By Marshall Cooper
Six years ago, we wrote about cooking brisket wrapped in butcher paper. It continues to be one of the most read posts on this blog.
As anyone who cooks knows, the more you cook the more you learn. So since that initial post, I’ve made some refinements to my butcher paper technique that I’d like to share with you in this Posse cooking update and accompanying video.
For me, the major benefit of using butcher paper instead of foil, or leaving meat unwrapped during an entire cook, is that you end up with a better texture of barbecue, very moist and tender and less potential for over steaming. The butcher paper, which is used near the end of the cook, seems to breath, keeping the brisket from drying out while shielding the meat from too much smoke.
Cooking butcher paper wrapped brisket is really simple if you stick to basics and don’t try to complicate things by using countless techniques you hear about or see at the barbecue joints. Here’s how you just keep it simple:
1. Start by buying a choice or prime grade 12-14 pound brisket. Trim the thick fat off the bottom side down to 1/4” or so. Trim the sides as well to 1/4”. Trim the heal off the top side. If you don’t want to bother with trimming, don’t worry about it. Then, use whatever rub you like. A simple rub for brisket is 1/2 cup coarse ground (16 mesh or butcher grind) fresh black pepper, 1/4 cup of kosher salt and a 1/4 cup of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Or 1/2 cup of black pepper and 1/2 cup of kosher salt & throw in 1-2 tablespoons of granulated garlic. That’s it. Now season the brisket, sprinkling the rub from a red plastic cup, applying a light even coat, not too heavy. You want to be able to still see the meat.
2. Now fire up your smoker so it will burn fairly clean, and bring it to it’s ideal cooking temperature so that it won’t burn up your brisket while it cooks for 10-12 hours, unwrapped. This will probably be 225-250 degrees (F) for most backyard stick burners or charcoal pits. Use whatever wood you like — hickory, post oak, pecan or a mix of whatever you like. Just get it burning clean and even. Someone once told me if the smoke doesn’t smell good while it’s burning, the meats gonna taste terrible.
3. Place the brisket on the pit cold. On most backyard stick burners, it should probably go fat side up. Fat side down on charcoal pits if the fire is directly below the meat. You decide what works best on your pit.
4. Cook the brisket at a steady temperature. After 4-6 hours you will see water starting to puddle on the top. This is when it’s in the “stall.” If you don’t know what the stall is, you can read more about it on Amazing Ribs web site. Basically it’s when the internal water in the brisket begins to evaporate and the meat stops cooking until the water has evaporated. The stall will take around 4-6 hours to complete if you do not wrap. And we are not going to until later. So be prepared to let the brisket cook unwrapped for 9-12 hours. If it looks like the meat is burning, slow the pit down.
5. Once the puddles of water on top of the brisket start to dry up, the brisket is coming out of the stall. The internal meat temperature should be around 175-185 (F).
6. Let the brisket continue to cook until your index finger will sink into the fatty end about an inch. Then wrap the brisket in the pink butcher paper like I show you in the accompanying video. Use this butcher paper available from Amazon, it’s what Aaron Franklin uses in Austin.
Follow the directions in the video by letting the brisket cook 1 to 3 more hours until the butcher paper is saturated. Check for doneness by feeling if it’s floppy. If it is, then check the internal temp if you must.
7. Let the brisket rest for at least 1 to 4 hours! Repeat, because it’s so important: Let the brisket rest!
Posse member Marshall Cooper is a leading backyard pitmaster with more than 40 years of experience smoking meats. He is a commercial real estate broker at Capstone Commercial Real Estate Group in Dallas.