Whether to wrap or not wrap brisket during the resting period is a debated topic among barbecue enthusiasts. There are pros and cons to both methods that impact moisture, bark formation, and timing. This article will examine the key considerations to help you determine if you should rest your brisket wrapped or unwrapped.
- Wrapping during the rest keeps the meat moister but can soften the bark
- Unwrapped brisket can better preserve the bark but may dry out the meat
- Wrapping speeds up the resting process since it retains heat better
- Personal preference for moisture vs bark will help determine best method
Why Consider Wrapping Brisket During The Rest
Wrapping brisket in butcher paper or aluminum foil during the resting period became a popular technique for good reason – it helps keep the meat moist and tender. Here are some of the benefits of a wrapped rest:
- Retains moisture: When wrapped, the brisket continues to steam and baste in its own juices rather than drying out from exposure to open air.
- Prevents overcooking: The insulated wrap prevents the internal temperature from rising too much during the rest.
- Speeds up resting: The trapped heat helps the meat stay hot, allowing it to rest and reabsorb juices more quickly.
- Makes handling easy: The bundled brisket holds its shape well for clean slicing and serving.
For these reasons, wrapping is a foolproof way to deliver a moist, hot brisket ready for serving more promptly after a long smoked cook. If your top priorities are maintaining moisture and temperature, wrapping during the rest is likely the best option.
Why Consider Unwrapped Brisket Rest
While wrapped rest has its advantages, some pitmasters argue an unwrapped rest has its own merits. Here are some benefits to avoiding the wrap during the rest period:
- Better bark development: The exposed bark can dry and set up to become crisper and crunchier.
- More smoke flavor: The meat absorbing smoke again can enhance the smoke ring and flavor.
- Cooler rest: The temperature lowers more gradually so juices have time to be reabsorbed.
- Easier slicing: The drier exterior makes clean slicing simpler right after rest.
Those who prefer the textural contrast of a barky exterior and moist interior often claim the best method is to unwrap and let the brisket air out and firm up during a slow rest. If you want pronounced smoke flavor and bark, an unwrapped rest may be preferable.
Comparing Resting Wrapped Vs. Unwrapped
To better understand the impact of wrapped vs. unwrapped resting, let’s compare them side-by-side:
|Wrapped Rest||Unwrapped Rest|
|Moister meat throughout||Drier exterior, moister interior|
|Softer bark||Crispier, crustier bark|
|Faster rest time||Slower cooling|
|Harder to slice right after rest||Easier slicing|
|Less smoke flavor absorption||Additional smoke flavor|
Neither method is necessarily right or wrong – it comes down to personal preference for texture and moisture vs bark and smoke. If you absolutely need a moist, fall apart brisket, wrapping is safer. But for pitmasters seeking deep, crusty bark flavor, an unwrapped rest may be worth the tradeoff of some moisture.
Tips for Resting Brisket Wrapped
If you opt to wrap your brisket during the rest, here are some tips to get the best results:
- Use butcher paper over foil – it breathes better but still retains heat and moisture.
- Make sure the wrap seals in heat but isn’t too tight.
- Rest wrapped for at least 1-2 hours for full moisture redistribution.
- Save juices released during wrapped rest for serving.
- Let brisket cool slightly before tightly re-wrapping for holding or fridge storage.
The key is keeping the bundle snug but with a little room for steam circulation. Avoid wrapping too loosely or tightly. With the right technique, wrapped rest delivers hot, moist brisket ready for slicing and serving to guests.
Recommended Wrapping Materials
The optimal wrapping materials for rested brisket are:
- Butcher Paper: The most breathable choice, allows some moisture loss while trapping steam.
- Aluminum Foil: More moisture retention but can cause sogginess.
- Parchment Paper: A decent alternative with good steam circulation.
- Plastic Wrap: Can make the bark soggy from trapped condensation.
Butcher paper is the top recommendation for keeping brisket hot and moist while still getting some bark crisping. Foil locks in more moisture but can make the bark mushy. Parchment or plastic wrap should be avoided for rested brisket if possible.
Tips for Resting Brisket Unwrapped
To get the most out of an unwrapped brisket rest, follow these guidelines:
- Let it rest unwrapped for the full 1-2 hours.
- Keep it in a warm place like a cooler to retain heat.
- Place fat side up to baste the meat.
- Tent loosely with foil if drying out too much.
- Cutaway hardened, dried out sections before serving if needed.
The aim is keeping the brisket warm enough to rest thoroughly without over-drying. A loose foil tent can prevent excess moisture loss while still exposing the bark. Trimming any desiccated ends preserves the properly barked middle.
Monitoring Temperature Drop
When resting brisket unwrapped, monitor the internal temperature drop:
- Remove from smoker at 205°F
- Check temp after 1 hour – should be above 175°F
- If below 170°F, tent with foil to retain heat
- Ideal finished rest temp is 160-165°F before serving
As long as the brisket remains above 170°F, moisture stays reabsorbed while the bark fully sets. If it drops lower, the meat may dry out before the rest finishes. Prevent this with a loose foil tent to maintain ideal warmth.
Determining Your Preferred Resting Method
Choosing wrapped vs. unwrapped brisket rest ultimately depends on your priorities:
- For moistness: Wrap in butcher paper or foil.
- For bark: Rest unwrapped.
- For speed: Wrap to accelerate resting.
- For ease: Wrapping contains juices neatly.
- For smoke flavor: Rest unwrapped for absorption.
Consider what matters most for your brisket end result. Wrapping favors moisture, unwrapped favors bark. There’s no unambiguously superior method – it comes down to personal tastes and cooking needs.
For a crowd-pleasing brisket focus on moistness and wrap. For barbecue perfectionists, an unwrapped rest showcases profound bark. Try both and see which you prefer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I wrap brisket at 160, 170, or 180 degrees?
There is some flexibility in when to wrap brisket. Many recommend wrapping around 160-170°F once it passes through the stall. Wrapping at 180°F is fine but any later may dry out the flat. As long as you wrap between 160-180°F, moisture should be preserved.
How long should I let brisket rest unwrapped?
For an unwrapped brisket rest, allow 1-2 hours depending on the size of the brisket. You want ample time for the temperature to drop gradually and the juices to reabsorb into the meat. Don’t cut into the brisket until it has rested adequately unwrapped.
Should I wrap brisket in foil or butcher paper?
Butcher paper is the best wrapping material for rested brisket. The slight breathability prevents sogginess from moisture buildup. Foil is acceptable but may make the bark overly soft. For the optimal moisture and bark balance, wrap in butcher paper.
Should I wrap brisket fat side up or down?
Rest wrapped brisket fat side up. This allows the melting fat to baste the meat and prevent drying out. Flip meat side up for the last portion of the rest if the top is over-softening. Fat side up is ideal for most of the wrapped resting period.
Does resting wrapped brisket dry out the bark?
Yes, wrapped brisket can partially soften and diminish the crusty bark exterior. Water vapor from the wrap moistens and steams the bark. To maximize bark with a wrapped rest, unwrap and let the brisket firm up again for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Should I wrap brisket when putting it back on the smoker?
Only wrap brisket when initially putting it on the smoker if cooking hot-and-fast above 300°F. For traditional low-and-slow smoking, unwrapped is best for smoke absorption. Wait to wrap until the brisket has browned and you reach the stall around 160°F.
Both wrapped and unwrapped brisket resting have their merits depending on your goal. For intensely moist meat, wrap in butcher paper. For incredible bark, slowly cool unwrapped. There’s no definitively right or wrong choice – it ultimately depends on the texture and flavor profile you prefer.
No matter which method you choose, make sure to let brisket adequately rest 1-2 hours after smoking. Never cut into brisket straight off the smoker or you’ll end up with dry, tough meat! Patience during the resting period rewards you with the fork-tender, melt in your mouth brisket that barbecue dreams are made of.