An In-Depth Guide To: Butcher Paper, Brisket Grilling
Grilling beef outdoors, identified by many names across the world, from BBQ to Braai, finds further dimension with wrapping your brisket in butcher paper whilst griling, according to critics.
Butcher paper brisket wrapping techniques are well reported among many culinary circles online. Such tips are particularly shared by barbecue aficionados with their worldwide web audiences, advocating the merits of this paper-wrapped slow cooking method.
Outdoor grilling of meats, in particular beef, is an age old practice embraced by many cultures and nations the world around. With a variety of methods and techniques adopted by each, the resulting meal, although in principal is cooked in the same manner, can bear diverse character.
No matter where you go to enjoy an outdoor grill, there seems to be a widely accepted discipline among traditional chefs and barbeque specialists alike for achiving the best quaity finish with large & thick pieces of meat. This discipline is known commonly as: ‘low and slow’.
‘Low’ referring to the relative temperature conditions under which the meat is cooked and ‘slow’ referring to the relative time duration throughout which the meat is gradually brought to the most flavoursome finish.
Some generally accepted benefits of ‘slow and low’ outdoor grilling are summarised in brief below:
- Consistently, well cooked meat, through and through – even the thickest cuts of meat
- A tender texture to cooked meats
- Reduced connective tissue
- More juicy meat
- Greater flow of seasonings
An additional benefit with outdoor grilling methods, particularly with ‘smoking’ (using hardwood as the fuel for the fire, which characteristically adds a ‘woody’ aroma to foods) is the unique flavour produced.
Whilst the practical application of grilling meats over hardwood smoke go far and wide with diverse arrangements, instruments and accessories – within the body of this article we aim to tackle the niche favourite combination of outdoor grilling of beef brisket wrapped in untreated butcher paper.
The following points are the topics covered within this post ‘Why with butcher paper, brisket always tastes best…’:
- Beef, Brisket & Primal Cuts – A Butcher’s Story
- Brisket: A Modern BBQ Favourite
- The Science of Smoking Meat
- Grilled Brisket Recipes
- Merits of Outdoor Grilling
- Wrapping Food for Outdoor Grill
- Kraft Paper: A Versatile Resource
- What Is Butcher Paper?
- Why Do We Think Brisket + Butcher Paper Is Best?
- Online Brisket and Butcher Paper Resources
Beef, Brisket & Primal Cuts - A Butcher's Story
We start this story with the age old practice of butchery, which can be defined comprehensively as the acts of: slaughter, dress/storage of meaty flesh & sales of meat of all kinds (although butchers in these modern times may not commonly perform slaughter in heavily regulated regions of the world, but rather obtain their wholesale meat supply from a a licensed abatoir, or meat processing plant.)
Butchers throughout history have been known to process animal carcasses including pig, cow, lamb, veal, poultry and many more animals into prepared meat for consumption. Their specialty can be seperated into two stages:
- Primary Butchery: precision removal of primal cuts from the carcass (quite different from ‘prime cuts’ which refer rather to quality of meat, as opposed to principal cuts) with minimum wastage, for the purpose of eating/selling.
- Secondary Butcher: storage and sale of meat cuts.
What is a primal cut?
A primal cut is a technically identifiable and recognisable piece of meat, which can be defined anatomically as belonging to a particular animal when butchered e.g. a ‘brisket cut’ is a precise primal beef cut taken from the pectoral/breast area of a cow. Primal cuts are used for steaks and other subdivisions.
Anatomical locations for primal cuts tend to differ from one country to another, making the resulting meat diverse depending on where you go worldwide i.e. a ‘brisket’ cut by a US butcher is a different to a ‘brisket’ cut by a UK butcher.
Beef primal cuts (just like from any other animal) differ in size, tenderness, weight, composition (meat, fat, bone, connective tissue) and other features. Traditionally, primal cuts carry their own relative value/cost at market – the most valued parts typically providing the most tender, lean and flavourful meat.
One such primal cut is known as brisket. Anatomically, according to he UK butcher traditions, the brisket comprises of the breast portion of the cow. In other countries, the brisket is derived from alternative locations on the cow’s carcass.
The brisket area, or pectoral region of a cow’s body is said to bear up to 60% of the weight of the cow directly. As cows are without a collar bone support structure anatomically, this muscle does a lot of load compensation and therefore consists of dense meat, a liberal covering of fat for insulation against the cold and of course much connective tissue (collagen) for holding integrity.
Brisket: A Modern BBQ Favourite
Due to its unique texture and physical make-up, the brisket the world around (even despite it’s varied anatomical location depending on each country’s standard practice of butchery) is a favoured cut for outdoor grilling, otherwise known as barbecue, or BBQ.
Take a look at the online search trend for the keyword ‘Beef Brisket’ over the last 5 years:
Relatively, brisket cuts usually present good value for money to consumers, being a good trade off economically between size (being approximately 4% of the cow’s weight) – big enough to feed many at a sitting, and although it’s laden with lots of connective tissue which can produce a more chewy or tough texture, if cooked using the popularised ‘low and slow’ method this collagen-rich tissue in between meaty muscle fibres can melt down into juicy gelatin.
Brisket cuts are famously used the world around for producing corned beef, salted beef, pastrami and lean beef mince.
A wholesale brisket cut is also known as a ‘packer cut’ comprising of both flat and point. Some retail butchers produce 6kg brisket cuts (flat portion 3kg + point portion 3kg).
The Science of Slow Cooking & Smoking Meat
Slow cooking and smoking meats by outdoor grill has been a popular method for outdoor catering in many countries.
Meats cooked by grill over a hardwood smoker filled with Hickory or Oak, for example, provide just the flavour accompaniment to barbecued foods.
As the smoke belows from beneath, the meats suspended on a metal gridiron are enveloped continually. Moving meats regularly avoids a build up of bitter tasting tar-like residue, creosote, on the surface of the meat.
High amounts of collagen or connective tissues in your meat cuts distrupts tenderness of the finished product. Slow cooking however works to melt (reduce collagen) into juicy, sweet and flavoursome gelatin – achieved particularly if the meat temperature is trained to stall for a prolonged period at around 70-degrees centigrade.
However, tenderising the meat by prolonged cooking at this internal temperature of 70-degrees C in order to melt connective tissue, will disadvantage in one key area: drying out the meat.
So what are the solutions for retaining moisture & juice of meat whilst slow cooking meat outdoors ?
Common answers to the question, ‘How do I retain moisture in my barbecued meat whilst slow cooking?’ are listed below:
- Brining (pouring on and soaking in salty water during cooking)
- Steaming (raising humidity by wrapping in one material or another, like foil or paper)
- Braising/Poaching (submerging in liquid continually whilst cooking)
A Recommended Grilled/Steamed Brisket Recipe
There are many takes on the outdoor grilled brisket recipe using a steamed wrap, but to direct you to one of the most plentifully shared examples, here’s a headstart:
Merits of Outdoor Grilling
Outdoor grilling of meats otherwise known as ‘gridiron’ or barbecue involve the cooking of meat by thermal radiation. This type of cooking method has a rather benficial side reaction, called Mallard Reaction. This quite simply is where food is browned by cooking, resulting in an enhanced flavour all-round. Many well known foods benefit from this.
The browning occurs as sugars and amino acids react together to give a unique range of aroma and flavours. (This browning is quite different to ‘caramelising’, which only involves sugars and not amino acids.)
Also, as mentioned above, smoke roasting using hardwood fuels like Hickory is a well known known flavour enhancer.
Wrapping Meats for Ideal Outdoor Grill Results
Wrapping meats is a preferred method by many ‘in-the-know’ barbecue experts for achiving the ideal end product of succulent, flavour-filled meat.
In the Southern US State of Texas, where outdoor grilling is a widespread pasttime, the prevalent technique for wrapping the meat as it cooks and smokes is colloquially referred to as the ‘Texas Crutch‘.
There are some key principles to establishing a successful attempt at the Texas Crutch, namely:
- Allow no steam to escape
- Let no liquid/juice leak
- Don’t open the wrap or else it will cool the meat drastically
On that final point, the temperature at which the stall should be held for maximum collagen melting and therefore flavour and tenderness is around 160-farenheit and for 6 hours.
Two materials are usually adopted for wrapping briskets using the Texas Crutch method: either, foil, or paper. Foil is known to produce more moist results with the meat and paper whilst reduces cooking time by 2hours in comparison to foil, allows some moisture to escape from the meat because by nature it is porous. Escaping of moisture will produce a slightly dryer finish when wrapping in paper.
Kraft Paper: A Versatile Resource
Kraft paper is paper (generally of density between 45 gsm – 81 gsm) which has the following quality characteristics:
- high tensile strength
- high flexibility
- high tear resistance
…which makes it a great candidate for barbecue wrapping paper. Kraft is wood pulp which gets it’s name from the Kraft process by which it is made. The chemical process gets its name from the German language, the native country of the man, Karl F. Dahl, who is attributed historically with its invention.
The Kraft process is said to achieve this superior strength, flexibility and resistance to tearing by creating a pulp which is almost entirely composed of cellulose molecules, as opposed to lignin, which by nature is what gives wood it’s rigidity.
The Kraft process has multiple stages each contributing to the end product of kraft pulp of aforementioned composition. The process is known as being very operationally and financially efficient, in that there is minimal chemical substrate loss – due to a recovery phase or step, where cooking chemicals are recycled back into what is known as ‘black liquor‘ which is then burned by a recovery boiler as fuel, which in turn powers the plant with electricity.
This is a great cost saving benefit. According to Economics of the pulp and paper industry, Tappi papermaking & technology series – 1 the mill managers can save as much as 1% of total operating costs by recycing black liquor as fuel for recovery boilers to power the manufacturing plant. A significant financial saving and worthwhile short term captial investment to reap the long term gains in operation.
Kraft pulp by nature is a darker pulp than what is produced by other paper manufacturing processes, but at the last this dark Kraft pulp can be bleached white chemically if preferred.
What Is Butcher Paper?
Butcher paper is a type of Kraft paper made by Kraft pulping processes. As indicated by the name, butchers, as well as other raw meat handlers like fishmongers etc. have traditionally used Kraft paper to wrap raw meat, either for presentation or sale.
Butcher paper is known charactieristically for the following features:
- Untreated or treated (treated or coated usually with wax or silicone coating)
- Variety of colours most notably, ‘pink butcher paper’ (otherwise described as ‘peach butcher paper’)
- Many lengths of rolls (usually large wholesale quantity)
- Comparatively cheap market price
Is Pink Butcher Paper Approved By Food Standards Agencies?
Certain paper manufacturers have had their butcher paper approved by the incumbent food safety standards sgencies (in the USA, this is the Food and Drug Administration – FDA and in the UK, this is the Food Standards Agency – FSA) for meat wrapping and other food related uses.
In the US, one such company which manufactures FDA approved Pink Butcher Paper is Oren International headquartered in Pensacola, Florida. You can buy this FDA approved butcher paper via their Amazon online shop.
Why Do We Think Brisket + Butcher Paper Is Best?
Whilst we at Rated Paper have no direct experience of barbecuing brisket wrapped in butcher paper :), we have, however, taken the time to learn about this modern culinary trend rfom its propnents.
Also, it doesn’t take much technical knowledge or understanding to imagine how much tastier a grilled brisket would be if:
- Full of Flavour!
Even beyond the cooking process of steam wrapping, pink butcher paper is also popularly used at barbecues and take away vendors for presenting cooked food to guests or customers. Below are some examples of beef brisket prepared in pink/peach butcher paper:
Some Online Brisket and Butcher Paper Resources, If You’re Keen…
Are you thinking about having a go at barbecuing some brisket in butcher paper at your next family get-together or work do?
We share a few online resources below, which will help you gather ideas and instructions of those with more experience:
Resources on: ‘Beef Brisket’
Resources on: ‘Barbecue Styles’
Resources on: ‘Butcher Paper’
- 40+ Articles By The Butcher Paper Experts – Oren International
- Buy 100% FDA Approved Peach/Pink Butcher Paper By The Roll
Resources on: ‘Butchery’
Tags: Barbecue, Brisket
Categorised in: Butcher Paper
This post was written by ratedpaper