  I use a water pan over sand FYI.

post #6 of 14
I run a dry smoker when smoking and never have a problem with bark. In my wsm I leave the water pan empty and wrap it in foil for easy clean up. I have no problem controlling temps.

What does your rub consist of? Sugar helps build bark, but can also burn so you need to be careful with it.
post #7 of 14

Been smoking butts in a 18.5" WSM since 2005.  Never had a problem with bark.  I've been using the ceramic flower pot base since that mod was published.


I do not foil and I do spritz my butts with a mixture of apple juice and Jack Daniels in the last hour or so.  I hit it about every 15-20 minutes.  Makes a wonderful bark.  The sugar in the juice really contributes to the formation of bark.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
nstoltzner, I do not foil typically. I use water and I keep my temp around 240 +- 10 degrees.

dirtsailor, I usually use Jeffs rub which has brown sugar or a rub called honey hog, which is fantastic btw.

dward, Do you think that is better than sand?? I've never spritzed before, I will have to try that.

Thanks for the responses guys!!
post #9 of 14

Sand, water and the clay pot base serve one main purpose.  They provide mass to the air column.  When you have a mass that is heated to the set point temp of say 225* then, it act like a heat moderator.  It helps suck up any big swings and slow any drops. More mass equals more stable.  It's simple physics.  So from that point of view it does not matter what the mass is.  It can be sand, the clay pot, some bricks, rocks, or just about anything that will hold heat.


There is the argument that water in the pan not only adds mass to moderate the temps, but it also adds moisture to the chamber.  The questions then becomes do we really need to add moisture?  I've done butts with water, with dry pan, with clay pot, etc...  and the all came out great.  I will say this, you will use more fuel with water than dry or with the clay pot base.  Reason for this is if you are cooking over 212* you are flashing water to steam and there is a big energy jump for that transition (ie, the water sucks up energy out of the air column when it flashes to steam in a boiling pan). This also contributes to water's ability to cool down a overly hot pit quicker than a non-reactive mass like a clay pot base.  So for a new smoker owner, yes water pan with water is the way to learn the pit and how it responds.  But once you have a good understanding of what to expect, you can go with other options and never look back.


I can't even recall when the last time I used water in my pan was.

post #10 of 14

I have several different smokers and use nothing but sand (ie GOSM and Masterbuilt electrics) or upside down terracotta pot bottoms (ie WSM's), in the water pans, which serves as a heat sink to help stabilize and allow for quicker temperature recovery when opening the smoker to tend to the meat. I cover them with foil which is easily replaced between uses. No greasy scummy water pans to clean. IMHO the smoker environment is already moist enough with an occasional sprtitz.  Just my opinion, but I never have dry meat unless I've screwed up and over cooked it. (Been there, done that) Get good bark, unless I foil wrap to speed things up. Not tryin' to step on toes of anyone with differing opinions, but works for me. Kind of like fat side up or fat side down. Try different things and find out what works best for you.



post #11 of 14
I'm not sure why you're not getting good bark in your wsm, I do know that in the wsm I prefer butts cooked fat side down, I find the side on the grate never has good bark, so might as well let it be the fat side, this leaves the leaner side free to bark up. If you spritz or mop don't do so until at least half the cook is over . And forget the foil! No need to ever foil a butt unless you're seriously short on time or you're done way early and need to hold it a few hours.
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys, I'm going to try either the sand or clay pot base this week when I fire up the smoker for some ribs. Baby backs for $2.59/lb, couldn't pass that up!

I have been going fat side down on my butts as well. And rarely find a need for foil unless I am in a rush. One time I finished it indirect on my gas grill, and boy was that convenient.

Thanks everyone who chimed in, I appreciate the guidance, and will report back soon with what worked.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
In the mean time, here is mt brisket from Friday....

post #14 of 14

I would have to agree to get rid of that water. I use sand in my WSM as well, I also don't foil anything that goes into it.


Always get barky goodness!


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