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To wrap or not to wrap. One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to smoking pork butts.
Wrapping a pork butt when smoking is an extremely common practice, but what exactly does it do? Should you even wrap a pork butt? When should you wrap? How do you wrap your pork butt?
In this article we will take a look at all of these questions!
Should I Wrap My Pork Butt?
You should wrap your pork butt in aluminum foil or butcher paper if you want to reduce cook times, retain moisture, protect it from burning, or to prevent your pork butt from taking on too much smoke. If you are looking for more smoke flavor and a more developed bark, you should skip the pork butt wrap.
|Wrapped Pork Butt||No Wrap Pork Butt|
|Faster cook times||Develops great bark formation|
|Retains moisture and prevents dry pork||More developed smoke flavor|
|Not as good of bark formation||longer cook times|
When it comes down to wrapping a pork butt, like most things smoking meat related, it comes down to personal preference. There is not right answer here as you can make incredible pork butt whether you wrap it or not. To help you make your decision, here is what you can expect when wrapping a pork butt.
Reasons Why You Should Wrap Your Pork Butt
Retains More Moisture
Meat is comprised of nearly 75% water. During the smoking process, that water is drawn to the surface of the meat and evaporates. By wrapping your pork butt, you can capture this moisture that would otherwise be lost. Wrapping your pork butt also allows you to capture the rendered fat.
While capturing the moisture and rendered fat won’t add more juice to the meat, it does do two things:
1. The juices captured sit at the bottom of the wrap allowing the meat to baste in it. This helps add more flavor to the meat. Additionally, many people choose to pour this juice back onto the pork once they shred it!
2. The captured juices create a humid cooking environment which prevents your pork butt from drying out. If you go to the desert, you will notice how your skin gets really dry. The same principal applies to smoking meat. That is why I usually recommend people smoke with a water pan.
I go over this more in depth in my article 7 most common reasons your pork butt is dry!
Speed Up The Cooking Times
Another great thing about wrapping pork butts, and probably the most common reason people choose to wrap their pork butts, is it allows you to speed up the cooking times. When you wrap pork tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper (Amazon link), it retains more heat allowing the pork butt to cook faster.
This is especially helpful for powering through “the stall”. Wrapping your pork butt while smoking will shave hours off your total cooking time!
Protect The Pork Butt From Smoke And Heat
Whether you do not like a lot of smoke flavor or your smoker is running too hot and you are starting to burn your pork butt, wrapping in tin foil will help protect your pork butt. It adds a layer of protection that will keep high heat and smoke out.
If you are looking for less smoke flavor or notice your pork butt is getting too much heat and starting to burn, wrap it in aluminum foil or butcher paper and finish cooking.
Reasons You Shouldn’t Wrap Your Pork Butt?
While wrapping your pork butt is extremely popular, it is not necessary. In fact, many people including myself prefer not to wrap for one reason. Bark!
When you smoke pork butt, you will notice the surface of your meat progressively darken and firm up. This is known as the bark. The bark is where all the smoke flavor and spices are. By wrapping your pork butt, you are limiting the bark formation.
Does Wrapping Your Pork Butt Ruin The Bark?
Wrapping your pork butt in aluminum foil or butcher paper does break down the bark slightly. When you wrap your pork butt, the moisture evaporating from the meat is trapped inside the wrap. This steams the pork butt which does break down and loosen the bark.
It does not completely break down the bark, but if you are looking for a great bark formation, not wrapping is the way to go.
Longer Cook Times
Not wrapping your pork butt means that it will take longer to cook. If you are ok with the added hours though, you will be rewarded with great tasting pork butt.
It all comes down to personal preference. If you prefer faster cook times and a juicer pork butt, then wrapping is for you. If you have the time and prefer a better bark formation, then leave your pork butt unwrapped.
Do You Wrap Your Pork Butt Poll
When it comes to these kinds of questions where there is no definitive answer, I always like to ask the community what they do. In a recent poll I conducted, you can see that 62 percent of people choose to wrap their pork butt while 38 percent prefer no wrap.
Should I Wrap My Pork Butt In Foil Or Butcher Paper?
Wrapping your pork butt in aluminum foil will retain more juice at the cost of breaking down your bark the most. Wrapping your pork butt in butcher paper on the other hand, won’t break down your bark as much, but also won’t retain as much moisture as aluminum foil.
Think of it as a scale. Decide which qualities you prefer and wrap accordingly.
|No Wrap||Butcher Paper||Tin Foil|
|Least Juicy||In The Middle||Moist Juicy|
|Best Bark Formation||In The Middle||Least Bark Formation|
|Longest Cook Time||In The Middle||Shortest Cook Time|
How To Wrap Your Pork Butt In Aluminum Foil
- Lay down 2-4 sheets of aluminum foil. Make sure the sheets are large enough to completely wrap around the pork butt.
- Place your pork butt in the center of your layers.
- Add any juice, sauce, or seasonings of your choice for further flavor. I have tried adding many different things when wrapping pork butt; however, my absolute favorite is brown sugar and honey. Before placing the pork butt in the center, add a thin layer of brown sugar. Place the pork butt on the bed of brown sugar and drizzle honey over top. This add the perfect amount of sweetness to your pork butt.
- Wrap tightly and return to cooking as normal. Because the meat is wrapped it will not take on more smoke giving you the option to finish cooking in the oven.
How To Wrap Your Pork Butt In Butcher Paper
Wrapping your pork butt in butcher paper is very similar to wrapping it in aluminum foil.
- Roll out you butcher paper on the table, but do not tear it off yet.
- Place your pork butt on the end of the paper.
- Add any juices, spices, sugar, or other ingredients of your choice to further influence the flavor.
- With the end of the butcher paper pulled up halfway on top of the pork, roll the pork butt over and fold the sides in. Repeat this process 2-3 time before tearing off the butcher paper.
When Should I Wrap My Pork Butt?
On average, you should wrap your pork butt once it reaches an internal temperature of 160°-165° Fahrenheit. At this temperature, your pork butt has had time to take on smoke and develop a bark. Wrapping your pork butt at 160° F will also allow you to power through the stall.
While this is a good rule of thumb to go by, I always tell people to go by looks and not temperature. There has been times where my pork butt reaches an an internal temperature of 160° F , yet the bark is no where near where I want it.
Don’t worry about internal temperature, wrap your pork butt when the bark is set. So how do you know when the bark is set?
The bark is set once it is firm to the touch and develops a deep dark mahogany color to it like the photo below. This picture was taken right before wrapping it in aluminum foil. Once my pork butt reaches this stage, I know it is ready to be wrapped.
Can You Wrap Pork Butt Too Early?
Wrapping your pork butt too early can cause you to lose out on a lot of flavor. The reason we smoke meat is to infuse it with that savory smoky flavor. As soon as you wrap your pork butt, it is no longer able to take on smoke so by wrapping your pork butt too early, you are limiting the amount of smoke flavor your meat can take.
Now, if you like your meat lightly smoked, then you don’t have to worry. However, if you are looking to develop a good smoke flavor in your meat, then it is necessary to wait until the bark is formed to wrap.
The longer your meat sits on the smoker, the more smoke flavor it will take on and the darker the bark will turn. Once you bark reaches your desired look, wrap it up!
Interested in more? Check out my complete guide to smoking pork butt!