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Barbeque 101: Wrapping Meat in Foil vs. Butcher Paper

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 5 min read

While not all pitmasters wrap their meat in the final stages of a cook, wrapping is an effective way of finishing a long cook without drying out the meat. You can wrap your meat in either foil or butcher paper. There are advantages to both, whether you’re cooking brisket, pork butt, or spare ribs.

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Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas-Style BBQAaron Franklin Teaches Texas-Style BBQ

Aaron Franklin teaches you how to fire up flavor-packed Central Texas barbecue, including his famous brisket and more mouth-watering smoked meat.

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What Is the Texas Crutch?

Brisket recipes in barbecue joints across the country differ in their wrapping techniques, but in barbecue circles, wrapping in foil is known as the “Texas crutch.” Foiling a piece of meat like brisket is a way to ensure a succulent texture and full flavor.

Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue wraps pork ribs in aluminum foil but wraps his famous smoked brisket in uncoated, food-grade pink butcher paper, also known as peach paper. Either way, be sure to purchase “wide” rolls of whichever material you’re using.

What Are the Benefits of Wrapping Brisket in Foil?

Aaron Franklin wrapping brisket in foil

Wrapping in foil captures the meat’s fat and juices, so they can be reabsorbed once the meat is taken off the smoker to rest, creating a braising effect. The insulating power of tinfoil can reduce cooking time, but it also can create an overly moist environment that threatens the bark, especially during the stall—the rest period when the meat has finished cooking and returns to room temperature. When cooking with foil, timing is key.

What Are the Benefits of Wrapping Brisket in Butcher Paper?

Aaron Franklin wrapping brisket in butcher paper

Butcher paper is more breathable and traps less steam, keeping the brisket moist without making the bark soggy. If you prefer a super crispy, crunchy bark you can also leave the brisket unwrapped, though you’ll need to be careful it doesn’t dry out.

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How to Wrap Brisket in Foil or Butcher Paper

For the wrap, you’ll need two wide sheets of foil or butcher paper that are four times longer than your brisket is wide.

  1. Place one sheet of paper on your workstation, with the long edge running perpendicular to you. Place the second sheet on top so it overlaps by about half its width. Lay the brisket lengthwise across the paper, presentation side up, about one foot from the bottom edge. Give the brisket one last spritz with apple cider vinegar anywhere that a needs little moisture, then lightly spritz the surface of your wrap for good measure.
  2. Fold the bottom edge of your paper over the top of the brisket and pull it as tight as you can. Every fold you make should conform with the shape of the brisket.
  3. Tightly fold in one side of the paper over the flat, so that it conforms to the shape of the brisket and runs at an obtuse angle away from you. Smooth out the paper.
  4. Tuck part of the paper on the opposite side under the point to secure it, then fold in the paper over the top, so that it conforms to the brisket and runs at an obtuse angle away from you. Smooth out the paper.
  5. Roll the brisket over one more time. The presentation side should now be facing upward with a double layer of wrap beneath it and the wrap tightly surrounding it on all sides. Holding the wrap tightly around the brisket on all sides, roll the brisket over and pull tightly to secure the paper. Fold in the sides again.
  6. Fold the top end of the paper over to double its thickness.

Learn how to wrap brisket from Aaron Franklin in our complete guide here.

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How to Wrap Pork Butt in Foil

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Aaron Franklin teaches you how to fire up flavor-packed Central Texas barbecue, including his famous brisket and more mouth-watering smoked meat.

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For the wrap, you’ll need two sheets of wide aluminum foil that are four times as long as the widest side of your pork butt.

  1. Place one sheet on a clean workstation, shiny side facing up, with the longer edge of the foil running perpendicular to you. Place the other sheet of foil on your workstation, so that it overlaps with the first piece by about half its width.
  2. Lay the pork butt on the foil, fat side up, about eight inches from the bottom edge of the foil. The longer side of the pork belly should run parallel to the bottom edge of the foil sheets. Give the pork one last spritz of apple cider vinegar, then lightly spritz the surface of your foil.
  3. Tightly fold the bottom of the foil over the top of the pork butt. Tightly fold both sides of the foil at an obtuse angle to you so that the meat is wrapped tightly but the sides can still be folded in once more.
  4. Roll the pork butt over, then fold both sides of the foil inward again. Roll the pork butt over one more time, then tuck in any excess foil.
  5. Feel around the wrap, making sure the foil conforms tightly to the meat and there are no air pockets trapped inside.

Learn how Aaron Franklin wraps pork butt in our complete step-by-step guide here.

How to Wrap Spare Ribs in Foil

Editors Pick

Some pitmasters will do what’s called a “3-2-1” with their spare-rib cooks: 3 hours on, 2 hours wrapped, and 1 hour unwrapped. Aaron Franklin follows more of a “3-3” game plan, leaving the ribs wrapped for the whole second half of cooking.

  1. Fold one end of the foil over the ribs, then the other. Both ends should overlap in the center.
  2. Use your fingers to tuck the foil tightly around the bottom edge of the rack until the foil conforms to its shape.
  3. Locate the diagonal edge of the ribs where the sternum used to be, and fold the foil over the top of the ribs. Smooth out the foil and tuck it in tight. Repeat with the opposite corner.
  4. Use your fingers to tuck the foil tightly around the top of the ribs just as you did along the bottom, making sure the foil conforms to its shape.
  5. Fold the top edge of the foil over the ribs. Tightly fold in both sides of the foil at an obtuse angle to you so that the meat is wrapped tightly but the sides can still be folded in once more.

Learn how to wrap pork ribs in our complete guide here.

Want to Learn More About Barbeque?

Whether you are working with a small hibachi on your fire escape or full-size smoker in your backyard, mastering the art of barbeque takes a lot of patience and even more skill. No one knows this better than Aaron Franklin, the James Beard Award-winning owner of Franklin Barbecue, where the line for his famous smoked brisket is hours long. In Aaron Franklin’s MasterClass on Texas-Style BBQ, the pitmaster himself teaches you his meticulous low and slow process for mouth-watering ribs, pork butt, and brisket. With perfectly seasoned cuts and optimal temperatures, you’ll learn to handle an offset smoker like a true pro.

Want to learn more about the culinary arts? The MasterClass Annual Membership provides exclusive video lessons from master chefs including Aaron Franklin, Dominique Ansel, Massimo Bottura, Chef Thomas Keller, Gordon Ramsay, Alice Waters, and more.

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