Jason Hoskins writes:
First of all, I enjoy your blog. Check in on it everyday.
I have one question. I am planning on smoking a brisket this weekend and I wanted to try the butcher paper method you all wrote about. The problem, I can't find any plain brown butcher paper and I don't have time to order it.
I was wondering if you all thought a plain brown paper sack (grocery bag) would work? I figured it is basically the same as butcher paper but I'm not totally sure.
Thanks for your time.
Posse Pitmaster Marshall Cooper responds:
Interesting question Jason. I had always heard of family members using paper grocery sacks to roast turkeys in the oven.
The day we returned from the Central Texas Tour I didn't have enough butcher paper from City Market to wrap the size brisket I had, so I chose to try a paper bag from Whole Foods (organic right!).
Looking back, and comparing the smoking brisket in a grocery sack experience with subsequent cooks with butcher paper:
1. The large-sized grocery paper bag wasn't big enough to fold over to obtain a reasonably tight seal on the brisket. This resulted in smoke entering the bag and way oversmoking the brisket (aka meteorite). Then again, while waiting for the butcher paper to be delivered in the mail, I tried it a second time with two paper bags, taped and stapled. But, again, too much smoke seeped into the bag!
2. Using the paper grocery sack also meant an extremely long cook time for the brisket. Maybe the paper sack was too thick, which may have over-insulated the meat causing it to cook slower, which compounded the over-smoke issue.
So I've tried smoking brisket in a grocery sack on two separate occasions and the results were very similar, long cook times and way too much smoke. The brisket was much drier using the paper sacks compared to butcher paper.
I suspect there is something to being able to tightly wrap and fold the brisket three times, producing a decent seal to keep smoke from directly seeping inside. But my experience is based on using my offset BBQ pit, which surely produces unique results compared to someone else's pit. The butcher paper method does not work well in a direct heat smoker like a Weber bullet and WSM. It works best in an offset, stick burner.
If your pit is efficient, burns clean and maintains steady, even temps, it might work with a paper grocery sack. But the 25-30 hours of cook time I spent ended with poor results. If you have the patience and time it takes to spend smoking briskets, I say be a little more patient and just mail order some butcher paper.
Has anyone else experimented with smoking brisket in a grocery sack?