Wrapping brisket is a popular technique to speed up the cooking process and ensure maximum flavor.
If you watch MasterChef America, perhaps you’re familiar with the frustration chefs experience when running out of time and trying ways to quicken their cooking process.
Wrapping smoked brisket is probably stemmed from a similar situation. Also known as the Texas Crutch, this technique was introduced by barbeque experts participating in a competition.
Today, several restaurants and amateur cooks have taken up the technique for good reasons. It cooks the meat faster, gives crunchy bark, and moistens the brisket.
We’ll discuss the nitty-gritty details of wrapping brisket, its benefits, and its downsides.
Table of Contents
Why Do You Wrap Brisket?
Most people who know their way round smoker or grill wrap the brisket instinctively. Wrapping half-cooked brisket is an effective tactic to make delicious meat; in fact, good enough for you to qualify as a pitmaster.
Below, we’ll discuss in detail the reasons you should wrap brisket.
Moist and Tender Meat
Even if you’re new to grilling or smoking, you know that wrapping smoked brisket makes it juicier and tender. People who host parties occasionally always wrap their brisket in a heavy-duty aluminum foil to let the meat absorb the juices.
Wrapping brisket halfway through cooking does something similar.
We all know that brisket is a somewhat thicker piece of meat. We need to smoke it for long to let the collagen and fat inside break down. However, cooking for a long time sometimes dries out the meat, too.
Wrapping brisket locks the flavor and juices of the meat.
People who smoke brisket in traditional environments typically use leaves for the purpose. However, pink butcher paper, plastic wrap, and aluminum foil are other materials used to wrap the brisket.
Cuts Down on the Time Of Cooking Brisket
Since Texas Crutch was introduced by professional chefs participating in BBQ competitions, this technique’s primary purpose was to speed up the cooking time.
Large meat pieces are subject to stall. When you wrap brisket, it helps you break through the stall. But what exactly is a stall?
The stall – also known as the plateau – occurs when the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150F to 170F. When this happens, the temperature stops rising further.
The exact process keeps you cool during hot temperatures.
During the stall, the meat begins to sweat, and water starts to evaporate. As a result, your entire cut cools down. There is a battle between evaporation and smoking – what we refer to as stall- and it lasts for up to six hours.
When you wrap the brisket, you’re stopping the moisture from evaporating into the air. Instead, a layer of brisket’s juices surrounds it, and it stays hot because of the hot air surrounding the griller.
The lesser the air circulating the beef brisket, the hotter it remains.
Because wrapped brisket gets less direct heat from your smoker, you can increase the temperature without worrying about drying it out.
When excess moisture evaporates, the brisket’s temperature increases; however, it takes a lot of time. Perhaps the Texas crutch is an ideal technique to quicken the cooking process.
Control Over the Appearance of Bark
Wrapping brisket gives you more control over its appearance than an unwrapped brisket.
Pitmasters typically like their crust mahogany on the bark – the meat’s surface.
A professionally-cooked bark looks scrumptious and mouth-watering. However, that’s not all there is to the bark.
The surface of meat should also give the effect of the Millard reaction – a unique chemical process that makes our mind think the meat is “cooked.” Simply put, the reaction releases flavor and odor that makes us perceive it as smoked.
So, a few chefs wrap their brisket to keep it tender and moist and avoid stall temperature; others prefer their brisket wrapped to give bark its ideal color and thickness.
On the downside, wrapping a brisket can moisten the bark and make it less crispy.
When to Wrap Brisket?
Wrapping a brisket – also known as the Texas crutch – is excellent to give it an extra punch of flavor and keep it moist. However, when exactly you have to wrap the meat is another thing to consider.
Do you have to wrap the brisket before cooking or after you’re done smoking brisket?
Surprisingly, you neither have to wrap it before smoking nor after cooking. Instead, you have to cover it during the cooking process.
Generally, Barbeque experts recommend wrapping the brisket when the internal temperature is 165-170F.
But, instead of waiting and getting involved in a guessing game, it’s best to keep a meat thermometer with you. You can insert the thermometer probe in the thickest part of the brisket.
As soon as the internal temperature reaches the desired range, it’ll display the figure. You can then take off the brisket from the smoker and wrap it.
Not sure how to wrap a brisket? Read on to know!
How to Wrap a Brisket?
When your brisket reaches the recommended internal temperature, take it off the heat to wrap it. Below, we’ll discuss some common ways to wrap brisket.
The aluminum foil method is inspired by the Texas Crutch method. You get a softer bark, and the foil keeps your meat flavorful.
The foil is extremely easy to cut – you can even separate it with bare hands. But make sure you do it neatly.
Measure two arm-length pieces of the aluminum foil and place both pieces on top of each other. Now place the brisket up tightly.
If you’re a beginner, we highly recommend using foil instead of pink butcher paper or parchment paper for two reasons.
First, aluminum wraps your food tightly – it is designed to do so. You won’t need to put much effort, and you’ll quickly wrap it without prior practice. Second, it is readily available on the market. In fact, most of us already have it in our homes.
Once you wrap the brisket in the foil, the sheet creates a tight seal, speeding up the cooking process. However, make sure you keep the temperature of the brisket in check. You can measure the temperature every 30 minutes as a rule of thumb.
One downside of sealing the brisket tightly is that the bark will get tender and a little moist in the final step of cooking. If you prefer your bark crispy, you might not like it.
Several top Texas BBQ joints prefer using butcher paper to wrap brisket. It quickens up the cooking process – like aluminum foil – but allows some smoke to pass through, which otherwise doesn’t pass through a foil.
In other words, the butcher paper allows the brisket to breathe and trap a certain amount of moisture inside it.
Seeing butcher paper for the first time, you might feel like it’ll fall apart on getting wet. Nonetheless, it has been treated through a process known as “sizing.”The process strengthens the paper when it is soaked in moisture.
So, the paper won’t disintegrate during smoking.
You can easily purchase butcher paper from a nearby butcher shop or a local store.
If you’re a beginner, we do not recommend you use pink butcher paper as it’ll be difficult for you to handle it. Professional cooks smoke plenty of briskets all at one time, and they have a knack for handling different paper types.
Wrapping the brisket paper in butcher paper requires a good amount of practice. If you plan to use this paper, try wrapping random stuff before you finally use it for your beef brisket.
The butcher paper will soak up the oil of the brisket and form a layer of moisture around the brisket. This will help the meat conduct heat and keep it cooking at an ideal temperature.
Besides, the paper allows some smoke to get through; that means more flavor!
What else is good? Your bark will remain dry and crisp, unlike the one wrapped in foil.
But, again, these pros come with a few downsides. For instance, butcher paper may let you avoid the stall, but foil gives a more guaranteed option.
The butcher paper isn’t sealed tight like the foil and hence, the cooking time will be more than the one wrapped in foil. Nonetheless, it’s still better than an unwrapped brisket.
Parchment paper is yet another paper used to wrap brisket. If you do not want to cover the brisket in butcher paper or aluminum foil, you can use this one.
The paper is a cellulose-based composite treated to give it non-stick properties.
It is the most delicate and thinnest of all other options to wrap a brisket.
Parchment paper is a breathable alternative to aluminum foil and can withstand high temperatures. Besides, it allows you to speed up the cooking process while keeping your brisket moist and tender.
Additionally, it allows for little evaporation, forming a crispy bark.
On the downside, parchment paper breaks easily. Nonetheless, it won’t be an issue if you purchase from a reputable brand that keeps their papers heat resistant.
A quality parchment paper can withstand temperatures up to 400F – without tearing apart. However, make sure you handle the paper carefully.
Drawbacks Of Wrapping Brisket
Wrapping a brisket has its benefits, but it comes with a few downsides, too. Perhaps this is why people wonder whether they should keep their brisket unwrapped or wrap it.
Undeniably, wrapped brisket benefits outweigh those of an unwrapped one, but every rose has its thorn.
We’ll look at a few disadvantages of wrapping a brisket.
Less Smoky Flavor
When you seal your brisket in paper, you create a barrier between the meat and the smoke. For this reason alone, your meat is not exposed to direct smoke anymore. The result? It’ll slightly lose the smoky flavor.
But guess what? It isn’t a big deal. Why? Because your brisket is already exposed to enough smoke before you wrap it – before its internal temperature reaches 165-170F.
So, the brisket receives enough smoke in the first few hours of cooking.
If you still want to preserve more smoky flavor, you can try butcher paper instead of foil.
Butcher paper lets your brisket breathe and allows smoke to pass through. You can also use parchment paper for that purpose.
However, parchment paper might break easily, so we recommend butcher paper.
A wrapped brisket sometimes makes you careless when cooking, and you might end up overcooking your meat piece.
When you wrap the brisket, the internal temperature increases, how much the temperature increases cannot be said as it depends on the wrapping quality, how tight you wrapped, and the temperature of the smoker.
If you’re new to smoking, do not let the recipe timing play tricks on you; this is not how smoking a brisket works. Instead, you need to rely on your eyes, nose, and of course, the meat thermometer. If done otherwise, you might end up overcooking your meat and making it mushy.
Make sure you use a reliable meat thermometer and keep the temperature in check. As a general rule, you can monitor the temperature every 30 minutes. Try poking the wrapping paper for this; it won’t affect the cooking process.
Ruins the Bark
A few people do not like their brisket wrapped merely because it ruins the bark. We’ll explain why it happens and what you can do about it.
When you wrap your brisket tightly, a layer of moisture surrounds the meat piece. Though this helps cook the meat faster, it makes the bark softer.
But if you know the catch, this isn’t much of an issue.
Once the meat reaches the required temperature (typically 230F), remove the wrapping paper and cook for another few minutes. You can smoke the brisket at 225F to re-crisp the bark.
That’s it! Cooking the meat for another few minutes can help you make the bark crispier again.
To Wrap Or Not to Wrap?
To wrap or not to wrap, that’s the question.
Perhaps you aren’t battling depression questioning life and death like Hamlet. So, the answer to your question is an uncomplicated one, in fact, pretty simple.
We’ll tell you the pros and cons of both, and you can decide for yourself.
If you aren’t a participant of MasterChef or any other cooking competition running short on a deadline and prefer smoky, crunchy bark, you can keep your brisket unwrapped.
An unwrapped brisket will give you thick and dry bark and the smokiest smoked brisket.
If, however, you want to speed up the cooking and prefer juicier and tender meat in every bite, we recommend you wrap your brisket.
You can wrap the brisket in aluminum foil, butcher paper, or parchment paper. If you’re willing to try an all-original Texas crutch method, you can go with the foil. It is also pretty easy to wrap and handle.
If you want some smoke to pass through when your brisket is still wrapped, you can go with a butcher or parchment paper. But, make sure you handle those carefully and do not break the paper when wrapping.
Although most people prefer to leave their meat unwrapped and let the griller do its job, it won’t hurt to try the Texas Crutch technique – after all, pitmasters use it.
If you decide to wrap the brisket for the first time, you can try aluminum foil. It’ll wrap the brisket easily but can turn your bark moist. For that reason, you can cook the meat for a few more minutes after unwrapping it.
We advocate the idea if you want to wrap it with butcher paper. Yes, it might require a little more effort, but you’ll end up cooking a delectable brisket.
Wrapping Brisket FAQs
Below, we’ll discuss a few frequently asked questions by BBQ lovers.
Can I Wrap Brisket In a Wax Paper?
To be honest, there are several choices when it comes to wrapping a brisket. You can get butcher paper, foil, parchment paper, or plastic wrap. However, not all wrapping papers work well.
A few break easily and might ruin your meat.
Wax paper is yet another in the category of wrapping paper for brisket wrapping. This paper is typically used to wrap pizzas, vegetables, and sandwiches. However, we do not recommend this paper for wrapping your brisket.
First, it isn’t heat resistant – it won’t withstand high heat temperatures. Second, it’ll not only break but melt and mix with the brisket, making it unhealthy.
Even worse, it may catch fire at high temperatures. Therefore, it’s best to avoid using wax paper. If you want a light paper to enhance meat’s smoke flavor, you can go for parchment paper as an alternative.
Do I Need to Add Liquid When Wrapping Brisket?
One typical reason you wrap your brisket is to make it more juicy and tender. This implies you do not need additional juices to keep it moist. However, there’s no harm in adding liquid if you want to.
Note that you can only add liquid when using aluminum foil because it is liquid-proof. Papers like parchment or butcher will get wet easily.
When you wrap your brisket, you can add a tiny amount of apple juice, beef stock, or vinegar to enhance the flavor.
Make sure you do not add a lot of it; a tiny bit will do.
Which Is the Best Paper for Wrapping Brisket?
If you want to follow the original Franklin Barbecue smoking process, it’s best to go with foil. Foil is also suitable for beginners trying out BBQ for the first or second time.
The foil is pretty easy to handle and gives a tight seal. You won’t need to struggle when wrapping your brisket. Just fold the paper in the desired direction, and it’ll adjust accordingly.
While aluminum is hands down a better option for wrapping brisket and decreasing the cooking time, it has its downsides.
For instance, aluminum foil doesn’t allow your meat piece to breathe, and no smoke can pass through it. As a result, you won’t get too much smoky flavor.
Besides, the tight seal packs in all the moisture, making the bark soft. If you like your brisket bark crispy, you might not enjoy the brisket cooked in foil.
For this reason alone, you can go for a parchment or butcher paper. They are made of breathable material and do not soften the bark to the extent an aluminum foil does.
Note that you can always smoke the brisket for a couple of minutes later to make your bark crispy – if you plan to use foil.
Should I Wrap Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?
How you should wrap the brisket is another commonly asked question, “Shall I keep it fat side up or down?”
Frankly speaking, it depends entirely on your preferences. A few people prefer keeping the fat side down, while others like to keep the fat side up.
If you want to mix the fat oil with the brisket, it’s better to keep the fat side up. However, if you do not want the grease to spread all over the brisket, you can keep it fat side down.
The question is, how do you like your brisket, greasy or non-greasy?
Is It Mandatory to Wrap a Brisket?
Short answer: No. It is not compulsory to wrap brisket. But wrapping brisket sure has its benefits.
Most people let their brisket rest for a while before serving it. Do you know why they do that? To make it more flavorful by allowing the meat to absorb the juices.
This is one reason why wrapping a brisket might be a better option: you won’t be resting brisket after smoking it. Instead, the goal of making it moist can be achieved mid-way of smoking meat.
Second, the reason alone that gave birth to this method: It cuts down on the cooking time.
So, wrapping a brisket is beneficial for many reasons but not mandatory at all. You can still cook delicious meat without wrapping it. But, again, keep in mind that professionals mainly cover their meat. So, how do you plan to cook it after knowing the Pitmaster ways?