Should You Wrap Ribs, Briskets and Pork Butts?

Wrapped MeatThis might be the most simple but essential step in taking your barbeque from good to great. From dry to moist. From tough to tender.  You’ll hear some professionals out there say it’s cheating.  I’m here to tell you that’s beyond ridiculous and I know first hand that championship teams utilize wrapping to get their meat to the perfect tenderness.

In the recipe section you’ll see specifics on times for different meats – here I just want to explain how wrapping works and why you do it.

You’ve probably had a delicious juicy meat made entirely in the crockpot, right?  Well, wrapping your meat for a period of time allows you to duplicate this process on your grill/smoker.  It essentially traps all the moisture inside so your meat can’t dry out and lets it sit in those juices and flavors – just like a crockpot.

I wrap with several different cuts of meat when I’m looking to get it more tender without losing any of the juice.  The wrapping stage comes after you’ve grilled and/or smoked your meat, but it’s not yet ready to be sauced or glazed.  By taking the extra time to wrap your meat in foil and slowly or indirectly heat it, you and your guests will be thrilled at the perfect tenderness your meat has every time.

The wrapping time varies depending on which meat, indirect/direct, and the temperature of your grill or oven (yes, you can do the wrap stage in your oven if it’s just too dang cold outside or your coals have burned out).  For instance, my Weber grill usually sits around 300 degrees, so when I’m wrapping, for instance, pork steaks, it only takes about 45-60 minutes of indirect heating while wrapped to get the perfect tenderness.  (What are pork steaks?? Oh you non-St. Louis folk, you’re missing out.  Check out my recipe section for delicious Pork Steak Recipes and get ready to be thrilled.)

Ribs take much longer – probably 1.5 – 2 hours at a temp near 250.  Pork Butts have the longest wrapping stage, being the biggest cut of meat – anywhere from 5 – 10 hours depending on the poundage and temp of your cooker.

For gas grill users, turn one side of your grill off and place wrapped meat over unlit portion of grill.  During wrapping stage direct heat will scald the bottom of your meat if you aren’t extremely careful.  For ribs and butts I would recommend using your oven or you’ll burn through a tank of propane quickly.

You can foil wrap the meat directly or in a disposable aluminum pan.  I utilize both methods, depending on how much meat I’m cooking and space I have on my grill or smoker.

When you unwrap your meat you will be thrilled to see the puddle of juice inside the foil.  Look at the two pictures below for the proof!  The first was taken after smoking the two pork butts for 5 hours and placing in the aluminum pan.  The second was taken after being wrapped for about 6 hours.

Wrap Before

Wrap After

What next?  Well, if you’re going to baste your meat, you can pour some of that juice right back on top of the meat.  You can also pour it into whatever pan you will be serving it in.  Or both.

I use the wrapping method a LOT when cooking pork – pork steaks, ribs, shoulder/butts.  I also wrap my beef briskets.  As I recently wrote about when trying to create pulled beef, I wrapped a Chuck Roast to get the tenderness right.  I didn’t quite get there on my first attempt, but wrapping isn’t an exact science.  Keep trying, you’ll nail it.  Especially with the bigger cuts – briskets and butts – you will be thrilled at how much more juicy and tender your finished product is.

Once you wrap, you’ll never go back.

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