Aluminum Foil vs Butcher Paper: It’s a Wrap!

Aluminum Foil vs Butcher Paper: It’s a Wrap!

Today was one of those lucky days when I had twenty pounds of brisket to cook, so I decided to make the most of it and experiment to see if it made any difference whether I wrapped the briskets with aluminum foil or butcher paper.

For those new to smoking brisket, the reality is that we usually “par-smoke” our briskets for a few hours, and then wrap them up tightly in some sort of container, and let them finish cooking in a sort of “braise.”

When I started cooking briskets more than a decade ago, most people finished their briskets wrapped in foil, but over the last few years, butcher paper has become a very popular alternative. Both options work well, but today I wanted to see if there was any actual difference between the two.

And for those of you who can’t wait until the end, there was a BIG difference…

So here we go! Like I said, I was cooking alot of brisket today – four pieces, about 5lbs each.

I trimmed them up and put them on my WSM. I wanted these ready in time for supper, so I set my pit a little hotter than normal, about 325 degrees. My plan was to cook them until they got some great dark color, then I would would wrap them until they became tender.

Here they are ready to wrap.

Since I had four pieces of brisket to cook, I figured I would wrap two of them in foil and two of them in butcher paper. Look closely, and you can see two on the top rack and two more on bottom.

Right before wrapping, I gave them each a thin coating of Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce.

About 1 hour after wrapping, both of the foil-wrapped briskets were nice and tender, so I pulled them off. Their internal temperatures were reading 205 degrees. I put them in a cooler to stay warm while I waited for the butcher paper-wrapped briskets to finish.

The butcher paper-wrapped briskets took another 2 hours (!) before they were done. Clearly, the butcher paper wasn’t as water tight as the foil, and the briskets weren’t braising as quickly.

Once the last two briskets were done, they went into the cooler as well. I waited about one more hour before I began slicing.

Here’s where I finally saw a big difference between the two cooking methods:

  • The butcher paper-wrapped briskets had more developed bark, but they were also slightly drier
  • The foil-wrapped briskets were super moist, but were slightly less flavorful

Here’s a picture of the two pans of brisket side by side. The pan on the right was the one wrapped in butcher paper, and you can see it has darker color. The pan on the left was the one wrapped in foil, and it was noticeably moister.

Both briskets were incredibly tender and sliced easily. I preferred the foil-wrapped brisket, but several of my dinner guests disagreed. We had a dozen people for dinner, and opinions were split down the middle.

I think that if you’re in a hurry, foil is definitely the way to go. It cooked two hours faster and tasted delicious. But if you have all day and want a brisket with the best bark possible, you should definitely try one out with butcher paper.

Be sure to share your experiences with foil and butcher paper in the comments!

For reference, here are links to the barbecue gear and supplies I use.
  • Ratings Guide: Reviews of the Best Grills, Smokers, Accessories, Sauces, and Rubs
  • Price Tracker: Crowd-sourcing the Lowest Prices Online for Ingredients, Supplies and Disposables

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