Bark on meat with electric smoker?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by myelin, Oct 11, 2011.

  1. I have a Smokin-it electric smoker and am wondering if I can get bark on my meats with it.  I recently smoked a pork butt and did not get any bark.  I've also smoked a whole turkey, which turned out great, but the skin was not crisp.  Any tips or suggestions on how to get the outside of my meat black would be greatly appreciated.
  2. werdwolf

    werdwolf Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have a MES so I can't compare exactly with yours, but I do get bark on butts. Poultry is a little harder, but I can get a light darkening of the skin.

    What temp are you smoking at, what internal temp are you smoking to?
  3. For the last butt that I smoked, the cooking temp. ranged from 200-240, internal temperature of 205*.  I rubbed the butt with mustard, dry rub, then refrigerated over night.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  4. tjohnson

    tjohnson Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Insider OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Did you foil?

  5. do you have tbs out the vent.  you gotta burn wood to get a bark.  My mes had a small chip tray, and I got no bark.  then I got the larger replacement and now I get a great bark.  let the air flow thru your smoker.
  6. I did not foil the butt.

    There was TBS out the top vent, but it seemed like after the thermostat turned the burner off, there was little to no smoke.  When it kicked back on, there was TBS.

    Here is the smoker that I have:
  7. shtrdave

    shtrdave Smoking Fanatic

    I have a cookshack which looks similar to yours, mine only goes to 250 also, so you won't get crisp skin not enough temp.

    I do get good bark on my butts, I think some of the bark making is due to the rub you use. Maybe use something with a bit more sugar in it>

    Just a thought.
  8. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I get bark out of my electric...gotta go high temp at the end...I can get mine real high temp...
  9. What temp., Roller?  The max temp. that my smoker can achieve is 250*.
  10. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Myelin, I gotta ask...what cooking grate position did you use on the pork butt, and did you have a drip pan underneath it? If you're too close to a water pan or drip pan with liquids, the meat will get more steam than smoke, and this translates to less development of bark, and/or softer bark. I looked at the smoker images and didn't see a water pan in the stock unit, so wondered if you used a drip pan above the heating unit.

    I get good bark on no foiled smokes, regardless of the smoker I use, in temp ranges from 220-240*, as long as a water/drip pan isn't too close to the meat. I use little to no sugar in my rubs for the most part, with mostly natural sugars from powdered dried apple or ground dried cherry. I don't feel that the rub is going to have a big effect on the bark for long smokes. Before my ventures with fruit in the dry rub, I still got decent bark, and didn't use sugars. I would caution you on the use of excessive amounts of added sugars for longer smokes such as butts or brisket, as they can scorch even at chamber temps as low as 225* or so.

    I will say this: if you had no water/drip pan and got a soft/under-devloped bark, that typically indicates that there's not enough ventilation to get a bark (too low of flow, and too high of humidity as a result). Hate to say it but the vent hole on top looks pretty small...maybe 1 to 1-1/4" diameter...hard to judge by the pics, but it may even be smaller than that. Can't tell about the intakes on the bottom. I'm just getting this nagging feeling that ventilation with this smoker could be an issue. Being it only has a 350 watt heating element, they may have reduced the air flow (intake and exhaust) to compensate for the low output heater. I'm confused as to why they opted to go this route, but I'm not an electric smoker designer.

    I think if I were in your shoes, I'd toss another butt in without mustard or any other wet additive...just dry rub, crank the temp to 250* until you hit 200* I/T and see what the bark looks like.

    One last question: what is your relative (ambient) humidity like during your smokes? 70, 80%, higher? It could make a big difference with the design of that smoker.

    Just trying to look at all the possible angles here...I know I may have created a bit of confusion along the way...hope that's not the case.

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011
  11. africanmeat

    africanmeat Master of the Pit OTBS Member

  12. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Never had a problem getting nice bark with my MES on butts or brisket.

    For poultry the temp won't go high enough for crispy skin, but you can just finish it on a grill to crisp up the skin.
  13. larrym

    larrym Meat Mopper

    Is this what yours look like ?  This is a small bone in butt.  Normally I rub then let sit overnight, found that a lot of the rub (lots of brown sugar), it melts and ends up on bottom of wrap.  I normally dont add any more rub too it.  I am cooking an 8# for Friday pitchin,, going to go light on overnight rub then heavy on rub before I put in smoker.  I always get a bark, even before I did any mods to the old MES.  No intake or exhaust vents, just a small hole in back for probe wires. I cook at 225 till IT is 200 or so.  The skin does get crispy though not as black as what I see on tv,, though I am unsure those smokers on food tv know about TBS :)  It seems their smokers are always rolling in black smoke and outside seems more charred then a nice bark.

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011
  14. roller

    roller Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    I can take  my electric smoker well over 300*  Also I do not use any sugar on any of my meat.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011
  15. Hey Eric,

    I cooked the butt in a pan.  Perhaps that added moisture that kept the bark from forming.

    I've got a 10# going in tonight.  Going straight on the rack this time.

    Ambient relative humidity is 40-50%, but I really think it was due to cooking it in a pan.

    You guys are a great help!  I will let you know how this butt turns out.  Thanks again!

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2011
  16. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You're welcome, myelin. Yeah, 40-50% R/H isn't that high, but anything that prevents dry heat from flowing across the surfaces of the meat, such as resting in a pan, will kill the bark formation.

    I'll be listening for you're pinger later on this butt, so, have a great smoke!

  17. The 10# butt turned out great!  I rubbed it with mustard, brown sugar, and dry rub.  Smoked for 12 hours to an IT of 174*, then had to finish in the oven due to time constraints.  Ended up going to a final IT of 196*, foiled and put in the cooler for 2 hours.  Unwrapped the butt at the tailgate site, bone literally fell out, and it pulled beautifully.  There was a nice bark on the meat this time.

    Sorry no Qview, but we were in a hurry to put this homcoming tailgate together and I didn't take the time to snap photos.  Thanks again for the help, all!
  18. eman

    eman Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member

    Not true, You do not have to burn wood to get bark ,but you need to burn wood to get a good smoke ring. I have used electric for years and if i choose to cook for a hard bark ,i can . I usually don't worry about bark as much as flavor and moisture.
  19. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

  20. Wood = dust, pellets, chips, or sticks = smoke then add air = TBS  [​IMG]

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