When is the Right Time to Wrap Brisket?

Beef brisket is a beloved BBQ classic, but it can also be quite intimidating, especially for backyard pitmasters. One of the most daunting aspects of smoking brisket is dealing with the stall. Many pitmasters opt to wrap their briskets to overcome this challenge. But how do you know when is the right time to wrap brisket?

Understanding the Brisket Stall

The stall refers to the period during smoking when the internal temperature of the brisket stops rising. This can cause panic for first-timers who are unaware of this phenomenon. However, the stall is a normal part of the smoking process. As the brisket heats up, moisture inside the meat moves to the surface and evaporates, cooling the meat. This evaporation process, similar to sweating in humans, can slow down the temperature rise, resulting in the stall.

Why Wrap Brisket?

Wrapping brisket is not a necessity, as some pitmasters can achieve great results without it. However, wrapping can make your life easier, especially if you’re new to smoking brisket. The main reason for wrapping is to overcome the stall. By tightly wrapping the brisket, you prevent moisture evaporation and quicken the cooking process. Wrapping also helps retain moisture, keeping the brisket juicy. Moreover, it prevents oversmoking and ensures even cooking.

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When to Wrap Brisket

The ideal time to wrap brisket is once you are satisfied with the bark’s appearance and the internal temperature has stalled. The stall usually occurs between 160°F and 170°F (71°C and 77°C). However, you should also consider the visual aspect of the bark. A good bark should be dark brown with some deep, dark red tones. Once you’ve achieved the desired bark and the internal temperature has hit the stall, it’s time to wrap.

Wrapping Materials: Foil or Butcher Paper?

There are two main options for wrapping brisket: aluminum foil and butcher paper. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Wrapping Brisket in Foil

Aluminum foil is a popular choice for wrapping brisket due to its availability and ease of use. Wrapping brisket in foil, also known as “the Texas Crutch,” helps the meat pass through the stall quickly by trapping moisture and reflecting heat. However, foil can make the bark soggy if moisture is not controlled.

Wrapping Brisket in Butcher Paper

Butcher paper is an alternative to foil that allows the brisket to pass through the stall while maintaining a good bark. It doesn’t trap moisture as much as foil, resulting in a less soggy bark. Make sure to use untreated pink butcher paper specifically designed for smoking.

How to Properly Wrap Brisket

Regardless of the wrapping material, the wrapping method remains the same. Follow these steps for a proper wrap:

  1. Cut two pieces of 18″ wide foil or butcher paper, each about 4.5 times the width of the brisket.
  2. Overlap the two pieces by 50% and spritz with a mixture of 50% water and 50% apple cider vinegar.
  3. Place the brisket (fat side up) about one brisket width away from the end of the paper. Fold the length edges over the brisket, then wrap the paper closest to you over the brisket, tucking it in slightly underneath.
  4. Roll the brisket while folding the long edges inward, keeping it tight.
  5. Roll until the brisket is back in a fat side-up orientation, making sure the paper is tucked underneath tightly.
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Can you wrap a brisket too early?

Yes, you can wrap a brisket too early. If you wrap before the bark develops, it will remain soft and lightly colored. Wait for the stall and the desired bark appearance before wrapping.

Can I wrap a brisket from the beginning?

Technically, you can wrap a brisket from the beginning, but it won’t develop a bark or have a smoky flavor. It’s best to wait for the stall and bark development before wrapping.

Is 150°F too early to wrap brisket?

The stall can occur as early as 150°F, so it’s within the acceptable range to consider wrapping. However, ensure that the bark has developed to your liking before wrapping.

Can you wrap a brisket at 180°F?

Yes, you can wrap a brisket at 180°F. Some pitmasters wrap their briskets when they are around 95% done. Keep in mind that the longer you wait to wrap, the more attention you need to pay to avoid drying out the meat.

Do you have to wrap a brisket?

No, wrapping brisket is not mandatory. However, if you choose not to wrap, you need to be careful to prevent drying out or burning the meat. Unwrapped briskets will have a strong smoky flavor and a crunchy bark.

Should I wrap brisket before or after the stall?

It’s generally recommended to wait for the stall to start and the bark to develop before wrapping brisket for the cooking process. However, you can also wrap at the end of the cooking time to hold the brisket and allow the juices to redistribute.

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Knowing when to wrap brisket can greatly improve the cooking process and the final result. Keep an eye on the internal temperature and the appearance of the bark to determine the right time to wrap. Whether you choose aluminum foil or butcher paper, both options have their merits. Experiment and find the wrapping method that suits your preference. Remember, the most important factors are achieving a tender texture and a delicious flavor in your perfectly smoked brisket!