Guide on brisket wrapping: how, when, and what
The best ways to cook a brisket are covered in a tonne of recipes and how-to guides on the internet. The majority will advise you to wrap your brisket in the cook.
Ever question why? Like most aspects of barbeque, there is a lot of myth and history surrounding it.
We'll do our best to clarify when to cover brisket, why you should wrap brisket, and compare wrapping methods such as butcher paper, aluminium foil, and going "nude."
Why is brisket wrapped?
At some point during a roast, the majority of pitmasters instinctively wrap their briskets (as well as pork butts and ribs) in butcher paper or aluminium foil.
When the brisket reaches 165°F internally, the wrap usually starts. Some pitmasters only consider the bark's look when wrapping.
However, not everyone will be able to explain the purpose of brisket wrapping. Perhaps they comprehend in some small way why it is a good idea. They may have seen Tuffy Stone do the action on an episode of BBQ Pitmasters.
In either case, let's explain:
- Reduces cooking time - By wrapping the brisket, you may get through the stall faster and enjoy your wonderful smoked brisket even more quickly.
- Keeps meat soft and moist - Brisket is a tricky creature that needs to be smoked for a long time for the fat and collagen to dissolve, but if you cook it for too long, it will start to dry up. It will stay moist and soft if it is wrapped.
- Prevents meat from absorbing smoke - Too much smoke might impart a lighter fluid flavour to your meat. More smoke won't contribute much taste if the interior temperature reaches about 155°F.
- You may "hot-hold" for a number of hours since as soon as you take the meat out of the cooker, it starts to cool down quickly -To avoid this, simply "hold" the brisket in a dry cooler that is covered in towels (more on this later). By wrapping your brisket, you can quickly and cleanly transport it from the cooker to the cooler.
- Can damage the bark - You run the risk of your bark turning into nothing more than a soggy, mushy mess if you wrap your meat too early or if you just cook it for too long while it is wrapped.
There are various ingenious workarounds for that, such as boating or the use of butcher paper, which we'll discuss shortly.
What exactly is a Texas Crutch?
You may have heard the term "Texas Crutch" and wondered what in the world it has to do with brisket wrapping.
For a very long time, the phrase "Texas Crutch '' has been bandied about. It simply refers to the practise of wrapping your meat in butcher paper or tinfoil while it cooks. This technique is popular on the barbecue competition circuit.
The name most likely originated on the barbecue circuit as a playful way to jeer rivals who needed to give their meal an advantage, or a "crutch," over the opposition.
The term "Texas Crutch" doesn't just apply to brisket. Any type of meat can be used with this technique. The Texas crutch is used in the well-known 3-2-1 rib cooking technique. The times given are just 3 hours unwrapped in the smoker, 2 hours in foil, and then 1 hour unwrapped at a little higher temperature.
What's the deal with barbeque wrapping?
We wrap our meat in BBQ for two reasons, says Meathead Goldwyn of AmazingRibs.com, a barbecue guru and New York Times bestselling author:
1.To produce a final product that is juicier and more tender
2.In order to expedite frying and break through the stall
The internal temperature rises quickly at first when cooking a big piece of meat like a brisket at low temps. The moisture that is inside the meat starts to evaporate on the centre as it cooks, moving outward from the centre.
As the moisture tries to evaporate, the temperature of the meat will eventually stop rising. The "stall" is what this process is called.
You have two choices when the dreaded stall happens: you can wrap your meat or you can ride it out.
You can go through the stall by wrapping it since it keeps the moisture inside the foil or butcher paper.
In other words, braising your meat causes the internal temperature to increase more quickly and results in a dish that is incredibly juicy and tender.
When to wrap the brisket
On the best time to wrap beef, barbecue gurus disagree strongly.
I think it's a good idea to wrap your brisket if either of the following has occurred:
- Once a dark bark has developed
- When the stall occurs or the internal temperature reaches 165°F (whichever happens first).
When cooking brisket, a leave-in probe thermometer is a crucial appliance. If you don't already have one, you can look at this guide.
That might not happen until after 4 hours, give or take, depending on the temperature you are cooking at and a few other variables.
Options for brisket wrapping
When it comes to how to wrap your brisket, you have a few choices. Let's examine the three approaches that are arguably the most popular.
Let’s get naked, baby!
You don't have to wrap your brisket just because most people do! Generally speaking, an unwrapped, bare brisket will take longer to cook and there is a chance that it will dry out before it is done, but with little technique, you can still produce a superb brisket with an outstanding bark.
You will be able to enjoy a particularly crunchy bark and a flavour that is especially smoky because there is nothing to obstruct the smoke and bark.
This is the approach popularised by the admirable individuals at BBQ Pitmasters. You may hasten the cooking process and produce a tender end product by wrapping your brisket in tinfoil, but you also run the danger of losing the bark that had started to form on the outside of your brisket.
The bark produced by the aluminium foil wrap is the softest, and some people complain that it might lead to overdone or "mushy" brisket.
The aluminium foil "boat," where you place your brisket on a tray or "boat" of foil at some point during the cook, is a popular variation on this technique. Frequently, you would do well to also incorporate liquid for more moisture.
Pink butcher paper, made popular by Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ in Austin, Texas, has come to be intimately linked with a particular type of Texas barbecue.
Followers of this technique assert that butcher paper offers the same advantages as aluminium foil when it comes to cooking brisket while also being porous enough to let some extra smoke through.
You should be able to enjoy a little more crunch on your bark because the butcher paper is slightly more forgiving to the bark.
In our recipe for smoked pellet grill brisket, we employed the butcher paper technique.
It could be difficult to purchase butcher paper. You can easily order a roll from Amazon, or you can find one at Costco or Office Depot if you have the space.
Battle of the wrappers: unwrapped vs butcher paper vs and aluminium
Three briskets are used in the test cook by T-Roy Cooks in the video down below. He prepares one without clothing, one in tinfoil, and a third in butcher paper. On a Yoder Wichita offset smoker set to 225°F, he cooks all three.
T-Roy utilises perfectly trimmed briskets that he purchased directly from the butcher. You might need to cut your briskets in other ways or remove some of the thick fat cap. In addition, he rubs them with a basic seasoning of cayenne, salt, and pepper. You can use your preferred store-bought seasoning or our brisket rub recipe.
Cometh the man, there is your brisket
As I have indicated, T-Roy utilises an offset Yoder Wichita smoker and cooks his briskets at 225°F. He wrapped one of the briskets in butcher paper and the other in tinfoil after many hours. The third brisket that had not been wrapped was then added to the cooker, and he continued to cook them until they were done.
- Butcher Paper - It took 10 hours to cook the brisket that was covered in butcher paper. It had no dark or extremely crusty bark, but was nonetheless incredibly juicy and delicate.
- Tinfoil - With a total cooking time of 9 hours, the brisket cooked the quickest when it was wrapped in tinfoil. It was regarded as the most sensitive and wet tree, and its bark was noticeably darker. Additionally, it had a considerably clearer smoke ring.
- Naked - You can tell right away that the brisket that was prepared without any cover has a significantly darker exterior than the other two. The longest total cooking time was 11 hours for this brisket. Everyone in attendance concurred that this brisket had the greatest bark and the strongest smoke taste. Not a surprise given that the brisket was cooked over an 11-hour period by smoke and heat.
Additionally, here is another comparison of butcher paper vs aluminium foil that explains when and why people use each item.
What professionals do
You don't have to take my word for it that wrapping briskets before cooking is a smart move! Many of the top authorities in the state were consulted on the subject by Daniel Vaughn of Texas Monthly Magazine. Here is what they said about wrapping and their justifications.
The pitmaster at this establishment is Tim Byres, and he operates a little differently. Briskets can be kept at 175°F in the huge smoker used by Smoke until they are served. While the briskets they want to sell later in the afternoon are wrapped in butcher paper until serving, the briskets that are initially offered for lunch are not.
This, according to Tim, prevents the briskets from drying up over time. He uses butcher paper because it is readily available at the restaurant and because he believes it will enable moisture to escape, preventing the bark from becoming mushy.
It is not surprising that we would need the advise of the pitmasters at this restaurant given that it was named the greatest "cue" in the state of Texas in 2008 and again in 2017. Unexpectedly, they wrap their briskets in foil. Owner Kerry Bexley claims that the main distinction is that the briskets are not wrapped until much later in the cooking process.
Briskets are likewise covered in tinfoil at this famous Dallas restaurant, but not before they are fully cooked. The briskets are basically wrapped as they are taken out hours before they are served. They are then kept warm in an electric warmer while more mouthwatering 'cue is being cooked in the smokers.
Franklin Barbecue must be mentioned in order for the list to be complete. For many years running, this restaurant had the title of finest barbecue in Texas (until Snow's dethroned it).
Butcher paper is wrapped around the briskets that Aaron Franklin Barbecue MasterClass Review indicates. The brisket will remain wrapped in butcher paper until it is taken out of the smoker and placed in an electric warmer, which will take many hours before it is served.
Although Aaron acknowledges that he began using butcher paper because it was less expensive than tinfoil, he shares Tim Byres' conviction that the paper will allow the meat to breathe and prevent drying out.
Louie Mueller's BBQ
Louie Mueller Barbecue, also known as the "Cathedral of Smoke," has been in operation since 1949 and has been overseen by three generations of pitmasters. When the briskets are 95% finished, they are first wrapped in butcher paper and then in clear plastic wrap. When they exit the pit, a Cambro warmer is used to keep them warm.
Wayne Mueller, the current owner, insists that wrapping is essential and that skipping the step will cause the flat to dry out.
All good briskets need to rest
Always allow the brisket to rest for at least an hour, whether you opt to wrap it or not.
After the meat has been cooked, there is hardly anything that can be done to increase its softness and moisture levels more than letting it rest.
Allowing the brisket to rest will allow the internal temperature to drop a bit and the moisture in the meat to relax so that it won't want to spill out when it is sliced.
This essential final step will be made much simpler if you wrap your brisket either throughout the cook or right away after it is finished.
The "faux Cambro" is a fantastic method of holding meat invented by Meathead Goldwyn. A Cambro is a food service item made especially for restaurants and caterers to keep food hot for many hours after it has been cooked.
All you need is a cooler and some towels to construct your own fake Cambro. Your cooler can be pre-heated by adding it in boiling tap water before adding the meat for 30 minutes.
After draining the water, add some dry towels to the cooler and set the wrapped meat inside. Meathead has had amazing success using this technique and has successfully heated food for up to three hours.
Whether it's wrapped or not? You decide.
After paying the subject of wrapping brisket a lot of thought, my advice to you is to experiment with various techniques and find the one that suits you the most.
Although it might be a fascinating experiment, you don't have to go full-on scientific and cook three briskets side by side.
Though I, along with many other experts, believe that butcher paper and foil are the best ways to wrap briskets, you shouldn't be scared to sample it once it has been unwrapped and see what you think.