Aside from the color, are there any real differences between pink butcher paper and the white variety? Which one should you use to wrap brisket for the smoker? Our guide has the answers.
Pink vs White Butcher Paper For Brisket
While all butcher paper has been treated to withstand moisture, the white version has undergone a bleaching process. It also may have a wax coating on one side that will melt when it comes into contact with heat. Pink paper has a more natural appearance and a superior texture, making it a better choice for the smoker.
Butcher Paper: A Primer
Like most paper, butcher paper is processed from wood pulp, but it’s treated to be moisture-resistant. It comes in several varieties, some of which are better suited for wrapping brisket than others.
The main thing to remember is that any paper you buy for these purposes needs to be FDA-approved for direct contact with food. Fortunately, if it’s specifically labeled as “butcher paper,” it should already meet this criteria.
Butcher paper is available in a few different shades as well. Gardenia paper, for instance, has a light ivory hue that provides a nice backdrop for poultry and fish products, while brown butcher paper retains the natural color of the wood pulp.
Pink vs White Butcher Paper: The Breakdown
White Butcher Paper
White butcher paper undergoes a bleaching procedure to remove the brown color from the pulp. It’s used to wrap meat at the butcher counter, and delis often use it to package sandwiches for sale.
You might find white butcher paper used as a table covering, or as the backdrop for an arts and crafts project. Its versatility makes it a popular option, but it’s better for packaging raw brisket than for the smoker. Here’s why.
Many manufacturers will treat their white butcher paper with a wax coating on one side. If this is the case, you shouldn’t put the meat back on the smoker after wrapping it, because the exposure to heat will melt the wax.
If the paper doesn’t have a wax coating, it’s permissible to use it for wrapping brisket. Given the choice, however, we would opt for pink butcher paper every time.
Pink Butcher Paper
Like brown butcher paper, pink paper is processed without any bleach to mask the natural color. In fact, there should be no artificial coloring added at all.
This type of paper is made from food-grade virgin Southern Pine pulp. When you buy pink butcher paper, you can rest assured that it’s been FDA-approved for food contact. It’s also undergone a “sizing” procedure to make it more resistant to moisture.
Pink vs. Peach
In barbecue parlance, “pink paper” and “peach paper” are often confused. This is one of those situations in which the terms are used interchangeably, but they’re not technically the same thing.
Because pink and peach paper are so similar in terms of color, it’s hard to tell them apart at first glance. However, colloquialisms aside, peach paper is a different product.
True peach paper is a type of steak paper, which is heavier and thicker than butcher paper. It’s typically used for display and storage purposes, so it needs to have superb moisture retention. Otherwise, it might disintegrate.
If you want pink butcher paper to wrap your brisket and all you can find is “peach paper,” check the texture to make sure it’s not actually steak paper. You want a product that’s thin enough to provide a permeable membrane for the smoked meat.
Finally, we should note that “peach paper” doesn’t taste like peaches, nor is it made of wood from the peach tree. The name refers to the color alone.
Why Should You Wrap Brisket, Anyway?
If you’re thinking about investing in pink or white butcher paper to wrap your brisket, you should understand the reasoning behind the method.
Wrapping brisket in foil or butcher paper is known as the “Texas crutch,” in reference to one of the barbecue capitals of the world. It’s called a “crutch” because the meat cooks more quickly and retains more moisture while it’s inside the wrapper.
At a certain stage in the smoke—usually when the temperature hits the 150-degree range—the brisket will appear to stop cooking. This is alarming to beginners, but it’s actually a natural step in the journey to perfectly cooked brisket.
When meat cooks, it loses moisture to the surrounding air. This causes the surface of the meat to cool down in a phenomenon that’s known as “evaporative cooling.”
At a certain point, the heat of the smoker is no longer sufficient to keep up with the evaporative cooling effect. That’s what causes the temperature to plateau, or “stall,” for long periods of time.
The stall can last for hours, and may even happen more than once. However, wrapping the meat will create a miniature oven that traps heat and moisture inside, helping the brisket to speed through the plateau.
Why Butcher Paper is Superior to Foil
A lot of recipes will recommend wrapping the brisket in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Having tried it both ways, we prefer to use butcher paper whenever possible.
The foil is indeed effective in terms of trapping moisture. However, that can be a curse as well as a blessing. If the meat is allowed to steam inside the wrapper, the texture will be too mushy.
Butcher paper, on the other hand, allows the meat to “breathe” as it finishes cooking. The temperature will still rise more rapidly than if you’d smoked the meat unwrapped, but trace amounts of moisture will escape while allowing the smoke to penetrate.
When To Add The Wrapper
Now that you know why we wrap brisket to begin with, you might be wondering why we don’t just wrap it before adding the meat to the smoker. The truth is, this is one of the worst mistakes an amateur can make.
Authentic smoked brisket has a delectable savory flavor that comes about as a result of its exposure to wood smoke. If you wrap the meat up from the beginning, it won’t come into contact with enough smoke to provide it with the flavor you want.
Wrapping meat too early can have an adverse effect on the texture as well. A good brisket should have a hard, crunchy bark on the exterior. This provides a superb contrast to the tender meat. The wrapper will prohibit bark from forming, and the brisket will be mushy.
Let the brisket cook, unwrapped and undisturbed, for the first several hours. Once the bark has formed and the temperature is holding steady in the 150-170 degree range, feel free to make use of the Texas crutch.
We should also note that the bark can sometimes get too tough, especially if the smoker temperature was swinging too high during the cook. In these cases, the Texas crutch can work in your favor, as it keeps the bark from hardening further.
A Word About Wax and Parchment Paper
Don’t make the mistake of buying wax paper to wrap brisket. As we pointed out earlier, any wax coating will melt when it’s exposed to heat for too long. You don’t want to coat your brisket in a layer of wax after you’ve already worked so hard.
Parchment paper is generally heatproof to 420 degrees or so, but it’s not ideal for wrapping brisket. The paper is too thin and delicate to withstand the moisture, and it will probably tear when you’re removing the meat from the smoker.
As long as your white butcher paper is uncoated, it’s acceptable to use it on the smoker. Those of you who intend to wrap your smoked brisket on a regular basis, however, might want to invest in a supply of pink butcher paper for this specific purpose.