When you are smoking a brisket there comes a time when you are going to want to wrap it in either aluminum foil or butcher paper. You don’t have to wrap a brisket but it does usually result in a better product. Figuring out exactly when you should wrap the brisket is pretty easy once you understand why wrapping is important.
Let’s take a closer look at what is going on.
The quick answer is that you want to wrap the brisket after 5-6 hours of smoking at 250F when it hits an internal temperature of 150F.
Why You Want to Wrap Briskets
Wrapping your brisket has the following benefits.
- Protects the Brisket
- Speeds the Cooking Process
- Makes the Resting Period Easier
Protect the Brisket
As the brisket cooks in the smoker the rub is going to set up and the crust is going to take on a beautiful reddish/mahogany color. If you do not wrap the brisket then the color is going to continue to darken and it can end up looking like a meteorite.
I have found that when I am cooking briskets that the rub has usually set and I have the color I want when it hits an internal temperature of 150F. It typically takes about 5-6 hours of smoking at 250F to reach this temperature. You results will vary based on the size of your brisket and the temperature of your smoker.
In addition to protecting the color of the brisket, wrapping also protects the flavor. One of the biggest mistakes people make when cooking briskets is using too much smoke and ending up with bitter meat that has a slight creosote flavor. By wrapping the brisket when it hits 150F you will prevent it from taking on any more smoke flavor.
Speeds the Cook
Whether you are cooking “Low and Slow” or “Hot and Fast” it takes many hours to cook a brisket (check out my article How Long to Smoke a Brisket for more information). When a brisket is wrapped it holds in heat and speeds up the cook.
Speeding up the cook is important because it gives you more time to rest the brisket before slicing.
Makes Resting Easier
Myron Mixon is the winningest man in barbecue and knows a thing or two about cooking briskets. If you read my article about his technique, Myron Mixon Brisket Recipe with 5 Extra Steps, you will see that he says resting the brisket for several hours is the second most important step in cooking a brisket only falling behind the quality of meat in importance.
When speed up the cook by wrapping then you are going to have more time to let the brisket rest. In addition, the best way to rest a brisket it to place it in a cooler with a few bath towels for insulation. You are going to need to brisket to be covered in something before it goes into the cooler and having it already wrapped makes this easy.
Wrapping in Aluminum Foil vs Butcher Paper
When you start researching the best way to smoke a brisket you are going to find a few topics where people passionately disagree and the use of aluminum foil (the Texas Crutch) versus butcher paper is one of them. (Check out my article on Brisket Fat Side Up or Down to see my take on another great debate.)
When you wrap with butcher paper the paper does not seal tightly and the brisket can “breathe”. When you wrap in aluminum foil the foil seals tightly and locks in all of the heat and steam. This difference has creates the following results:
- Butcher paper gives a better bark as the crust does not get steamed like a brisket wrapped in aluminum foil.
- Butcher paper wrapped briskets cook slower than foil wrapped briskets since the paper lets more heat escape.
I am an advocate of using aluminum foil for a few reasons.
You can readily buy a roll of extra wide foil and, if you pull off a long enough section of sheet, it will easily completely wrap the brisket. I have never found a roll of extra wide butcher paper and wrapping a hot brisket with regular butcher paper is an awkward proposition. I am sure that once you get the hang of it then it is not a big deal but I never enjoyed the process.
The other thing I don’t like about butcher paper is that the bottom gets soaked with brisket grease. I don’t like putting the greasy paper into my cooler along with my clean towels.
Here is a wonderful video by the folks at ATBBQ that shows the difference between wrapping a brisket in aluminum foil, butcher paper and leaving it unwrapped. They came to the same conclusion as me, that foil is the way to go.