If you are an avid pit master or just someone who loves to smoke meats, you probably already know all the tools you need to smoke meats. However, there is always room for improvement.
One tool you probably already use for wrapping your meats while they smoke is foil. But did you know that you can gain the same effect, if not better, by creating smoked meats in parchment paper?
You can wrap your meat in parchment paper during the smoking process or after, during resting. By wrapping your meat in parchment paper, you can help retain moisture by slowing the release of juices. Also, wrapping can help with temperature management during and after smoking.
This article will give you the low down on everything you need to know about parchment paper. We will show you when to use it and how to use it and how it holds up better or worse than some of the other classic options used.
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What is Parchment Paper?
Parchment paper is a particular type of thin paper typically coated with silicon to provide a non-stick surface. Other properties of parchment paper include grease resistance, humidity resistant, and disposable for easy clean-up.
Traditionally, parchment paper is also referred to as baking paper and has been used as such since it was invented. It is usually used in place of cooking spray or oil to provide a non-stick surface to bake on.
Parchment paper can be used in place of commonly used kitchen tool, like silpats or silicon baking sheets, which serves the same purpose but are reusable. Another advantage in baking is a quick turnaround. You can remove your parchment paper with baked goods on it to cool and use a new sheet of paper to continue baking.
While parchment paper is usually used in the baking world, it works well for many other cooking methods, including smoking.
What are the Benefits of Smoking with Parchment Paper?
Keep foods from sticking to your grates is the top benefit of parchment paper in the smoker. Fish and soft vegetables are known for sticking to grates and tearing when removed. If you cut one-inch slits spread evenly in your parchment paper, then you can smoke your fish or vegetables without sticking or sitting in a puddle of juice.
Steaming vegetables or fish in the smoker or on a pellet grill is an excellent use for parchment paper. All you need to do is create an airtight package or pocket with the parchment paper by creating folds over and over. Ensure the veggies or fish in the pocket with a little bit of liquid help steam the food as it cooks. This process is usually done in an oven but can also be done on the grill or smoker.
Parchment paper is a great alternative to foil or butcher paper when used in a smoker or even on a pellet grill. The most common way parchment paper is used in smoking is by wrapping it around meats during the smoking process. When you wrap meat in parchment paper, you are able to lock in the moisture and juices that would usually escape. It will also trap heat inside the package better than using butcher paper or even foil.
Even though parchment paper will not trap air as well as foil, this does something to specific cuts of meat when smoking them.
Take brisket, for instance. Once the brisket has reached its ideal temperature during the smoking process, most people will wrap it in foil or butcher paper. Wrapping locks the heat inside the meat and keeps the moisture within during the final stage of the smoking process. Because parchment paper will still breathe a bit, you will maintain your crispy bark, and because of the silicon coating, your bark will not stick to the paper.
We would not recommend placing it directly on the grill or over direct heat because it is paper and could easily catch on fire.
What are the Negatives of Smoking with Parchment Paper?
There are not a whole lot of negative factors when it comes to smoking with parchment paper. As we stated before, parchment paper will not trap air, and there will be a constant flow of air.
This can be beneficial with brisket, but it could create a drawback with other meats and foods. The silicone coating on most parchment paper will also prove difficult for some meats when smoking. Starting your cooking process without parchment paper will give you a better smokey flavor and crispy bark.
Trying to find the type of parchment paper without this coating will not only be a little troublesome but may also cost quite a bit more than normal.
Will Parchment Paper Burn?
Since parchment paper is paper, it will catch on fire with direct flame, contact with burning coals, or when heated to 451 degrees. For the most part, parchment paper has a heat index rating of 420 degrees and will perform well under that temperature.
Most of the time, the paper will brown and not burn as long as it is not placed over direct heat or flame. But if the parchment paper is left in the smoker or grill over indirect heat at 451 degrees for longer than 15 minutes, chances are it will burn or catch fire.
But that shouldn’t come into play very often as most meat smoking temperatures do not exceed 300 degrees in the first place. However, because most grills have open flames, we never use parchment paper or butcher paper on gas or charcoal grills.
How to Use Parchment Paper to Smoke your Meat
If you plan to use parchment paper as a crutch for your brisket, then the process is the same as it is with any other wrapping option. Once the brisket has reached the desired temperature, possibly 165 degrees, wrap it in a few layers of parchment paper.
You may need to use some kitchen twine to hold the paper on there or seal it up, but you can also fold the parchment paper accordingly to seal the meat inside. Once the meat is finished smoking, leave the brisket in the parchment paper the entire time you plan on letting it rest out of the smoker before serving or cutting.
Other Ways to Use Parchment Paper in a Smoker
One of our favorite ways to use parchment paper is for smoking spices or nuts. Because of how fine spices, such as salt, are parchment paper is the perfect vehicle to smoke on. Also, parchment paper is slightly porose and allows some to penetrate the paper.
Take a large sheet of paper or use a pre-cut pan liner and fold the two longest sides to create a pan effect. Spread your spices on your parchment paper and smoke until you are happy. Most nuts and spices will be cold smoked or low temperature; the paper will work well.
Alternatives to Smoking in Parchment Paper
Butcher Paper– This is also a great option to use for smoking meats. It has also been used fairly commonly in the barbeque world for a while now but is still not as great as parchment paper for smoking meats.
For the most part, butcher paper and parchment paper are pretty much the same in all areas, including the actual usage of the paper. The butcher paper is slightly stronger than parchment paper, making it easy to handle.
One of the fallbacks of butcher paper doesn’t have a non-stick silicone coating. This coating also allows the parchment to be used at higher temperatures.
But when used at low and slow smoking temperatures, it should be just fine, and you should expect the same results as you would with parchment paper.
Foil– This is another excellent option for smoking meats and is the most commonly used tool for smoking meats. Foil has been the king forever when it comes to wrapping brisket, veggies, and fish to be used on the grill or in the smoker.
It is able to not only trap heat inside the package but, in some cases, also heat up the inner workings. If the foil is over direct heat or direct flame, chances are it will raise the internal temperature of the package.
It will also be able to trap air and moisture within the wrapped package, which can be ideal in some situations but is not always the case for some. It can also grill fish on so that nothing falls through the grate during the grilling process.
Foil also has a significantly higher burn temperature which means it won’t catch fire or burn when exposed to very high temperatures. This property makes foil our only choice for charcoal or gas grills.
Using parchment paper when smoking your meat is a great option that you should not shy away from. While there are many advantages to using parchment paper, our favorite is that it has many uses in your kitchen.
So, placing your smoked meats in parchment paper can open up a whole new world of possibilities and maybe even elevate your smoking game. You may like it more than foil and end up asking yourself why you were not doing this all along.