When to Wrap for the Best Pulled Pork: How & Why

when to wrap pork butt

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To wrap or not to wrap pork butt, that is the question. Today we’re discussing how, why, and when to wrap pork butt.

Because when we put a poll out there to see if you wrap pork butt when smoking, just over 50% said always, 30% said sometimes, and the rest said never. Keep reading to get all the juicy answers regarding wrapped pork butt, and put these questions to rest.

pork butt wrapping instagram poll

Why do you wrap pork butt?

Here are just some of the benefits of wrapped pork butt:

  • Locks in the moisture. For juicy pork, wrap it up to prevent dehydration. Wrapping in foil stops the bark from drying out and also traps the fat drippings, which leads to even more moisture and flavor.
  • More flavor. The wrap creates a steamy atmosphere, which allows the flavors to efficiently absorb into the meat. For our competition-style pork butt, wrapping allows us to add more flavor and complexity, as it sits in an aluminum tray with apple juice, and the foil casing traps in the butter and brown sugar. Without the wrap, you can imagine the flavor immediately evaporating, right?
  • Reduces cooking time. Wrapping ensures you zip through the stall, and it also traps the humidity, allowing the pork butt to cook more quickly. In some cases, you can shave off up to two hours of cooking time.
  • More even cooking. The even distribution of heat also helps it cook faster.
  • Protection. Protect the meat from both heat and smoke by wrapping it. You’ll still get a smoky flavor, it just won’t be as intense as an unwrapped pork butt.

The stall when smoking pork butt

To understand when to wrap pork butt, you need to understand the stall. We already have a very informative guide all about the BBQ stall (fun infographic included), but I’m going to break it down quickly for you below.

Basically, when smoking pork butt at a low temperature, the rising internal temperature starts to evaporate moisture. But when the meat stops rising in temperature and the moisture stops evaporating, you’ve got yourself the stall. Let it be known that large meat cuts can stall and hold their internal temperature steady for hours on end.

pork butt on the smoker

You can either choose to ride out the stall or wrap your pork butt. By wrapping it, you’re ensuring the temperature continues to rise quickly and you trap the moisture. A juicy pork butt will be the end result.

When to wrap pork butt

Now you know why to wrap, let’s determine when to wrap pork butt. I hate to tell you, but there’s no definitive answer. Some people say to wrap it based on time. For example, if you’re smoking the pork butt for 12 hours, you should wrap it at the eight-hour mark.

We prefer to wrap the pork butt when we’re happy with the bark. We’ve previously discussed exactly how to get a good bark, which features rubs and tips and tricks.

The final option is to wrap meat based on the internal temperature. This method works no matter the meat cut, cooking temperature, and smoker type.

No matter which method you choose, the general consensus is to wrap the pork butt once it hits the stall. By this time, the pork butt has already been smoking for several hours. Depending on the temp and other deciding factors, this could be after four to six hours.

instant read thermometer inserted into a piece of pork butt on the smoker

Temperature-wise, wrap your pork butt when it reaches between 150 and 170°F (65 to 76°C). The easiest way to check the temperature is to use a leave-in thermometer. You’ll want to stick it into the thickest part of the pork away from the bone (if applicable), as this heats up faster. If you’ve only got an instant-read thermometer, I recommend checking the pork every hour or so.

At this internal temp, the fat has begun to render, so we want to wrap it to ensure it doesn’t dehydrate further while the inside continues to cook. After wrapping, you’ll typically need to continue smoking the meat for another three to four hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 195 to 205°F (91 to 96°C).

Can you wrap pork too early?

Yes, you can wrap the pork butt too early and not give the bark a chance to develop. You can also trap too much steam inside, which affects the bark’s texture, too.

Does wrapping pork butt change the flavor?

Wrapping pork butt doesn’t change the flavor of the actual meat. It just ensures you get the most tender, juicy pork butt possible. But wrapping does allow the flavors you add to infuse more deeply into the meat. This includes rubs, seasonings, spices, and liquids.

Should I wrap pork butt in foil or butcher paper?

We have a whole guide pitting butcher paper against foil, where I share my personal preference for smoking pork butt in aluminum foil. But here’s a quick recap:


Wrapping a pork butt in foil is the most popular option and for good reason. Known as the Texas Crutch, this smoking method minimizes evaporation to lock in moisture, concentrates the heat to speed up the cooking process, ensures an even temperature, and provides a tender end-product because the pork braises in its own juices.

It also means you can add liquid and other wet ingredients, which you can’t do with butcher paper or an unwrapped pork butt.

pork butt wrapped in foil with inserted temperature probe

However, let it be known that foil results in the softest exterior, which isn’t a problem if, for example, you’re making smoked pulled pork. Because smoke can’t penetrate foil, it also lessens the smoke flavor.

Butcher paper

If you want to protect the bark and retain that smoke flavor, stick to butcher paper. The fat soaks into the paper to braise the meat and keep it nice and moist, too. The main con against butcher paper is the potentially longer cooking time because heat can escape more easily compared to foil.

If you want to keep it traditional, follow this step-by-step guide for wrapping pork butt in butcher paper instead, using our top-quality butcher paper.

Smoke Kitchen Pink Butcher Paper 18" x 150ft

100% FDA-approved food grade butcher paper designed for wrapping barbecue. Made in the USA


How to wrap pork butt in foil

Here are two options for wrapping pork butt in foil:

1. Just wrapping: Once the pork butt reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, take it off the smoker and wrap it in two layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. The sheets should be four times as long as the pork butt’s widest side. The second layer is just a backup. Ensure the foil is wrapped tightly around the meat and that there are no air pockets. We want to trap moisture, not air.

pork butt on a piece of foil ready to be wrapped

2. Aluminum foil and tray (aka the boat method): Want to add more liquid? Once it reaches the same internal temperature, you’re going to transfer the pork butt to an aluminum tray filled with some apple juice.

Then, you add the flavorings of your choice on top (we use butter, pork rub, and brown sugar) before wrapping the entire thing in the double layers of aluminum foil.

pork butt covered in butter and brown sugar in an aluminum foil tray

When to unwrap pork butt

Let the pork butt rest for at least one to two hours before you unwrap it. Resting any smoked meat is basically non-negotiable in our world. It’s a guaranteed way to improve the tenderness, as it gives the juices a chance to settle into the meat as the temperature decreases.

So once it reaches the ideal temperature (195 to 205°F), take the wrapped pork butt and wrap it further in a couple of old towels. Then place this cozy parcel in a cooler. If you want to pre-heat the cooler, you can add hot water 30 minutes before you add the meat. Then, dump the water out, pat the cooler dry, and place the meat inside.

If you don’t have time to rest the meat, I’ll forgive you. But what I recommend is slicing or shredding the meat in an aluminum tray instead. That way, the juices don’t run away, and the meat can still absorb them. This is also how I prep it after resting the meat.

Do you have to wrap pork butt when smoking?

No, there is no barbecue police demanding you wrap pork butt when smoking. If you leave the pork butt unwrapped, remember it can take longer to cook and it may dry out. But with some practice, your reward will be a crispy bark infused with smoky flavor.

In our Carolina Style Pulled Pork, we mop the pork butt throughout the cook and never wrap it.

Pork butt recipes

Here are some of my favorite recipes using smoked pork butt:

To wrap it up…

See what I did there? But as you can see, it’s up to you whether you decide to wrap your pork butt or not. But regarding when to wrap pork butt, the consensus is when the internal temp hits that ideal pressure point.

For a step-by-step guide to cooking pork butt from start to finish (wrapping included), check out our recipe for competition-style pork butt. Wrapping is such an effortless step to add to your BBQ routine and wrapped smoked pork butt equals juicy, flavorful, and tender meat. Who can say no to that?

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