To Wrap or Not to Wrap: The Ultimate Guide on When to Wrap a Brisket

when to wrap a brisket

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This is an age-old question that has no right answer. Why, you ask? Since taste is very subjective, it all depends on how you prefer your meat. Today you can find out how wrapping at different times affects the taste and texture of the brisket and the effect of different types of wraps on the meat.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • When to wrap a brisket?
  • Do you need to wrap a brisket?
  • Can you overcook a wrapped brisket?
  • And much more!

How long to cook the brisket before wrapping, and at what temp to wrap brisket?

The temperature of the meat dictates the correct time when to wrap a brisket. This means there is no exact timing since the temperature of the brisket can be affected by the smoker’s heat, the meat’s thickness, and other things. So, you should look not at your clock but at the temperature scale.

To answer the question, the brisket should be uncovered until it reaches the stall. The brisket stall temp is usually around 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the meat starts releasing more liquids from inside to the surface, where it evaporates. This evaporation has a cooling effect on the meat, so it seems its internal temperature stopped climbing, seeming like it stalled.

Do you need to wrap a brisket, or can you smoke a brisket without wrapping?

brisket in a smoker

No, it is absolutely not necessary, but here are a few pros and cons to help you decide if wrapping is for you when you want to smoke a brisket.

Wrapping the brisket at the start of the stall phase helps with a few things. First, it stops this evaporation, essentially jumpstarting the cooking after the stall. This will decrease the time it takes to cook since the brisket will reach optimal temperature faster.

The wrapping will stop the juices from flowing out and evaporating, making the meat juicier. These natural juices will make the brisket more flavorful.

If you decide to leave your brisket naked, that is also a legit choice. You should be aware that there is an increased chance of the meat drying out, and the smoky flavor will be more powerful. The cooking process itself will be much longer too, but if you are the patient kind, you can choose to ride the stall out so you get a nice and crispy bark. 

Read more >>

Can you overcook a wrapped brisket?

wrapping a brisket

Yes, you can definitely overcook brisket while being wrapped. In fact, wrapping brisket makes overcooking easier since the temperature will rise much faster than unwrapped. You will have to monitor the temperature more closely to make sure you don’t overcook it.

Is it better to wrap a brisket early or late?

I recommend wrapping brisket at the right time, when it reaches the right temperature, not too early or too late.

What happens if you wrap your brisket too early?

Wrapping brisket too early will impact the flavor by making it less smoky since the smoke won’t be able to penetrate the meat through the wrapping material. The texture will be affected as well. There will be less of a bark formed, and it will most likely be soft since the meat will retain a lot of juice and swim in it inside the wrap. Since heat is the only thing penetrating the wrap, you might as well cook it inside a normal electric oven after wrapping it.

What happens if you wrap the brisket too late?

Wrapping brisket late will increase the smoky profile of the meat. The juiciness will be affected as well since the moisture has more time to evaporate; however, the bark will be crispier and way more pronounced.

Wrapping time will also affect the cooking time; the earlier you wrap, the faster the meat reaches optimal internal temperature. So, if you don’t have time, just wrap it, and the meat will cook faster.

In my opinion, you get the most benefit from wrapping if you do it in the middle of the stalling period when as I mentioned above, the temperature of the meat seems to be stuck. If you do it at this point, there will still be a decent enough bark, with moist meat and enough smokiness.

Read more >> What part of the cow is brisket?

Different types of wrap materials.

wrapped brisket

Aluminum foil is what comes to mind in the first place for most people when they think of wrapping. This is a widespread wrapping material present in most people’s kitchens. Aluminum foil is favored because of its tight seal and does not let smokiness penetrate.

Since aluminum is not permeable, it won’t let anything pass. It forms a tight impenetrable seal around the meat. This can deteriorate the bark; soak it in the meat juices for too long, at it will become soggy. A workaround for this is removing the wrap for the last bit of cooking so the bark can become crisp again.

If you want something that lets in a bit of smokiness, then you might consider parchment paper. This is a type of paper that can be used for wrapping, and unlike aluminum, it allows for smoke and steam to pass through, just a bit, though. You have to be more careful when using parchment paper since it is fragile and can easily tear, so handle it carefully. Also, if you get the wrong type, it can start burning in flames. Some types are heat resistant; these are the ones you should go for.

Butcher paper is a different alternative. Since it is paper, it won’t for such a tight seal as an aluminum foil would. However, it will still stop the smokiness from penetrating; the difference is that, unlike aluminum, the paper will soak up some of the meat juice and fat from the meat, giving the bark a chance for survival.

The Texas Crutch, and what is it?

This wrapping technique was used frequently at BBQ competitions in Texas. This technique allowed the competitors to finish smoking faster if it seemed like the meat won’t be finished on time. Kind of like their meat needed a crutch to cross the finish line. 

The Texas crutch is actually just wrapping any meat cut, not strictly brisket, in an aluminum sheet, and that’s it. 

wrapping brisket in aluminum

A common way to utilize the Texas crutch is the 3-2-1 method. This is simply smoking the meat for three hours uncovered, then 2 hours wrapped, and then finally for one hour at a higher temperature to breathe some life into that bark.

This is generally a good method of telling how to proceed for less advanced BBQ enthusiasts.  

There are other more advanced ways of determining when to wrap a brisket, but these are based more on experience and feel. After smoking for many years, pit masters can decide when is the right time based on color or just how the meat feels to the touch. 

Determining the right time to wrap a brisket is a heavily debated topic. This is because we all have different preferences, and it’s impossible to settle on what tastes the best. Some people like more crispy bark with a smoky flavor, while others enjoy tender, juicy meat with a less intense smoky profile. 

Some people argue that you should start the wrapping at the beginning of the stall. This is when the evaporation starts, and the bark starts to develop. As someone who lives and dies for a good bark, I strongly recommend leaving the brisket to stall until it forms a decent bark before wrapping. Don’t wrap it immediately as the stall begins since the bark won’t have a chance to form properly or at all.

Faq

When to wrap a brisket during smoking, what’s the purpose?

  • The purpose of wrapping brisket is to make the cooking shorter and to make the meat juicier.

When should the brisket be wrapped during the smoking?

  • In my opinion, you should wrap the brisket in the middle of the stall so there is time for a nice bark to form and you still enjoy a shortened smoking process.

What material should I use to wrap brisket?

  • You can go with the good old aluminum foil or butcher paper if you want to soak up some of the juices.

How long should I keep my brisket wrapped during smoking?

  • There is no exact time when the meat reaches an optimal inner temperature of around 195 Fahrenheit, that generally takes two hours.

Conclusion

brisket bark

So, in conclusion, as always, it all comes down to how you prefer your meat as an individual. You can make your meat juicier and cook way faster by wrapping it at the right time. Wrapping too early is very bad news for the bark of the meat, as it will be pretty much nonexistent, so be careful. Only wrap after the stalling is already halfway through. If you prefer a very crisp bark, you’re better off leaving the meat naked, but be prepared that cooking will take much longer. When your brisket is ready, don’t forget to let it rest before you serve it. Happy barbecuing!

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1 thought on “To Wrap or Not to Wrap: The Ultimate Guide on When to Wrap a Brisket”

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Tom Wilmer

I'm Tom Wilmer, an award-winning pitmaster and BBQ judge. I share my passion for barbecue through my blog, BBQ Soldiers, offering recipes, tips, and smoker reviews. Let's grill together!

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