Why Is My Smoked Brisket Black?

Those new to smoking may be a little surprised when their smoked brisket comes out of the smoker black. There are both good and not-so-good reasons for your smoked brisket looking black, depending on several possibilities during the smoking process. We will explore why your smoked brisket is black and the possible causes.

A black smoked brisket can be a good thing or a bad thing. Black bark on a brisket can be from the spices of rub used on the meat or the species of wood used for smoking. However, incorrect smoking wood, a dirty smoker, too much heat, and too much smoke can be a detrimental cause for a black brisket.

why is my smoked brisket black

In some cases, a smoked brisket turning out black is a desirable outcome. In other instances, it indicates a problem that may result in the brisket being inedible. 

We have some crucial information for those wanting to smoke their own meat on how to tell the difference when black smoked brisket is good or bad.

Why Has My Smoked Brisket Become Black?

Smoking meat results in changes to the meat you can’t just get when cooking in the stove or other cooking methods. As a result, these people are sometimes uncertain why their smoked brisket is black and whether it is a good thing or if they did something wrong in the smoking process.

We will start by discussing the good reasons for a smoked brisket turning black, where it is a desirable outcome, and move on to problems causing the smoked brisket to be black.

Good Reasons Your Smoked Brisket Is Black

When meat is smoked, a chemical reaction occurs on the meat’s surface layers that create a crispy, dark outer crust. We will not go in-depth into the scientific reasons for this but instead, focus on why it happens.

You will hear the term “bark” frequently mentioned in meat smoking circles. The bark is the crispy layer that forms on the outside of the meat. This is a desirable outcome that serves several purposes for smoked meat.

The main two reasons the formation of bark on the meat is desirable is because it tastes delicious, and it helps to protect the meat from drying out.

The crispy layer on the outside of the meat traps moisture in the deeper layers of the meat. This allows the brisket to cook more evenly and keeps it juicy on the inside.

So why does the bark on the brisket turn black during the smoking process? There are several reasons for this, which include the following.

  • The type of wood used. The type or species of wood used to generate the smoke in your smoker can influence the depth of the black color on the smoked brisket. Darker wood has a higher tannin content, which affects the color.
  • Spices used on the meat. Some spices on the meat will react with the heat and smoke to produce a black bark. Others will create a lighter-colored bark on the meat.
  • High sugar content in the rub. If sugar is included in the rub you use on the meat, the sugar caramelizes in the heat, absorbs smoke, and becomes black.

When your brisket is black for these reasons, the taste and flavor are not negatively impacted, but the black bark enhances and contributes to the flavor of the meat.

Bad Reasons Your Smoked Brisket Is Black

Of course, on the opposite side of the coin, there are some negative aspects to a smoked brisket being black. Most of these smoking-related issues can be remedied by changing processes, but the meat may be ruined and inedible in some cases.

Some of the reasons your smoked brisket is black can result from rookie mistakes, but some can also happen to experienced smokers who become careless!

A Dirty Smoker Can Make Smoked Brisket Black

If you have not had a problem with smoked brisket tasting bad before, but your recent smoking attempts have been less than successful, the problem could be a dirty smoker.

Soot and smoke residue build-up on the inside of the smoker can create “dirty smoke” inside your smoker. This results in soot and an oily residue imparted to the smoke, which becomes part of the bark on the smoked brisket.

The solution to this unpleasant problem on your brisket is to regularly clean your smoker. Use warm water and dishwashing detergent to clean out the inside of the smoker with a sponge. 

A soft nylon-bristled brush can be used to get rid of stubborn dirt in the smoker, particularly if it has not been cleaned for some time. Do not use a pot scourer or wire brush since this can mar the inside surface of the smoker.

The Wrong Wood Can Make A Smoked Brisket Black

Some types of wood are totally unsuitable to be used for smoking meat. This is why most experienced meat smokers have developed a preference for the type of wood they use in their smokers.

Typically resinous wood such as pine, fir, spruce, cedar, and other members of the conifer tree family are not suitable for smoking meat

These wood types have a high resin and turpentine content. The smoke from these wood types produces a black color on the brisket due to the oily, tar-like smoke and imparts an unpleasant taste to the meat and can make people sick.

Generally, most softwood trees are unsuitable for smoking meat and should be avoided for use in your smoker.

Too Much Heat Can Make Smoked Brisket Black

People new to smoking brisket may be tempted to crank up the heat in the smoker in an attempt to get the meat up to temperature or counter the temperature stall when smoking a brisket.

This can push the heat up too high in the smoker, particularly a charcoal smoker, and cause the outside of the brisket to burn.

This will create a bitter, crunchy, carbon-tasting bark on the meat. This bitterness can permeate into the meat, making it unpleasant to eat. The high temperatures will also dry the brisket out, resulting in the brisket being tough, chew, and rubbery.

Low heat and time are key to a well-cooked smoked brisket with a great-tasting bark. A common cause for a less than desirable smoked brisket is trying to rush the process.

Too Much Smoke Can Make A Brisket Black

Placing too much wood in the smoker can cause the smoker to contain too much smoke, which it cannot easily vent. 

The excess smoke will swirl around in the smoker, collecting contaminants as it goes, imparting these contaminants to the bark on the meat. This may result in a bark that has a bitter or undesirable taste or small particles of gritty carbon n the bark.

The solution is to use less wood in the smoker and rather replenish it a little more frequently. This will prevent too much smoke from being produced in the smoker.

Final Word

If your smoked brisket is black, this is not necessarily a bad thing. However, the cause of the black bark on the meat will be the deciding factor as to whether it enhances the taste or detracts from the taste of the meat.

Taste your brisket to see if the flavor profile is good or has been negatively affected. If it does not taste good, evaluate your smoking process to see where things did not go according to plan! 

Make the adjustments to your smoking strategy and give it another go!

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