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Bark and water

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  • Authormark
    Former Member
    • Jul 2020
    • 1

    Bark and water

    I have a vertical smoker with a water pan. I want to smoke a brisket that has a nice crunchy bark.
    Will the water from the pan interfere with the dryness of the bark?
    Can I remove the pan during the process so there's no more water?
    If I let the water all evaporate so the pan is empty, will the pan be ruined? (This is NOT a top of the line unit)
    I have had decent results with a side smoker, but I only used a smaller water pan underneath the meat and not directly above the heat.
  • Huskee
    • May 2014
    • 15755
    • central MI, USA
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    I doubt it would introduce enough humidity to have a noticeable effect on the bark. I have a handful of questions to really know your situation here:

    Is your smoker electric? Electrics are naturally humid inside, this can prevent a crunchy bark and I'd wager using an electric smoker would affect this way more than a water pan.

    Do you intend to wrap it? Wrapping the brisket can interfere with bark formation, especially if you wrap early. I recommend if you wrap to wait until after the stall, when it's about 180 or even 190 to allow some heavy bark to develop...or use butcher paper to wrap, or forgo wrapping altogether (but this has its own challenges like increased cook time and making a rather dry flat so leave a generous fat cap on it!)

    Is there a particular reason you want to use a water pan? If you're using it in something like a Weber Smokey Mountain so it's acting as a heat buffer to help with indirect heat, you could leave it empty, maybe line it with foil for easier cleanup.

    Hard to say if your pan could get ruined, most likely not. What are you using for a water pan? If it's being set on a shelf you could use a cheap disposable aluminum pan.


    • Authormark
      Authormark commented
      Editing a comment
      My smoker is a charcoal vertical. It's pretty cheap. My understanding of the need for a water pan is to control the heat and keep it indirect, plus adding moisture which keeps the protein from drying out. I'm going to try a pork butt with water, then another without and see what works before I commit to a brisket.
      Thanks for your help!!

    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      My first smoker was a vertical charcoal smoker too, size of a file cabinet. I used the water pan for a buffer and never noticed an effect on the bark for what it's worth. There'd have to be a LOT of evaporation for it to affect it that way, like when braising.
  • zzdocxx
    Club Member
    • Jun 2020
    • 178

    Question:. If you wrap in paper after bark forms, does your bark lose some of its wholesome crispy goodness?

    How about foil, does it make the bark worse than its bite?

    B/c I am probably going to cook my first brisket ever, the one aging in my fridge now. Going to do it on the new Traeger.

    Also, do you shpritz it during the cook, and if so, when do you start doing so and how often ?

    Last edited by zzdocxx; July 21, 2020, 03:59 PM.


    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      Wrapping with foil will cause it to lose some crispiness and soften, which is why I personally prefer to wait until after the stall when the bark has built up very well. Wrapping in butcher paper is sort of a halfway point between foil and no-wrap. Then there's always unwrapping it after it's done and the faux cambro hold has elapsed and putting it back on your grill/smoker at 300 for 10-20 minutes right before slicing & serving. This will help dry the bark back up. TONS of options with it all!

    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      I have spritzed, never noticed it doing anything really. Reportedly it will help more smoke adhere, whcih might be advantageous in a pellet cooker. I wait until a few hours in and only spritz if the top is looking dry, then I do it every 20-30 mins.
  • MTurney
    Former Member
    • Feb 2020
    • 262
    • Grapevine, TX

    IMHO a water pan has zero effect on the final outcome, be it positive or negative. People swear by them but I've done so many cooks with and without a water pan to get a side-by-side comparison and we just couldn't tell a difference. It certainly doesn't hurt anything to have it in there but I don't think it helps either.


    • ofelles
      Club Member
      • Jun 2018
      • 2872
      • Brentwood CA
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      Welcome from the California Delta. I have a vertical smoke that is fairly new and have not done a brisket in it yet. I have done several pork butts with water in the pan and it does not seem to effect the bark. The bark is very similar to a butt from my pellet cooker. So I would venture to say no difference.
      Disclaimer I AM NOT AN EXPERT. Maybe someone who is will jump in.
      Last edited by ofelles; July 24, 2020, 02:55 PM.


      • RonB
        Club Member
        • Apr 2016
        • 14061
        • Near Richmond VA
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        Welcome to The Pit.

        I used to use an electric smoker and the maker recommended not using a water pan. I don't have anything else that Huskee didn't mention.


        • HawkerXP
          Club Member
          • Jul 2016
          • 6690
          • Virginia
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          2021 Meat-Up In Memphis Canceled - Rescheduled for March 2022

          This summer's 2021 Meat-Up in Memphis IS OFFICIALLY RESCHEDULED FOR March 18-20, 2022. More details and re-booking info here!
          See more
          See less
          Meat-Up in Memphis