Which is Better: Wrapping Meat in Foil or Butcher Paper?

Aluminum foil
Pork Butt Meat Injection

The Smoke Ring Society tries to be a resource for new and experienced pit masters alike. We are all fans of smoking BBQ and have varying degrees of skill and interest in the hobby. Unless you own a restaurant or catering business that’s what it is right? No matter where you are in your barbecue journey there is always something more to learn in the pursuit of smoked perfection. Having shared that nugget, we will attempt to shed some light on wrapping meat during the smoking process. There are a few different opinions on when to wrap, if wrapping is necessary, and what to use when you do wrap. If it sounds complicated and confusing, it’s not. Never forget that you’re cooking food, that’s it, so no matter what happens you’ll eat. Let’s get into it and try to figure out which is better, wrapping meat in foil or butcher paper?

Butcher Paper

The preferred butcher paper is the red type that comes in big rolls that are easy to store and use. Butcher paper is more breathable than foil and it will trap less steam. This fact will keep the brisket or shoulder moist without making the bark soft and mushy. A major drawback with paper is it can be difficult to get a good tight wrap, leaving holes and gaps, allowing too much steam or moisture to escape. Paper is also prone to tears while trying to get it wrapped tight. The advantage paper has though is the porous nature of it and that allows more smoke to pass through, giving the meat more flavor and darker smoke rings. This is important if you wrap too soon, and the meat hasn’t absorbed all the smoke it can.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil will capture every bit of moisture during the cook. All the juices, steam, and fat are trapped within the wrapped foil and soaked back into the meat. At the end of the cook, during the rest, all those hot juices create a braising effect and can shorten the cook time. The insulation foil provides can produce an overly moist environment though that can reduce the thickness and crispness of the bark. The major drawback is how much smoke can pass through the foil of course which can affect flavor. Then there is the idea of using the Texas Crutch which is a tough hill to climb for some backyard pit masters.

The Verdict

There is not winner or loser in this debate and while this might not be what you want to see, it’s the truth. Use what you prefer and you’ll never be wrong. However, The Smoke Ring Society endorses using foil over butcher paper. It just makes sense to lock in all those juices and reduce cooking time, especially if you’re smoking brisket or a massive pork butt. Try both methods several times to get a good idea of how each one will perform on your smoker and with your cooking style. Eventually you’ll land on one side of the road.

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