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Can You Wrap Brisket In Brown Paper Bag? (Explained)

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Wrapping brisket is a time-honoured smoking technique. Although it is still contested by some, smoking thick cuts of meat such as brisket or hog shoulder is considered a conventional procedure.

Wrapping is typically done using butcher paper or tin foil, which may lead you to wonder, “Can I use a plain brown paper bag?”

We mean the ordinary shopping bag when we say, “normal brown paper bag.”

Technically, you can get away with using a standard brown paper bag. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind.

For example:

You must ensure that the bag has no wax, ink lettering, graphics, or any other type of chemical residue. They have the ability to emit potentially harmful pathogens that are damaging to the meat’s taste and quality.

Furthermore, brown paper bags might readily deteriorate in the smoker.

Paper manufactured specifically for smoking meats is called Butcher Paper, and it’s cured with a substance known as “sizing.” This basically strengthens the paper and allows it to withstand high heat without disintegrating. 

It also enhances its “wet strength.” This term refers to how resilient and sturdy the paper is when exposed to moisture. When the brisket smokes, it sweats a lot of moisture, causing a standard paper bag to crumble apart.

The majority of standard grocery brown paper bags are intended for single use. They just last long enough to transport your groceries home, and that’s about the extent of their durability. 

Don’t be misled into thinking that standard paper bags and butcher paper are the same thing. 

Having said that, using an ordinary paper bag as wrapping isn’t impossible. In fact, many smoking forums online will boast about having had fantastic success with them. However, it does demand more continuous supervision and tight control.

Why Do We Wrap Brisket in The First Place?

The major reason for wrapping brisket is to help prevent and alleviate “the stall.”

When smoking big slices of meat with a lot of fat, like brisket, the fatty tissues break down and become redistributed within the meat.

It’s what gives pulled pork its supple, melty texture and rich flavor.

However, when these tissues breakdown, excess moisture rises to the surface of the meat, cooling and evaporating away. As a consequence, this actually cools the meat at the same rate that the smoker cooks it.

This is what causes the brisket to “stall” when the temperature rises.

The stall can last up to 7 hours, or until all of the extra juices have sweated and dissipated. The purpose of a wrap is to keep this from happening.

When you wrap a brisket, the juices are sealed in and the airflow around it is substantially reduced. This keeps the liquids warmed and prevents evaporative cooling from affecting the meat.

What Can Be Used to Wrap Brisket Besides Butcher Paper?

Aluminium Foil

Foil is a good starting point for brisket wrapping, especially for beginners. It provides a tight seal and can endure high temperatures.

It does an excellent job of containing all of the rendered juices and can help a brisket exit the stall much faster than most other wraps.

Parchment Paper

While butcher paper is preferable when working with raw meat, given that it is thicker, but parchment paper is an excellent substitute.

It’s non-stick, grease-free, and can endure a lot of moisture without falling apart. It’s also commonly used in baking, so you’ll find it in most home kitchens.

Keep an eye out for “bleached” parchment paper. This term refers to chlorine-treated parchment paper.

Try using “unbleached” paper. It is slightly more expensive than bleached, but it includes no additional chemicals and keeps its natural coloring.

Which Is Better: Foil or Butcher Paper?

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution because it is greatly dependent on personal preference.

As previously noted, foil offers a considerably tighter seal on the brisket, making it the best option for getting beyond the stall faster.

The tight closure keeps the juices in place and maintains more warmth. However, because it seals in the liquids more tightly, it can cause the brisket to become mushy and reduce the quality of the bark or crackling skin.

Butcher paper, on the other hand, creates a looser seal, increasing airflow and boosting bark quality.

If you like crispy skin and bark, butcher paper is the way to go.

However, because it has a looser seal, it may have a more difficult time handling the stall than foil. It’s also more difficult to wrap a brisket properly with butcher paper.

Both options have pros and cons, which all boil down to what YOU are specifically trying to achieve with your brisket.  

Final Thoughts

To recap, you should avoid wrapping your brisket in a typical brown paper bag.

While it can work and produce good results, it is always preferable to use butcher paper, which is developed specifically for this purpose.

If you don’t have butcher paper, use parchment paper instead. Despite being thinner and less robust, it can nonetheless produce excellent results.

Finally, if you do decide to use a brown paper bag, make sure it lacks any wax coating or ink designs. It can be harmful to both the meat and your health.