It’s a controversial technique used by many professional pitmasters and can speed up the cooking process by 3 to 4 hours.
In this guide, I’ll explain when to use the Texas crutch and the best way to wrap your meat.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What’s the Deal with the Texas Crutch?
- 2 What’s the Deal with Meat Stalls?
- 3 The Best Cuts of Meat to Wrap Up
- 4 Smoking at Different Temperatures
- 5 Humidity: A Sweaty Situation
- 6 Wrapping Up the Debate: Aluminum Foil vs Butcher Paper vs Unwrapped vs Foil Boat
- 7 Foiling Up a Brisket for a Good Night’s Rest
- 8 How to Perform a Texas Crutch Like a Pro
- 9 The Benefits of Wrapping Your Meat in Butcher Paper
- 10 Wrapping Up Our Smoking Adventure
What’s the Deal with the Texas Crutch?
What is it?
So, the Texas Crutch is basically a way to beat the meat stalls. It’s like a little cheat code. You wrap up your partially smoked/cooked meat in some aluminum foil, and then you can:
- Add some juices, dry rub, and sugars to create a liquid wrap. This helps to braise the meat and push past the stall.
- Even if you just use water, the breakdown of meat collagens and the fat and moisture build-up will help to increase the meat temperature and combat the moisture wicking properties of the meat.
What are the Benefits?
The Texas Crutch has some pretty sweet benefits. Here’s a few:
- You can beat the meat stalls.
- You can retain moisture and prevent surface evaporation.
- You can make your meat look super fancy.
- You can impress your friends and family with your mad BBQ skills.
What’s the Deal with Meat Stalls?
The Science Behind It
So, what’s the deal with meat stalls? Well, it’s all about breaking down those pesky collagens and connective tissues. To do that, you gotta smoke the meat at a specific internal temperature (195-205°F). But, some cuts of meat can reach a temperature where they just stop increasing, and that’s what we call a “stall”.
Beef Brisket: The Stall Master
Beef brisket is one of the most notorious stallers, usually stalling out at 150-160°F after two to three hours of smoking. This is because of something called “porous bed free expansion cooling”, which is basically just evaporative cooling. As the meat sweats, moisture evaporates, cooling the meat. Just like us humans, when we sweat, it helps cool us down.
Wrapping or Waiting?
Some folks choose to wrap their meat to push past the stall, while others just wait it out. How long it takes to get past the stall depends on the size and type of meat you’re smoking. Bigger cuts tend to stall more, due to the fat and water content of the muscle. The smoker’s airflow and the ambient temperature/humidity levels can also affect the stall.
The Best Cuts of Meat to Wrap Up
Chuck Roast in a Texas Crutch
- Large cuts of meat with lots of connective tissue tend to stall, like pork shoulder and pork butt, as well as beef brisket.
- Most folks wrap when the meat stalls, but some prefer to wait until the meat looks dark and the rub doesn’t stick to their fingers.
- That darkness means a maillard reaction and caramelization of the sugars in the dry rub has happened, and wrapping prevents further color change and smoke infiltration.
- A full brisket, also known as a packer’s brisket, can weigh anywhere from 8-20 lbs.
- When trimmed, a good size is 8-12 lbs and should be smoked for 1.5-2 hours per lb.
- Brisket stalls between 155-165°F and should be wrapped in foil until the internal temperature reaches 200-205°F.
Pork Butt and Picnic Shoulder
- Whole, bone-in pork butts weigh anywhere from 6-10 lbs, and trimmed, boneless pork butts weigh around 3-4 lbs.
- Pork butt and picnic stall between 150-165°F and should be wrapped around this temperature range.
- Pork should have a ruddy color and stay wrapped until the internal temperature reaches 195-205°F.
- Ribs aren’t prone to stalling, even at lower temperatures like 225°F, but popular methods like “3-2-1” recommend wrapping in foil for nearly 2 hours.
- This can lead to over-cooking the meat and ruining the bark, so it’s better to smoke a pork butt for pulled pork.
- Smoke at 250-275°F and wrap for 30-45 minutes for the best results.
- Butcher paper is preferred for both pork and beef ribs.
Smoking at Different Temperatures
The 225F Myth
It’s a common misconception that you have to smoke at 225F to get the best results. We’ve all heard it before – “low-n-slow” – but that’s not always the case!
- 225F isn’t the only temperature you can smoke at.
- You can get great results at higher temperatures like 250-275F.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with different temperatures and see what works best for you and your smoker.
Stalls can happen at any temperature, but they’re more common at lower temperatures. Different smokers interact with food differently, so it’s important to understand your smoker and how it works.
- Stalls can be caused by a variety of factors, including temperature.
- Different smokers require different temperatures to get the best results.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment and find the right temperature for your smoker.
Humidity: A Sweaty Situation
What’s the Deal with Humidity?
Humidity is a hot topic when it comes to smoking meat. It’s like our skin: when the air is full of moisture, it feels hotter because our sweat can’t evaporate. High humidity means the moisture from the meat can’t evaporate either, resulting in a high surface temperature. On the other hand, low humidity causes the moisture to evaporate, cooling the meat and causing a stall.
The Texas Crutch
To combat this, people use the Texas Crutch. Wrapping the meat increases the humidity of the environment, meaning the moisture can’t evaporate. Some folks even add a water pan to increase the moisture.
Spritzing: Not Just for Looks
Spritzing isn’t just for looks; it also attracts smoke and adds flavor. But it also induces evaporation, cooling the meat.
Wrapping Up the Debate: Aluminum Foil vs Butcher Paper vs Unwrapped vs Foil Boat
The Pros and Cons of Aluminum Foil
- Aluminum foil is great for creating a tight seal, which prevents moisture from escaping.
- However, the trapped moisture can make the bark soft and mushy.
The Pros and Cons of Butcher Paper
- Butcher paper is porous and can absorb fat and water.
- It’s important to make sure the butcher paper is food-grade and not coated with wax or silicone.
- Wrapping with butcher paper traps less steam, so the bark won’t get soggy.
The Pros and Cons of Going Unwrapped
- Going unwrapped is great for those who prefer the taste of their meat without wrapping.
- However, due to evaporative cooling, it takes the longest to cook and the meat may dry out.
The Pros and Cons of the Foil Boat Technique
- The foil boat technique is a newer way of wrapping that is becoming more popular.
- It prevents the bark from getting soggy, while still allowing the meat to retain moisture.
- The downside is that it takes a bit more time and effort to wrap the meat in the foil boat.
Foiling Up a Brisket for a Good Night’s Rest
What do ya need to get your brisket ready for a good night’s rest? Not much, just:
- Two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil
- A pit or oven
- A Masterbuilt electric smoker
- A probe thermometer
Once you’ve got your brisket looking all nice and pretty, it’s time to get it ready for a good night’s rest. Here’s what ya gotta do:
- Wrap the brisket up in the two layers of aluminum foil
- Place it in the center of the foil
- Crinkle the edges
- Put it back on the pit or in the oven
- Put it in the electric smoker at 250F
- Let it cook until it reaches 205F in the flat and feels probe tender throughout
- Leave it in the electric smoker overnight to hold at 145F
- Wake up to brisket ready to serve
Foiling up your brisket for a good night’s rest has some major benefits:
- The brisket will continue to render any tight spots that might exist
- You don’t have to worry about the heat source – BTU is BTU or Heat is Heat
- Wake up to brisket ready to serve in the morning
How to Perform a Texas Crutch Like a Pro
Trim the Fat
Time to get trimming! Cut off any extra meat and fat that’s just hanging around. Don’t worry, you won’t miss it.
Spice it Up
Mix up your seasonings in a bowl. We’re talking salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Sprinkle the mixture all over the brisket like you’re a fairy godmother of flavor.
Smoke it Up
Time to get smokin’! Depending on when you want to wrap it, you can do it when the meat starts to stall or when you can see the Maillard reaction and the rub is no longer sticky.
Wrappin’ it Up
Grab two pieces of butcher paper or aluminum foil and place the meat lengthwise across it. Then fold the edges of the paper over the top of the brisket like a burrito. Use the remaining large paper and fold the flaps on either side, then fold the paper’s end over itself to double the thickness. Finally, roll the meat so the flat lays atop the folded paper and the point/presentation side is up.
Finish it Off
Put the brisket back in the smoker and keep the temperature at 225 °F (107 °C). Once it’s done, rest it, slice it, serve it and enjoy!
The Benefits of Wrapping Your Meat in Butcher Paper
What is Butcher Paper?
Butcher paper is a porous material that allows for extra smoke penetration, which helps to enhance the flavor of the meat. It also helps to absorb fat and water, which can slow down the cooking process.
Why Use Butcher Paper?
- It’s the same paper used by the famous BBQ joints in Texas, like Franklin and Kreuz.
- It captures moisture and prevents evaporative cooling.
- It can saturate with fat and water on the bottom, which helps to slow down the cooking process.
- It’s made of plain, unadulterated food-grade paper, so you don’t have to worry about wax or silicone.
Where Can I Get Butcher Paper?
You can get the same pink paper used in Texas from ABCO. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, you can get rolls of it from Reynolds Foil, specifically designed for BBQ lovers.
Wrapping Up Our Smoking Adventure
What We Learned
- We discovered the Texas crutch method for smoking meat, so we can beat those dreaded meat stalls!
- We learned that the internal temperature of the meat is key to a successful smoking experience.
Tips & Tricks
- Foil wrap your meat in the smoker for extra flavor and juiciness.
- Butcher paper is a great alternative to foil for smoking meat.
- Check out the Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more smoking tips and tricks!