When you buy a large cut of meat at the local butcher shop, there’s a good chance that it’s wrapped in white butcher paper. What’s the difference between that stuff and the brown paper that pitmasters use for wrapping brisket? And can you use both on the smoker?
White vs Brown Butcher Paper For Brisket
The main difference between white and brown butcher paper is that the pulp for the white paper has been bleached. For brown paper, the pulp is left in its natural state. Both are suitable for wrapping brisket, but most pitmasters (including us) prefer the natural-looking version.
What Is Butcher Paper?
Like just about every type of paper out there, butcher paper is processed from wood fiber. Beyond that, it goes through a special procedure that allows it to withstand moisture.
The paper is designed to protect raw meat product from contaminants, both airborne and flavor-related. You can also use it to wrap subs and other sandwiches.
Are Kraft Paper and Butcher Paper The Same Thing?
Not exactly, no. While both share the same wood-pulp base, the two aren’t necessarily interchangeable.
As we mentioned, butcher paper undergoes a process that helps it maintain its integrity even when wet. Kraft paper doesn’t get this treatment. That means it won’t have the same moisture-retentive properties as butcher paper.
That’s not to say that you can’t use kraft paper for wrapping brisket. Because the paper allows more moisture to escape, you could end up being pleased with the results, especially if you prefer a harder bark.
Be sure to check whether the kraft paper you buy is labeled as food-safe if you plan on using it to wrap meat for smoking.
White vs Brown Butcher Paper For Brisket
White butcher paper is FDA approved and widely available. The paper isn’t coated, so it’s food-safe even at high temperatures. Its white color is due to the fact that the pulp was subjected to a bleaching process beforehand.
In your search for the ideal brisket wrapper, you might also come across brown butcher paper. This is made from the same wood pulp as the white version, but because the pulp is unprocessed and no additives are used, the paper retains a natural tan color.
What About Peach Paper?
Peach paper is popular among barbecue enthusiasts because it allows a measure of steam to escape while the meat cooks. It’s similar to the brown variety, in that the pulp isn’t bleached before being turned into paper.
This type of butcher paper undergoes a process known as “sizing.” That’s an internal treatment designed to strengthen the paper and help it withstand high amounts of moisture.
Pink butcher paper is nearly identical to peach paper, but in most cases, it isn’t treated with sizing. It’s still suitable for wrapping—it just won’t be as resistant to moisture.
It’s important to ensure that these colors are due to the natural state of the wood pulp. If there were artificial colors added, the paper may not be food-safe.
Again, no matter what color the paper is, make sure it’s food-grade paper before you use it to wrap brisket (or any cut of meat).
Can You Use White Butcher Paper For Brisket?
It’s permissible to use white butcher paper to wrap brisket. It’s FDA approved for use with food, and since the paper isn’t coated, you don’t have to worry about contaminating the surface of the meat.
Even more important, white butcher paper is breathable. It allows the smoke to pass through, but it won’t seal in moisture the way foil will (see section below). That means the brisket should have plenty of flavor—not to mention a decent bark.
Should You Wrap Brisket In The First Place?
While we’re on the subject of materials, let’s address whether it’s a good idea to wrap brisket at all.
If you have the time to leave the brisket “naked” for the duration of the smoke, we think this is a better option. The trouble is, at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat should smoke at a rate of 1.5 to 2 hours for every pound. That’s a big time commitment.
Wrapping the brisket in foil or butcher paper partway through the cooking process will speed things along. The wrapper acts like an oven within an oven, trapping the steam and heat inside.
There are trade-offs to this time-saving method. The excess moisture may soften the bark, which is one of the main reasons to smoke a brisket to begin with. When you wrap the meat before the bark has had a chance to form, the results can be even more disastrous.
If you decide to go ahead and wrap the brisket, wait until the internal temperature has reached at least 150 degrees. At this point, the brisket should have developed a nice amount of bark and absorbed a good hit of smoke flavor to boot.
Butcher Paper vs. Foil
Given the choice, we would opt for butcher paper over foil every time. The foil creates an impermeable membrane, especially if you wrap the meat tightly. That means your brisket will be steamed for the remainder of the cooking time, not properly smoked.
On the other hand, foil speeds the cooking process along much more quickly than butcher paper. If time is of the essence, a foil wrapper can serve as a good last resort.
Our advice would be to allow plenty of time for the smoker to do its work, and wrap the brisket in butcher paper if you choose to wrap at all. That way, you’ll be able to estimate the total cooking time more easily, and the texture of the meat won’t suffer.
Butcher Paper vs. Parchment Paper
Can you use parchment paper to wrap brisket? The answer is yes, but you have to be careful.
This is a food-grade paper that retains moisture well, but it’s more permeable than foil. Some heat and steam will escape as the meat cooks, so you won’t be sacrificing the bark in the interest of speeding things up.
Better yet, parchment paper is treated with silicone. That makes the surface slightly slippery, so the bark won’t stick to the paper when it’s time to unwrap the meat.
Be aware, though, that parchment paper is very thin and delicate. It rips easily, so you’ll have to be careful when removing the wrapped brisket from the smoker, especially if you’re interested in saving the drippings.
One other word of caution: this paper can’t withstand temperatures much higher than 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, you shouldn’t smoke brisket above 325 degrees anyway, so that isn’t much of an issue in this case.
Butcher Paper vs. Wax Paper
Unlike butcher paper, this type of paper is coated with—you guessed it—a layer of wax. That means you shouldn’t use it to wrap brisket, even during the later stages of the smoke.
When wax paper is exposed to heat, the wax will melt and ruin the brisket. The paper will probably catch fire as well, which would defeat the entire purpose of the wrapper.
If all you have on hand is wax paper, do yourself a favor and leave the meat unwrapped. The smoke may take longer, but you’ll be rewarded with a brisket that’s both safe and appealing to the palate.
The Bottom Line
Can you use white butcher paper for brisket? Sure, but we would recommend using the brown or peach types if you can find them. The fibers have a different feel, owing to the natural state of the pulp. This gives the cooking process a more rustic, organic vibe.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!