Texas Crutch: How and When to Wrap Meat When Smoking
There’s no doubt smoking meat is an art form; there’s nothing more satisfying than watching that dark-tanned, fork-tender meat come out of the grill all smoky and addictively flavorful!
Like any other type of art, mastering smoking meat takes practice and some skill too! Well, there are many tips and techniques that can level up your smoking game. One of them is the Texas Crutch, or basically, wrapping a large cut of meat in aluminum foil or butcher paper during the smoking process.
How do you use the Texas Crutch technique? Is it worth it? How do you smoke meat with this technique? Here’s all you need to know about the Texas Crutch. I hope you’re in for a juicy and smoky meal. Let’s get smoking!
What is the Texas Crutch?
Smoking meat has its tricks. The temperature must be just right, the amount of smoking wood must be considered, and the correct cooking time is paramount. Still, the results we’re after are always the same — we want tender, juicy meat cooked exactly right and displaying the loveliest charred bark.
Well, depending on the meat used, the time and temperature to tenderize the meat, including all those connective tissues, vary. And if the chunk of meat is large enough, getting good results is not all that easy.
If unattended, any cut of meat can dry out after a few hours in the smoker, as its moisture escapes as the temperature rises. Well, it turns out covering the meat with aluminum foil can prevent that moisture from escaping, resulting in a more tender, juicier meat that cooks a lot faster as well!
How Does the Texas Crutch Work?
The devil is in the details, and in this case, that’s the natural surface evaporation all meats suffer on the grill or in the smoker. All meat is moist, almost humid before you cook it, and all that water evaporates as soon as the meat increases its temperature over a certain level. The vapor cools down the meat, effectively fighting the cooking process. That’s when we say the meat has “stalled.”
The vapor and the heat fight until one of the two prevails, which can take up to four hours depending on the temperature and the size of the meat!
So, what an impermeable wrap does is give water vapor no place to go, and the heat overcomes the vapor’s cooling effects faster. Of course, all that moisture gets trapped inside the meat, which might just be what you want!
Pros of Using the Texas Crutch
Here are a few pros of using the Texan Crutch technique. Of course, there are many variations of it, and grill masters, especially at heated competitions, might or might not use it for particular objectives.
The meat cooks faster. The moisture inside the meat is constantly escaping through evaporation, which holds back the grill or smoker’s heat, slowing down the cooking process. When wrapped, you reduce the evaporation and cook the meat through considerably faster.
The meat ends up juicier. Juicy is more often than not a synonym for tender, and the Texan Crutch method delivers the most succulent and tender results. You’re literally controlling the moisture and preventing it from escaping.
You control how smoky the meat is. The Texas Crutch is not an all-or-nothing technique; you can start smoking the meat sans-wrapper to infuse it with smoke and then wrap it to finish the job. This gives you the opportunity to control the smoke influence in the final product.
Cons of Using the Texas Crutch
Of course, every technique has its pros and cons. It’s not a matter of using or not using the Texan Crutch, but using it to meet your goals.
You risk losing that charred bark. If over-used, the Texas Crutch prevents that lovely thick crust, arguably the best part of the meat from forming. That’s why some experts will smoke the meat unwrapped first, then wrap it with foil or paper and perhaps smoke it a few more minutes unwrapped in the end.
Not a universal method. You can’t just wrap everything and call it a day, knowing your cuts pays off, and so does having a clear image of what you want to achieve. Some experts always use the Texas Crutch for brisket, pork shoulders and the likes but never for ribs. Here’s where you want to experiment a little and find your own smoking style.
Should I Wrap Meat in Foil or Paper?
There are two schools when it comes to the Texas Crutch; you can either wrap the meat with aluminum foil or butcher paper. So, what’s the difference? Foil does a much better job at keeping the moisture in the meat in check, especially if you really seal that foil pocket.
On the other hand, Butcher paper allows some of the moisture to find its way out, which might not necessarily be a bad thing — paper is gentler with the bark. Just make sure the paper is fit for the job, as it shouldn’t contain wax that could contaminate the meat.
Is the Texas Crutch Right for You?
The Texas Crutch might help you smoke meat faster, but don’t think of it as a way of cutting corners; there’s only one way of smoking meat at the highest level: low and slow. The Texas Crutch, though, is one more tool on your belt, and once you fine-tune it to fit your very own grilling playbook, you’ll find it extremely helpful and dependable.
For recipes and more information about grilling and smoking techniques, check out the rest of my content at Fatty Butts BBQ, and check out my social channels for much more! Now go wrap that bad boy in a shiny aluminum or butcher paper blanket and happy smoking!