When to wrap brisket: And Methods Demonstrated

When to wrap brisket

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Brisket is one of the most popular BBQ dishes you can experience. When a brisket is properly smoked to perfection and done the right way, it is meat heaven. 

To achieve good results, you employ a few tricks, including wrapping, but for this method to be effective, it has to be done at the right time, so I will teach you when to wrap a brisket to push through temperature stalls but still cook a juicy, tender brisket.

Nevertheless, because brisket is a large, tough cut of meat, smoking it to perfection does come with its challenges. One is to smoke it until done without drying the meat, which is when wrapping techniques can help.

I will discuss when, how, different methods, and other tips so that you know how to deploy these techniques, but most importantly, when.

When to Wrap Brisket Meat

You need to start thinking about wrapping your brisket when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

When to wrap the brisket is indicated by a culinary term we like to call the “stall.” The stall is exactly what it sounds like—the internal meat temperature stops climbing for a noticeable period of time.

If you are using a smart thermometer, it is very easy to see the stall happening in real-time. If you don’t have one of these thermometers and are using an instant-read probe, you have to check the brisket constantly and make notes until you start noticing that the temperature is no longer rising.

Why Brisket stalls

Beef Brisket, as with other cuts of beef, is considered well-done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. But when it comes to brisket internal temperature, we want to smoke this meat past that point to allow for all the connective tissue and fat to melt and render for tenderness and moisture.

However, this very same thing—”melting the fat”—we want to achieve when smoking a brisket can become our nemesis. 

This is because of something referred to as “evaporation,” or more accurately, “evaporative cooling.” As the brisket cooks and heats up, the meat contracts, pushing juices from the rendered fat and tissue out. 

Evaporative cooling is when all the internal meat juices surface and evaporate on the meat’s surface. Think about how our bodies sweat to cool us down during a hard workout session.

This effect naturally cools down the brisket and slows its cooking progress. This happens because the heating rate, the speed at which the brisket’s internal temperature is rising, and the ambient temperature inside your smoker’s cooking chamber have matched the point of the brisket’s juices evaporation point, and this, my friends, is when it is time to wrap.

How and Methods to Wrapping a brisket

The problem is that if you don’t address the stall, eventually the meat will dry out and the brisket won’t be as tender and juicy as it can be. Sure, you could “weight it out” or increase the grill or smoker’s temperature, but if you are trying to achieve the best results, then you should consider wrapping the brisket.

Wrapping Using Butcher Paper Wrap

The butcher paper wrapping method is when we use paper, more specifically pink butcher paper. Butcher paper is traditionally used by butchers to wrap fresh meat due to its absorbing qualities after they trim and cut it and package it before packaging and turning it over to the consumer.

Wrapping a brisket using butcher paper is a very popular method to wrap a brisket because it conserves the bark a bit more. I will get more into that later. 

To wrap a brisket using butcher paper, cut a large sheet of paper; don’t be shy, you will need lots of it. I usually cut a sheet about 30 to 38 inches long, but it varies depending on the size of the brisket. Then fold the paper sides to create a strong foundation for the wrap. Place the brisket vertically in the center of the paper sheet, about five inches from the paper’s edge.

Grab the edge of the paper and wrap around the brisket and tuck it under the brisket tightly and give the brisket one roll. Pull the brisket towards you and make sure everything is tight, roll it again.

Fold in both top and bottom sides then wrap up ( roll ) the paper around the brisket creating a tight fit end seal.

Short Video demonstrating the butcher paper brisket wrapping technique

Wrapping Using Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is the original Texas crutch method. This method became very popular, among competition pitmasters who wanted to cook their brisket fast but preserve the juiciness and tenderness. The name stuck, and the rest is history.

The key to wrapping with aluminum foil is to wrap it tightly around the brisket. You want to use the foil as a tight seal to not only hold all the juices in but also restrict the meat from sweating and cooling. The opposite can create a steam bath and soften the brisket and bark a lot.

To wrap the brisket using aluminum foil, cut a long sheet of foil. Place the brisket about halfway vertically on the length of the foil. Roll the brisket once, bring the sides in tight, and roll the brisket on its sides until the end of the sheet. Make sure everything is tight.

It is important to remember that you want to apply this method and any other wrapping method following the temperature guidelines I discussed at the beginning of this article. 

You do not want to wrap your brisket too early, and you certainly do not want to rush; you will be cooking the brisket for hours!

Short Video demonstrating the aluminum foil brisket wrapping technique

The Half Boat wrap

The half boat wrap is popular among backyard warriors and is good for those who don’t want to do a paper warp, have aluminum foil handy, and want to control the stall but not so much. Some people find it hard to wrap with butcher paper, others just like using what they have at home but most people using this method just like to change things a bit

This is because the half-boat wrap kind of combines the advantages of the two wrapping methods I just discussed, which I will compare in a second. 

To do the half-boat wrap, grab some aluminum foil and create a shallow aluminum “base” in the shape of, well, something close to a boat. The goal here is to cover the brisket’s bottom and sides while leaving the top exposed.

The Texas Crutch

People have come up with creative ways for wrapping brisket, but no method is as popular as the Texas Crutch. The method was made famous by BBQ and Pitmaster in competitions where they tried to shorten the cooking time of their briskets. 

texas crutch demo

The Texas Crutch has been adopted by BBQ backyard warriors, and a few variations have emerged, but the concept remains the same. 

Using Paper vs Aluminum Foil When Wrapping

This is a good topic to touch on because by now, you are probably wondering, “Okay, wrapping brisket based on what method?” Well, let me explain and dive into the first two warping brisket methods because those are the most effective and popular.

Both using aluminum foil and butcher paper are effective for wrapping brisket and speeding up the cooking progress; however, because of the characteristics of these very different materials, the brisket will cook and even taste different.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is the easiest method for wrapping brisket. First, aluminum holds its shape, so it is easy to get it nice and tight around the brisket. You don’t have to work too hard to get the foil nice and airtight. 

The main advantage of aluminum foil’s airtightness is that it can create such a nice sealed environment, which means nothing escapes, including very little evaporation. This makes the foil wrap optimal for cooking speed, tenderness, and juiciness.

However, what makes this method “fast” is also its downside. Making an airtight completely sealed wrap around your brisket means that a lot of the juices will stay in the foil wrap and all the evaporation stays in. This creates a soft bark on the brisket, and you also lose some of the seasoning, which, if you’re not careful, is almost like boiling the meat.

Flavor is another area where the characteristics of foil have another drawback. Because aluminum foil completely seals or shields the brisket from the outside in, that also means that while it is wrapped, it is not absorbing wood smoke. Lastly, heat penetrates and gets to the meat.

Butcher Paper

Now, let’s talk about butcher paper. I personally like using butcher paper because to me it still does the job but it “tones down” the side effects of wrapping with aluminum foil

using pink butcher paper
Pink Butcher Paper

Butcher paper is not as beginner-friendly when it comes to wrapping. This is simply due to the fact that it is paper and does not retain its shape or fold as well as a thin sheet of aluminum. So you do have to apply a few techniques to make sure the paper doesn’t open up in the middle of the cook.

Nevertheless, butcher paper works great for wrapping paper, and just like aluminum foil, it has its pros and cons. 

The first benefit is that because butcher paper absorbs fluids and meat juices, you don’t “boil” the brisket as much. This contributes to a crispier bark and a less soggy brisket. Still juicy, just a tad dryer. 

Flavor is another area where butcher paper shines. Paper allows for a small amount of smoke to penetrate, so even when wrapped, the brisket will still get some smoke flavor.

Butcher paper also lets in more heat, so it is important to monitor the smoker’s temperature closely.

ResultsWrapping Method
Juiciest BrisketAluminum Foil
Cripier BarkButcher Paper
Cooks fasterAluminum Foil
FlavorButcher paper wrap

Why wrap a brisket

The purpose of wrapping a brisket is to push it through a temperature stall and increase the cooking temperature without drying out the meat. In short, you don’t always have to. If you are smoking a small brisket, you likely don’t have to wrap it. 

In BBQ, there is a big misconception surrounding “wrapping,” and many experts, including myself, agree that you don’t always have to wrap.

Juicer and Tender Brisket

You can wrap the brisket to manipulate its tenderness and juiciness. As I mentioned before, you don’t always have to wrap the brisket, especially when smoking small meat cuts. But if 

You don’t always have to wrap

The wrapping techniques I mentioned here are useful but don’t always need to be applied. The main indicator is a temperature stall. Also, if you know you are smoking a large brisket, then anticipate having to wrap.

Other factors like humidity, your smoker, and the weather will have a slight impact on whether you’ll need to wrap your brisket or not.

Preserve the Brisket Bark on Paper Wrapped Briskets

When you wrap a brisket, there is always a small chance that you might lose some of its seasoning and soften the bark. One way to preserve the bark is to use a binder such as mustard or olive oil. Is it necessary? Not really. But some of us like to shoot for perfection. 

When wrapping brisket Keep these drawbacks in mind

There are a few drawbacks to any wrapping method. First, there is flavor. Wrapping the brisket results in less smoke flavoring the meat.

If you are not careful, the meat’s texture will also turn out “soggy.” Sometimes warping the brisket makes it soft, but you’ll learn to manage this with time.

Lasly, temperature needs to be closely monitored. While the brisket is wrapped, its internal temperature will fluctuate a bit. Keep an eye on this.

Conclusion

We went at what temperature to warp a brisket which usually is when it reaches about 160 to 165 degrees internal temperature. We also went over three popular wrapping methods including using aluminum foil, butcher paper and the half boat

This is a technique, and like any other, it will take some time to master, but once you do, you will enjoy juicier, more tender briskets. 

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