When to Wrap a Brisket To Get the Best Flavor and Texture
Thinking about smoking a brisket for your next summer party?
Brisket is a big piece of meat and smoking is a big time commitment — and it’s totally worth it. But because brisket is a project, you want to make sure you get it right.
One of the key steps to getting it right is knowing when to wrap brisket.
Ahead, we’ve put together a quick guide on everything you need to know before you heat up your smoker.
What is “wrapping brisket”?
Wrapping brisket is sometimes referred to as “Texas Crutch.” It’s a technique that originated in Texas at barbecue competitions.
It involves wrapping a brisket in aluminum foil or butcher paper when you smoke meat. This helps the brisket cook faster and evenly by trapping moisture inside, preventing it from drying out.
Knowing when to wrap a brisket is crucial for achieving the desired texture and flavor.
When to Wrap a Brisket?
Before you wrap a brisket it needs to be smoked for several hours. This phase of smoking allows the brisket to develop a good crust on the outside and absorb smoky flavors from wood or charcoal. Expert pitmasters refer to this crust as “bark.”
Once the bark has formed and the brisket has reached a certain level of doneness, the liquid evaporating from the meat cools the brisket and the cooking slows down significantly. This is what pitmasters refer to as “the stall.” You want to wrap your brisket before the stall. With the help of an instant-read thermometer, you can take the temperature of the brisket as it cooks and when it reaches 160°F-170°F, you can wrap the brisket.
Wrapping the brisket at this stage also helps keep it moist and tender by trapping the juices and preventing it from drying out. If you wrap a brisket too early, you may end up with a softer, less textured bark. If you wrap the brisket late, it may take a lot longer to cook.
Why Do You Wrap Brisket?
1. Cooks Faster
The main reason to wrap a brisket is to cut down on cooking time.
When you wrap brisket, you create an environment where the meat is essentially steaming in its own juices. This helps to accelerate cooking by increasing the temperature inside the wrapping material, surrounding the meat with heat.
The increased temperature can help break down collagen and other connective tissues, making it more tender.
2. Juicier Meat
Wrapping the brisket with foil or butcher paper helps trap moisture inside and prevents the meat from drying out, resulting in juicier meat.
The moisture inside the wrapped brisket is trapped steam from the meat’s natural juices which also helps breaks down tough connective tissues, making it more tender with a stronger flavor.
3. Control the Bark
People love bark on a brisket, but sometimes you can have too much bark. That usually happens if you cook with the heat too high or if there’s not enough moisture in the smoker. Wrapping a brisket can help control that.
Wrapping the meat in foil or butcher paper creates an insulator, trapping moisture inside the brisket. In that process, the bark will soften — which is not ideal — and the meat will cook faster.
If you want your brisket to cook fast and have a good bark, when the internal temperature reaches 195°F, unwrap the meat and turn up the heat of your smoker to 225°F and cook the brisket until the bark looks good to you.
Is it Better To Wrap Brisket in Butcher Paper or Aluminum Foil?
Usually, pitmasters will wrap brisket in either butcher paper or aluminum foil. While both materials are great for wrapping brisket, there are some differences in how they affect the flavor and texture of your brisket.
The choice of wrapping material ultimately comes down to personal preference and what goals you want to achieve.
Butcher paper is a type of food-grade paper that is permeable to moisture and air, which allows it to trap in steam while still allowing smoke and heat to penetrate the meat. This allows the meat to retain its moisture and develop a flavorful bark. Butcher paper also allows for better airflow around the meat.
Aluminum foil, on the other hand, creates an airtight seal around the meat that traps moisture and flavor. This can be beneficial for briskets that are prone to dry out, as the foil keeps the meat moist. Foil can also help speed up the cooking time.
Butcher Paper vs Aluminum Foil
In terms of texture and flavor, brisket wrapped in butcher paper tends to have slightly crisper bark and a more pronounced smoky flavor, while foil-wrapped brisket has a softer texture and a mild smoky flavor.
Some pitmasters may use a combination of both materials, starting with butcher paper and switching to foil later in the cooking process to achieve their desired results.
How Long Do You Cook Brisket After Wrapping?
The factors that determine your cooking time after wrapping are size and thickness of your brisket, cooking temperature and your desired doneness.
The best yet easiest way to ensure that your brisket is cooked after wrapping is to check its internal temperature. Briskets are typically cooked to the temperature of 195°F-205°F (90°C-96°C).
Meat thermometers, like the Typhur InstaProbe™, are commonly used to check the internal temperature regularly, aiming for the target temperature while also considering the desired level of tenderness and juiciness. Typhur InstaProbe™ is an innovative digital instant-read thermometer with 0.75s reading speed and ±0.5°F accuracy.
Downsides of Wrapping Brisket
Loss of bark texture
The wrapping process can soften the bark on the brisket, which is the crispy crust that forms on the surface of the meat during smoking.
Risk of overcooking
Wrapping a brisket can accelerate the cooking process by trapping it in heat and steam, which can increase the risk of overcooking if you don’t frequently check the temperature of the meat. Do not let the internal temperature go higher than 210°F.
Difficulty monitoring meat
When brisket is wrapped, it can be harder to monitor the color and texture of the meat. This can make it more difficult to judge when the meat is fully cooked and may require more frequent temperature checks with a thermometer.
Wrapped vs Unwrapped
Ultimately, whether or not to wrap your brisket during smoking is a matter of personal preference.
Some pitmasters swear by wrapping, while others prefer to cook their brisket unwrapped the entire time. Experiment to know what works best for you!