What’s the true test of becoming a true BBQ backyard grill master? It’s brisket!
No BBQ grill master can call themselves an expert unless they have mastered a simple cut of beef known as brisket.
Though it is a simple cut of beef, it is also one of the hardest cuts of beef to master.
With brisket, multiple things could go wrong.
However, when brisket is prepared properly, there is no food on the planet that can compare to its delicious smoky flavor.
Though there are multiple recipes and instructionals all claiming to give you the secret to mastering brisket, one thing is clear.
Most recipes will ask you to wrap your brisket while it is cooking.
As you can imagine, there must be some reason behind wrapping brisket. Let’s discuss the history behind this bizarre phenomenon.
- What Is the Texas Crutch?
- What Is the Brisket Stall?
- Why Should You Wrap Brisket?
- When to Wrap Brisket
- What to Wrap Brisket With?
- How To Wrap A Brisket
- Disadvantages of Wrapping Brisket
- Final Thoughts
What Is the Texas Crutch?
Have you ever heard of the Texas crutch? Though it is a common term in the BBQ world for novice beginners, the Texas crutch remains relatively unknown.
Though it seems like it has more to do with the state of Texas than brisket, it simply means wrapping your meat with foil or butcher paper while it is cooking.
This technique is most commonly used in BBQ competitions.
In fact, this term likely originated within the BBQ circuit.
Most people believe the Texas crutch was an ironic statement intended to mock competitors who needed an extra leg or crutch to stand on to give them an advance over their competition.
Furthermore, the Texas crutch is not limited to brisket.
It can be used with any kind of meta, whether it be the 3-2-1 method for ribs or a pork shoulder.
What Is the Brisket Stall?
There is no discussing brisket without discussing the stall.
Ideally, the process of smoking a brisket involves preheating the smoker by allowing the coals to burn until they can generate an adequate amount of heat and lightly colored smoke.
Next comes adding the trimmed, seasoned brisket to the smoker and adding more fuel and wood chips to keep a stable temperature.
The brisket needs to cook until it reaches a temperature of 195°F-203°F.
However, as large cuts of meat such as brisket, pork butt, or pork shoulder cook, the internal temperature of the brisket seems to stall at 155°F-165°F.
Unfortunately, the dreaded stall lasts for hours.
Why Should You Wrap Brisket?
Essentially there are 3 reasons why wrapping brisket is beneficial because it helps the brisket cook faster and retain more moisture levels.
Additionally, wrapping brisket also allows you to control the amount of bark a brisket has.
As previously mentioned, all large cuts of meat are predisposed to the dreaded stall.
Your brisket can seem as though it is progressing beautifully, and before you know it, it hits the stall period, and the temperature stays the same for hours.
Essentially this process is a result of evaporation.
As moisture pockets begin to sweat, water is pulled towards the meat’s surface and evaporates, thereby cooling the entire brisket.
Eventually, evaporation causes the temperature of the meat to come to a standstill even though the smoker’s temperature may continue to fluctuate.
Unfortunately, this process can last for up to six hours which is enough to drive even the most patient grill master insane.
This is where wrapping brisket comes in.
Wrapping brisket prevents it from coming into contact with oxygen which allows moisture to evaporate.
As a result, a layer of the brisket’s juices pools around the meat. These juices remain heated due to the heat distribution in your smoker.
Basically, the less oxygen that travels around the brisket surface, the hotter the temperature will be.
There’s no need to worry about the brisket being affected by the high temperature.
The foil or butcher paper protects the brisket from direct heat so it will not dry out or burn.
Control the Bark
Wrapping brisket gives you more control over the brisket’s outcome. Most brisket experts aim for a mahogany color crust on the surface of the meat.
This rich crust is called the bark.
The bark is the hallmark of brisket. It is stunning yet extremely delicious. Furthermore, the bark is a result of the highly regarded Milliard reaction.
The Milliard reaction is a chemical process that occurs between amino acids.
It decreases sugar and results in the flavorful brown crust that many of us deem as cooked food.
From seared steaks to brisket to bread and biscuits, there are several foods that undergo the Milliard reaction.
Some brisket enthusiasts wrap brisket when it enters the stall temperature range.
On the other hand, other grill masters wait until their brisket has a bark that achieves the color or thickness they deem necessary.
Wrapping brisket seals in the flavorful brisket’s natural juices.
Once your brisket has reached your desired temperature, you can wrap it and allow it to braise in its own juices.
While some barbecuers believe you achieve a deeper smoke flavor by wrapping it however this is just a myth.
The brisket will absorb the smoky flavor just until it enters the stall zone.
Though the technique known as the Texas crutch originated in the BBQ competition scene, this method is a traditional technique common in tropical regions.
However, they used leaves to wrap thier brisket, but it is still the same idea.
When to Wrap Brisket
Deciding to wrap brisket and knowing when to wrap brisket are two different things.
There are multiple characteristics that determine when a brisket should be wrapped.
Essentially knowing when to wrap a brisket depends on its size, smoker temperature, and preference.
Smaller briskets will cook faster than larger briskets. This means that a smaller brisket will rapidly lose moisture faster than a larger one will.
One of the concepts behind wrapping brisket is to preserve its moisture content.
Therefore, it’s best to wrap a small brisket earlier than you would like a larger brisket.
Case in point, a 6–7 pound brisket should be wrapped around the 3-4 hour mark. In contrast, a 12–13pound brisket should be wrapped at the 5-6 hour mark.
As with most foods, the temperature is everything, and smoking a brisket is no different.
The smoker’s temperature affects when it is the most opportune time to wrap brisket.
If your brisket is cooked at a lower temperature, it will take longer to reach the stall point.
On the other hand, if your brisket is smoked at a higher temperature, you will need to wrap your brisket sooner.
This factor is the most important factor when it comes to wrapping brisket.
As we all know, smoking brisket requires a vast amount of patience.
Most BBQ enthusiasts suggest wrapping brisket once it achieves an internal temperature between 165°F-170°F, which is usually after the stall occurs.
However, if you prefer a thick ring of bark, it is best to wait until your brisket has an internal temperature of 170°F before wrapping it.
Wrapping it before the stall will likely result in brisket with an inadequate bark.
It depends on your preference. If you prefer a richly colored crispy crust, wrap it once the brisket develops a thick park.
In contrast, if you are not very patient, you can wrap it as soon as it stalls.
What to Wrap Brisket With?
There is no wrapping brisket if you have nothing to wrap it with.
Depending on your preference, you can wrap your brisket with foil or butcher paper.
The Texas crutch is known for using aluminum foil for wrapping brisket.
This method requires approximately two arm-length pieces of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Place the sheets of foil on top of one another and set the meat on top of the foil. Next, wrap the brisket as tight as possible.
Foil is the easiest method, especially for new beginners. Aluminum foil is supposed to wrap food tightly.
Therefore, it is relatively easy for new beginners to wrap brisket.
Furthermore, most people already have foil on hand. Since foil creates an airtight seal, it will accelerate the cooking process.
Ensure you pay close attention to the timed and measure the temperature every 30 minutes.
However, the disadvantage of this method is that the bark will become exposed to moisture, therefore softening it.
Wrapping brisket with the butcher is the preferred method of BBQ experts. Not only does it accelerate the cooking process.
However, it allows the steak to penetrate the butcher paper, while foil paper does not allow smoke to penetrate the meat.
In addition to this, butcher paper absorbs the brisk grease and creates a band of moisture that stimulates heat and allows the brisket to continue cooking.
Moreover, your brisket will stay drier than if it was wrapped with foil.
However, there are a couple of disadvantages of this method. The butcher paper was intended to help meat from entering the stall stage.
Nevertheless, the foil method gives you more assurances.
In addition to this, butcher paper does create an airtight seal as foil does.
So, this method may take longer than using aluminum foil.
While most people prefer to wrap brisket, some individuals prefer to leave their brisket naked.
If you prefer to leave your brisket naked, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
However, there are a few factors you should note. A naked brisket will take longer to cook than a wrapped brisket.
There is also the risk of overcooking your brisket.
How To Wrap A Brisket
Now that we’ve discussed the basics of wrapping brisket, it is paramount that you learn how to wrap brisket properly.
To wrap your brisket, begin with butcher or foil paper.
Arrange your brisket on the paper widthwise with the presentation side facing towards you.
Bring the bottom edge of the paper over until it covers the brisket and pull it to create an airtight seal.
Next, fold the butcher paper over the flat edge of the brisket to create a triangular shape. Ensure the butcher paper remains smooth but flat.
Arrange the brisket so it is now facing in the opposite direction away from you.
Fold the sheet under the triangular edge and hold it so it stays in place, then make another fold so it resembles the triangular shape you created before.
Keep the brisket flush against the sheet, then fold it upwards toward the end f the paper as if you were rolling up a burrito.
Finally, fold the sides in and pull the paper tight to create an airtight seal.
The end result of wrapping a brisket should resemble a long rectangle.
Next, roll the meta forward and over with the remaining sheet and arrange it so the presentation side is facing upwards. Now you have the perfect wrapped brisket.
Disadvantages of Wrapping Brisket
Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to wrapping brisket.
However, the biggest drawback of this method is that it limits the smoky flavor. It will taste less smoky compared to its naked counterparts.
In addition to this, there is also the possibility of texture loss and the risk of the brisket drying out.
Decreased Smoky Flavor
Though it is not intended, wrapping brisket produces a wall between the smoke and the meat.Therefore, less smoke equals less flavor.
However, this is certainly no reason to panic. The brisket will be given a chance to absorb smoky flavor during the initial stages of the smoking process.
The beginning stage is when most of the smoke will be infused into the meat.
As previously discussed, wrapping brisket tightly with foil or butcher paper creates a band of moisture.
This technique is responsible for accelerating the cooking process. However, the crispy bark you worked so hard to create will be compromised.
Wrapping the brisket causes the brisket’s bark to soften.
However, to combat this, most brisket enthusiasts suggest allowing your meat to come to the preferred temperature and removing the wrap.
Smoke the brisket at 225°F to allow the bark to gain some of its crispy texture back.
The brisket will cool quickly once you remove it from the wrap, but this is no cause for concern.
As long as your brisket achieves a temperature of 203°F, the meat will retain its tenderness even if the internal temperature of the meat decreases.
Wrapping a brisket causes the brisket’s internal temperature to rise. There is no way to determine how quickly the temperature range will increase.
This tends to differ depending on the smoker’s humidity, the specific cut of brisket, the quality of the wrapping, in addition to how tightly it wrapped.
The eyes are the best tools when it comes to wrapping brisket.
Unfortunately, most novice brisket makers abandon their senses and thermometers and abide by a recipe that can steer you in the wrong direction at times.
As a result, they end up stewing with anger and an overcooked, mushy undesirable brisket.
When it comes to brisket, you should trust yourself and stop depending on time.
Additionally, use a trusty probe thermometer to check the brisket at 30-minute intervals. Y
ou can use the thermometer probe to penetrate the brisket’s wrapping.
Though it is common to assume it will affect the brisket’s cooking time, it will have no effect on the brisket.
When your thermometer reads 190°F, begin taking the temperature of the brisket every 15 minutes until it rises to 203°F.
Wrapped or unwrapped brisket is the question of the day. Unfortunately, this debate will continue to wage on long after you finish reading this article.
Nevertheless, it is your choice whether you choose to wrap your brisket or leave it naked.
In addition to this, it is also your decision to choose what you wrap your brisket with.
If you prefer a thick smoke-infused, crunchy bark, it may be the best option to leave your brisket naked.
However, beware leaving your brisket exposed to the heat will be predisposed to the unappealing stall. Nonetheless, this is all worth it if you enjoy a delicious crispy bark.
On the other hand, if you think your brisket is becoming too dry on the outside, you can always wrap it with butcher paper or aluminum foil.
This will provide a bit of extra assurance that your brisket will cook faster and yield a tender bite of juicy, beefy flavor in every bite.
Now go forth and make great delicious brisket.
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I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.