Expert pitmasters use internal meat temperature to determine when to wrap brisket. If you’ve been wondering when is the best time to wrap, the pros have the answer. They’ll tell you that the best time to wrap your brisket in aluminum foil or butcher’s paper is when the internal temperature is between 150 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wrapping brisket, often known as the “Texas Crutch,” is done during the cooking process, not before. If done right, wrapping your brisket while cooking keeps it moist while still giving that bark “crunch” we all love on our brisket.
If you’re still learning how to make the perfect brisket, keep reading. Learn when to wrap your brisket, what wrapping you should use for the best results, and why you should even wrap the brisket in the first place.
We’ll walk you through the “Texas Crutch” technique (also used on other cuts) to ensure you get a juicy, crunchy, and flavorful piece of brisket.
The history of the Texas crutch
The term “Texas Crutch” is often used by BBQ experts. It’s an interesting phrase that doesn’t just apply to brisket. This technique is also being used for various cuts of meat, such as ribs and pork butts.
Nobody knows how the word came to be. However, it is thought to have originated during BBQ competitions. It is a slang term that refers to wrapping huge chunks of meat to improve flavor and cooking time. It was commonly referred to as a “crutch” for helping cooks in mastering specific meats on the grill while trying to catch up with a tight deadline.
It is now often used to describe the process of wrapping meat while it is cooking. The meat is cooked naked for a few hours before being covered for another couple of hours. The final hour of cooking can be done uncovered.
Brisket is one of the beef cuts that benefit from this cooking method, and we’ll explain why the “Texas Crutch” is the key to a delicious brisket right now.
When should you wrap brisket?
There are three things to consider when wrapping a brisket:
A bigger brisket will naturally take longer to cook than a smaller one. This is because smaller meat briskets lose moisture significantly faster than larger ones.
The main purpose of wrapping a brisket is to keep moisture in the meat. As a result, smaller cuts of meat should be wrapped sooner in the cooking process. An 8-pound brisket should be wrapped around the 3 – 4 hour mark, and a 12-pound brisket should be wrapped closer to the 6-hour mark.
Your smoker temperature
You should also consider how hot your smoker is typically set to. A higher temperature results in a faster cook, which means you’ll be able to wrap your brisket much sooner than with a long cook.
Pitmasters will advise you that the optimal time to wrap brisket is once the internal meat temperature hits 150°C to 170°C. If the temperature range troubles you, stick to 165°C.
The key here is to grab your meat before it falls into the stall. This is why experienced BBQ chefs recommend using a meat probe. Keep it in because the halted process may occur only 3 to 4 hours into the cooking period.
Because you can’t predict when the stall will occur, a probe is your best guide in this situation. When you notice the internal flesh temperature fluctuating between 1500 and 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, you know your beef has finished cooking.
Your personal preference
Much of the time, like with any culinary process, it comes down to personal preference. You’re the one who’ll be eating the barbeque, so you know how you like your meat.
When smokers reach an internal temperature of 165 – 170 F, most pitmasters advise wrapping your meat. Not everyone, however, has the patience to wait that long. Some people may want to finish as soon as the stall appears (usually around 145 – 155 F.) It may be the fastest option, but it is not always the most delicious.
You won’t want to wrap your meat until it comes out of the stall if you want the thickest, crunchiest bark possible. It may appear contradictory, but the evidence is in the pudding – or, in this case, the delectable brisket.
Experimenting is the only method to discover your particular preferences for the cooking process. Wrap the brisket at several points during the cooking process to find the flavor and bark crunchiness that fits you most.
What should you use to wrap brisket?
Aluminum foil or butcher paper are the most popular options to wrap your beef. Both are used to get your brisket through the stall stage. However, you may notice some minor variances in your outcome. Let’s go over the two wrapping options so you can choose which one you want when doing the “Texas Crutch.”
You don’t have to wrap your brisket because everyone else does! Unwrapped, bare briskets take longer to cook and are more likely to dry out before they are done, but with enough practice, you can still get a fantastic brisket with a phenomenal bark.
Aluminum foil, sometimes known as tinfoil, is widely available in supermarkets and is commonly kept in most kitchens for other uses. It can be used to wrap your lunch for the school or office, cover dishes, and retain moisture while cooking.
Pitmasters prefer to use foil since it is easy to use. Wrapping the brisket with tinfoil requires very little expertise!
It is advised that you use heavy-duty aluminum foil. Any lighter, and you risk shredding the foil during the wrapping process. Cut two strips of foil, each about one arm’s length. The amount of foil you use is determined by the size of the cut, so estimate how much you will use. More than an arm’s length is required for larger cuts.
Layer the two pieces and put the brisket on top of it. Fold the foil over the brisket to make a tight seal. Make sure not to tear or poke any holes in the foil since this will defeat the purpose of wrapping the brisket. Keep in mind that you want to keep the moisture in!
You should expect a softer bark, a quicker cooking time, and a beefier or meatier flavor from your cooked brisket when you use aluminum foil.
Another type of wrap used to do the “Texas Crutch” is pink butcher paper or butcher paper. Many cooks who smoke their meat chops prefer it because it allows the more smoky flavor to penetrate. Butcher paper is most commonly seen in specialty butcher shops.
Mastering the technique of wrapping huge pieces of brisket with butcher paper requires some effort. However, if you’ve mastered it, you may prefer this wrap because it results in a somewhat more “smokehouse” flavor in your meat.
Again, measure the appropriate amount of paper before cutting to ensure that your brisket is completely covered when wrapped. You’ll also need extra paper to fold over the ends, so they don’t flail open while cooking.
The use of butcher paper results in brisket with a more smoky flavor and a crunchier bark. Cooking time may be around half an hour longer than if you used foil wrap.
Butcher paper vs. aluminum vs. unwrapped tested
How to cook for each one. One naked, one tinfoil-wrapped, and one butcher-paper-wrapped. All three at 225°F on a Yoder Wichita offset smoker.
Use briskets that have been expertly trimmed right from the butcher. You may need to remove some of the heavy fat caps from your briskets or do some other trimming. He also puts pepper, seasoning of salt, and cayenne pepper on them. You can use this method or your favorite seasoning.
We’ll be using a Yoder Wichita offset smoker and grilled the briskets at 225°F. After several hours, we’ll wrapped two briskets, one in tin foil and the other in butcher paper. Then returned them to the burner, along with the third unwrapped brisket, and cooked them until done.
- Butcher Paper – It took 10 hours to cook the beef wrapped in butcher paper. It was still really juicy and soft, but it lacked a dark or notably crusty bark.
- Tinfoil – With a total cooking time of 9 hours, the brisket covered in tinfoil was the fastest to cook. It had the darkest bark and was said to be the most tender and wet. It also had a significantly larger smoke ring.
- Naked – The bark on the brisket that was cooked naked is noticeably darker than the other two. This brisket required the most time to cook, clocking in at 11 hours. Everyone present agreed that this brisket had the best bark and the most pronounced smoke taste. This is hardly surprising given that the brisket was cooked by heat and smoke over the whole 11-hour duration.
The advantages of brisket wrapping (and other barbecue meat)
In the first place, why would you want to wrap brisket or other barbecue meats? What’s more, why is it only done half the way through the cooking process? It all comes down to the “stall.”
This is another term you’ll hear a lot when you start cooking large chunks of meat for an extended period. This stall is always encountered by cooks who are smoking briskets in a smoker. The meat will stall at some point throughout the cooking process. This can be frustrating for cooks who believe everything is going according to plan. The meat had been cooking beautifully until it suddenly stopped cooking.
What happens when your meat goes bad? Evaporation starts. Moisture accumulates in the meat due to the heat within the cooker, such as a smoker. It floats to the surface and then evaporates. What was the result? As the temperature drops, so does the temperature of your meat. This cycle continues until the internal temperature of your meat reaches a plateau. This is most frequently referred to as the stall.
By wrapping the brisket in aluminum foil or butcher’s paper, you are preventing the evaporation process. Instead of coming in contact with the air within the cooker, the moisture is now confined within the wrap.
The meat juices are now constantly coating the flesh surface as they circulate within the wrapping. The meat is braising in its juices but not cooling down since the hot air within the smoker is still moving. Instead of staying at the stall stage, the internal meat temperature continues to rise.
The advantages of wrapping the brisket include:
- Shortening the cooking time: You won’t need to keep your smoker burning for hours trying to push through the stall stage.
- Better control over the bark: With the brisket wrapped in foil or paper, you won’t have to worry about burning the surface when you raise the cooker’s temperature.
- Juicier and tastier meat: This method allows the internal temperature of the meat to rise faster without losing moisture. The end result is a juicy, flavorful brisket.
- Less fuel is consumed: Instead of using extra charcoal to keep your smoker going as you push through the stall, you’re now minimizing the impact of the stall and, as a result, shortening the cooking time.
- You can “hot-hold” for a few hours — When you take the meat from the cooker, it starts to cool quickly. To combat this, place your brisket in a dry cooler filled with towels (more on this later). Wrapping your brisket allows you to transfer it from the oven to the cooler with little to no mess.
To master the stall and get the benefits of wrapping the brisket during cooking, you must first understand when to wrap.
What are the drawbacks of wrapping the brisket?
Wrapping briskets reduces cooking time, allows you more control over the bark, and results in a juicy piece of beef. So, what are the drawbacks of cooking briskets wrapped?
Less smokehouse flavor
If you prefer your meat to have a robustly smoky flavor, wrapped brisket may disappoint you due to its lack of smoke. The pros believe that most of the wood smoke is captured while cooking before wrapping, while others believe that the smokey flavor is lost once wrapped.
Butcher paper has a higher porosity than aluminum foil. If you’re worried about missing out on the smokehouse flavor, wrap it in butcher paper. Unwrapped brisket will have more smokey characteristics, but it will also be drier. So consider whether you prefer more smoke or more juice.
A softer bark
Wrapping a brisket allows you to control the texture of your bark. However, it will be lighter in color and softer than unwrapped brisket. This is because the brisket is braised in its juices while cooking rather than exposed to direct heat.
Wrapping the brisket may not be an option if you prefer a dark and crunchy bark. However, keep a watchful check on the meat while cooking to avoid getting a charred bark instead.
When you wrap the brisket in foil or butcher paper, you risk having mushy brisket. Why? Because the meat will start to cook faster after it has been wrapped. If you don’t keep an eye on the internal temperature of the meat, it may start to overcook.
Rather than relying on timing when cooking your wrapped brisket, use the meat probe to determine it is done. Insert the probe through the wrap every 30 minutes to check the brisket. There’s no need to unwrap everything every time you want to check the temperature. The internal meat temperature of a well-cooked brisket should be 203 degrees.
How to wrap a brisket – step by step
It is important to understand how to wrap your brisket. There are several points of view about this.
As a student of all things smoked and grilled, I’ve experimented with a variety of approaches. I recently found Texas barbeque guru Aaron Franklin’s simple and tidy 6-step approach, and I love it.
Here’s how it’s done, starting with a sheet of butcher paper roughly five times as long as your brisket measures across the short side:
- Put your brisket on the paper widthwise, presentation side up. Position it so that the bottom edge of the paper (the one closest to you) folds entirely up and over the brisket. Pull it as tight as you can. Fitting the paper snugly to the contours of the brisket is important, so keep each fold close to the edge of the meat.
- Fold the paper tightly over the flat, keeping it as close to the shape of the brisket as possible until you have a long triangle running out and away from you. Flatten and smoothen the paper with your hand.
- Tuck some butcher paper underneath the point on the other side of your triangle to keep it in place. Repeat the triangular fold on the point side to match the one on the flat side. Smoothen and flatten the paper with your hand once more.
- Roll the paper towards the far end of the paper, using both hands to keep it fitted to the brisket. After finishing the roll, pull the paper in tightly and fold it in the sides.
- You should now have a completely wrapped brisket and a large rectangle of paper (more or less) hanging out and away from you. Fold the rectangle in half and back towards the brisket to halve the length and twice the thickness.
- Roll the brisket forward and over the remaining rectangle of paper, keeping everything tight. The double-thick strip of paper will lie underneath the brisket, with the presentation side facing up.
Your brisket is now ready to be smoked again!
When to pull brisket off the smoker
When preparing a wrapped brisket, chefs recommend adhering to the following guidelines. According to the Texas recipe, when the internal temperature of the beef reaches 160 or 170 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the oven and wrap it securely and in several layers in foil or butcher paper (2 or 3 layers, typically).
Then raise the temperature of your smoker to 300°F and wait until the internal temperature of the meat reaches roughly 200°F. Remove the brisket from the oven and discard the covering. After one hour of cooling, start slicing and serving the final brisket.
Wrapping brisket: Final thoughts
Wrapping your brisket offers several advantages. It shortens the cooking time, produces a nice bark, and results in juicy, tasty meat to eat. The key is to determine when to wrap the brisket, and the internal meat temperature is your best guide. To get through the stall, you can use butcher paper or aluminum foil.
Mastering the “Texas Crutch” is easy once you understand why, when, and how to use it. After all, professional pitmasters swear by this method, so learn from the best.