If you plan to make smoked brisket on a regular basis, it’s in your best interests to keep a supply of high-quality butcher paper on hand. We’re here to instruct you on which kind is best: the waxed or the unwaxed version.
Waxed vs Unwaxed Butcher Paper For Brisket
Always select unwaxed and uncoated butcher paper when wrapping brisket for the smoker. Wax coatings will melt when exposed to heat. This will either contaminate the surface of the brisket or create a mess inside the smoker—and you want to avoid both of these situations at all costs.
About Butcher Paper
Butcher paper is made from wood pulp that’s been specifically treated to prevent leakage. It’s FDA approved for direct contact with food, and its moisture-resistant properties make it a great choice for the smoker.
Here’s a brief rundown on the most common types of butcher paper on the market.
This is the type that’s often used to wrap raw meats at the butcher counter. It also provides a sturdy container for sandwiches and subs. Uncoated white butcher paper can be used as an informal table covering and comes in handy for arts and crafts projects.
While white butcher paper undergoes a bleaching process to give it its color, the brown variety has a more natural appearance. It’s typically sold in bulk through online retailers at an affordable price.
Pink butcher paper might be called just “pink paper,” or sometimes “peach paper” (though this can get confusing; see the section below). Like the brown version, it isn’t bleached, and therefore retains the natural hue of the wood pulp.
True peach paper is a type of steak paper designed specifically for use with meat products. It’s used primarily for wrapping and display purposes. As such, it’s heavier and sturdier than butcher paper.
Pink and peach paper are difficult to tell apart at first glance. To confuse the issue further, a lot of pitmasters use the terms interchangeably.
If you’re looking for butcher paper, make sure the “peach paper” you’re buying is really butcher paper. Steak paper is too thick to allow the smoke to penetrate and the moisture to escape, making it a poor choice for the smoker.
Finally, be aware that there’s no peach essence or flavoring in this type of paper. The name refers to the hue, which should contain no artificial coloring agents.
This type of butcher paper is designed primarily to protect meat from exterior moisture, rather than preventing moisture from escaping. Its delicate ivory color complements fish and poultry, but it’s not the best choice for wrapping brisket.
About Wax Paper
Wax paper has a nonstick coating that comes in handy for tasks like rolling out pie crusts or wrapping baked goods. It’s also an excellent choice for the freezer, as the wax prevents items from sticking together, even if they’re in the same bag or container.
However, the wax is not heatproof, so it’s not suitable for the oven or smoker. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.
Waxed vs Unwaxed Butcher Paper For Brisket: Which Is Best?
First of all, we should note that true butcher paper should not have a wax coating. The paper is treated with polyethylene to help make it resistant to moisture, but wax paper is a different product altogether.
While wax paper can come in handy for transporting the raw or cooked brisket, it’s better to use unwaxed butcher paper for the smoker.
The wax will melt when it’s exposed to high temperatures. Even though the temperature in your smoker should be set to 225-275 degrees or so, that’s warm enough to dissolve the wax coating on most butcher paper.
If the wax melts, it will contaminate the brisket. It’s not necessarily harmful to ingest small amounts of wax; however, it’s not something we would recommend if you can avoid it. What’s more, it will interfere with the flavor and texture of the bark.
If you want to use wax paper to wrap the cooked brisket for transport, it’s fine to do so. Just make sure the meat is relatively cool to the touch beforehand.
Why Should You Wrap Brisket?
What’s the point of wrapping brisket in the first place? Pitmasters take this step for a couple of reasons: to speed up the cooking time and to prevent the meat from losing excess moisture.
Wrapping the brisket can make it easier to predict the total cooking time. Since the wrapper acts as an oven-within-an-oven, it allows the meat’s internal temperature to rise more rapidly. It may also prevent the bark from getting too dark or too tough.
Can You Use Foil Instead of Butcher Paper?
Some pitmasters swear by the foil method, and there’s no denying that it speeds things along. However, we prefer to use butcher paper whenever possible.
The wrapper creates a barrier between the brisket and the dry heat of the smoker. Unlike aluminum foil, which forms an impervious layer, butcher paper allows a small amount of moisture to escape—and smoke flavor to get in.
A solid bark is one of the hallmarks of authentic smoked brisket. While you want to prevent the bark from turning too hard, you don’t want the outside of the brisket to be mushy, either. If you wrap the meat too early, it might not develop bark at all.
In short, your brisket will have a superior texture and flavor if you opt for butcher paper instead of foil. In our opinion, that’s worth the extra time that it might cost.
What About Parchment Paper?
Like wax paper, parchment paper has nonstick properties. It’s treated with silicone and acid-treated on one side, giving the surface a gel-like sheen. This paper is heat-resistant, which makes it a popular option for baking.
Parchment paper can also be used to create a pouch for steaming fish and vegetables along with a small amount of butter or oil. When the packet is opened, it releases a lovely aroma to accompany the perfectly cooked meal inside.
Although it’s typically heat-resistant up to 420 degrees Fahrenheit, parchment paper doesn’t make an ideal wrapper for brisket. It might not get hot enough to ignite, but it has a more delicate consistency than butcher paper and might tear during the smoke.
The “Food-Grade” Label
Regardless of which paper you choose for the smoker, you’ll need to make sure that it’s been FDA-approved for use with food products.
Some people use kraft paper and butcher paper interchangeably, believing there to be no difference between the two. Although butcher paper is indeed a type of kraft paper, not all kraft paper is safe to use with food.
When Is The Best Time To Wrap Brisket?
The first rule of brisket wrapping is: Never wrap the meat during the initial stages of the cooking process.
For the first several hours of the smoke, the brisket is taking on the smoky essence that will give it the flavor you’re craving. Wrapping it too soon will prevent all that lovely smoke from doing its work, so you might as well be steaming the brisket instead.
What’s more, the brisket needs time as well as heat in order to allow the collagen and fat to break down. The wrapper might cause it to cook too quickly. While it might still attain the correct temperature, the texture will be off.
For optimum results, wait until the brisket attains an internal temperature of 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit before you wrap it. This should occur several hours into the smoke, at which time it should have developed a nice foundation of bark and smoke flavor.
Why the 150-170 degree range? During this time, large cuts of meat enter “the stall” in the cooking process. The internal temp of the brisket will hit a plateau, often for hours at a time. When you wrap it at these temperatures, it should power through this phase.
How To Wrap Brisket In Butcher Paper
1. Start with whatever butcher paper you’ve chosen for the process. Pink or peach treated paper is preferable.
2. Measure out two lengths of paper for wrapping. Each one should measure about 4 times as long as the brisket is wide, or about twice as long as your arm.
3. Lay out the paper on a clean work surface that’s large enough for the whole brisket. The layers should be facing away from you the long way and overlapping by roughly half.
4. When the brisket hits “the stall” phase, remove it from the smoker. Set it on the paper with the fat side facing up.
5. Wrap the bottom edge of paper across the top of the brisket, taking care to ensure that the wrapping fits as tightly as possible.
6. Fold the sides over so that the paper is angled away from you.
7. Gently roll the brisket over and fold the sides in again.
8. Form a double layer of paper over the top edge of the brisket, then roll the package one more time to secure this layer in place.
9. Return the brisket to the smoker to continue the cooking process.
You have several options when it comes to butcher paper. However, it’s best to steer clear of waxed paper for the actual smoking process. Make sure the paper is uncoated and approved for use with food products, and you should be good to go.