When To Wrap Pulled Pork – Timing Is Everything


Timing is crucial when it comes to wrapping techniques in barbecue, especially when making pulled pork. If you wrap the pork too early, you may not achieve the desired bark. On the other hand, if you wrap it too late, the meat may be exposed to other potential issues. To ensure the best results, it is important to consider the timing of the wrap and follow the advice of barbecue experts. In this article, we will discuss the optimal time to wrap pork shoulder for making pulled pork, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of wrapping, the different materials that can be used for wrapping, and the importance of the bark in pulled pork.

When making pulled pork, it is generally best to wrap the pork shoulder around 4-5 hours into the cook, once the bark has begun to crack and the internal meat temperature is close to 160° F. This is often the point at which the stall occurs, and wrapping the pork at this stage can help it continue to cook and prevent it from getting stuck at this temperature for an extended period of time. However, there are no strict rules for when to wrap the pork, and as long as the bark has set, it is safe to wrap the pork at any point during the cook. You can choose to wrap the pork with either foil or butcher paper, or you can skip wrapping altogether, although the meat may take an extra hour or two to cook if it is not wrapped.

Key Points

PointDescription
Timing is important when wrapping pulled porkThe best time to wrap is usually around 4 or 5 hours into the cook, once the bark has begun to crack and the internal meat temperature is close to 160° F
Wrapping too early or too late can have negative effectsWrapping too early can soften the bark, while wrapping too late can expose the meat to other risks
Wrapping can be done with foil or butcher paper, or skipped altogetherWrapping with foil will create more steam and soften the bark more, while wrapping with butcher paper allows the meat to breathe and results in a slightly firmer bark
Wrapping before the stall can help push the pork through and prevent it from becoming dry or having a strong smoke flavorThe stall occurs between 160° F and 170° F, and wrapping the pork before it hits this point can help it continue to cook and prevent it from getting stuck at this temperature for an extended period of time
Wrapping can also protect the pork from bad smoke and help the rub set to the barkWrapping the pork will keep it from being over-smoked or becoming dry, and can also help the rub adhere to the meat
The bark on pulled pork is a combination of dehydrated meat, fat, barbecue rub, and smokeThe bark is important for providing crunch to the final dish and is created during the first phase of the cook, where the focus is on developing a firm bark
Spritzing the pork with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water can help keep it moist and fuse the rub with the meatSpritzing should be done carefully, as spritzing the pork too early can prevent the rub from setting to the bark
The final internal temperature of the pulled pork should be around 200° FThe meat should be tender and easily pull apart with a fork when it is finished cooking

Don’t Wrap The Pork Too Early

  • It is important to leave the pork alone during the first 4-5 hours of the cook to allow for proper bark development
  • Wrapping the pork too early can soften the bark due to the steam created inside the package
  • If the bark is not firm before wrapping, it may not survive the wrapped phase of the cook
  • It is generally best to wait until the bark has begun to crack and the internal meat temperature is close to 160° F before wrapping the pork to ensure that the bark has had time to set and the pork is ready to be wrapped.

It is important to leave the pork alone during the first 4 or 5 hours of the cook because this is the time when the bark is developing. The bark on pulled pork is a combination of dehydrated meat, fat, barbecue rub, and smoke, and it is important for providing crunch to the final dish.

It is generally best to wait until the bark has begun to crack and the internal meat temperature is close to 160° F before wrapping the pork. This will ensure that the bark has had time to set and that the pork is ready to be wrapped without sacrificing the integrity of the bark.

During this first phase of the cook, the focus is on developing a firm bark, and wrapping the pork too early can interfere with this process. Wrapping creates steam inside the package, which can soften the bark and prevent it from setting properly. If the bark is not firm when the pork is wrapped, it is more likely to become soft and may not survive the wrapped phase of the cook.

Ideally, you want to wrap the pork before it hits the stall, which usually occurs between 160° F and 170° F. Once the pork stalls, the temperature will plateau and the meat can get stuck on the same temp for hours. Wrapping the pork in foil will help push the pork roast through the stall. 

A “Bark Shark” Doesn’t Wrap Pulled Pork

  • It is not necessary to wrap pulled pork while smoking it
  • Some pitmasters prefer to leave the pork unwrapped to achieve a crispy bark
  • An unwrapped pork roast should still turn out delicious as long as the temperature is kept low and slow and mild wood is used
  • An unwrapped pork roast may take a few hours longer to cook than a wrapped one
  • Pitmaster Aaron Franklin does not always wrap his pork and instead goes by the look and feel of the meat to decide whether or not it needs wrapping
  • The decision to wrap or not wrap the pork is up to the individual pitmaster and their preference.

It is not necessary to wrap pulled pork while smoking it. Some pitmasters, also known as “bark sharks,” prefer to leave the pork unwrapped in order to achieve a crispy bark. As long as the temperature is kept low and slow during the cook, an unwrapped pork roast should still turn out delicious. To ensure the best results when smoking an unwrapped pork roast, it is recommended to use mild wood and to keep the temperature of the smoker under control.

It is important to note that an unwrapped pork roast may take a few hours longer to cook than a wrapped one. Pitmaster Aaron Franklin does not always wrap his pork, and instead goes by the look and feel of the meat to decide whether or not it needs wrapping. If he thinks the pork needs wrapping, he will wrap it. If not, he will leave it unwrapped. Ultimately, the decision to wrap or not wrap the pork is up to the individual pitmaster and their preference.

Wrapping Prevents Over-Smoking and Bad Smoke

Protection From Over-Smoked Meat Wrapping is a good way to prevent the meat from being over-smoked and drying out. When smoking pulled pork, the roast needs to be in the smoker for many hours, which can make it prone to drying out or tasting bitter. Using strong smoking woods such as mesquite or hickory can also give the meat a strong smoke flavor. To avoid these issues, it is recommended to use mild smoking woods like apple, cherry, or pecan.

Protection From Bad Smoke Wrapping the pork can also protect it from bad smoke. If the smoke is clean and not dirty or black, wrapping may not be necessary. However, if the smoke is dirty or black, wrapping the pork can help to protect it from being adversely affected by the smoke.

Pink Butcher Paper or Aluminium Foil?

Foil vs Butcher Paper. When wrapping the pork, you can use either foil or butcher paper. The main difference between the two is the amount of steam they allow. Foil will create more steam, which will result in a softer bark. On the other hand, butcher paper allows the meat to breathe, which will result in a slightly firmer bark. The choice between foil and butcher paper will depend on your personal preference and the desired texture of the bark.

How Is The Bark Formed On Pulled Pork?

The bark on pulled pork is a flavorful and crunchy outer layer that is created during the smoking process. It is made up of a combination of dehydrated meat, fat, barbecue rub, and smoke. When the pulled pork is shredded, it is desirable to have a nice mix of both tender and juicy strands of meat from the middle of the roast, as well as bits of bark for added texture and crunch.

Pitmasters like Aaron Franklin spend a significant amount of time nurturing the bark during the smoking process. They will only wrap the pork once they are satisfied with the outer layer, as the first phase of the cook is all about developing the bark. The bark is important because it adds flavor and texture to the final dish and helps to make the pulled pork more appealing.

The rub and spritz also play a role in the development of the bark. The rub is a mixture of spices and herbs that is applied to the surface of the meat to add flavor and color. The spritz is a liquid mixture, typically made with apple cider vinegar and water, that is sprayed onto the meat to keep it moist and help the rub fuse with the meat. The combination of the rub and spritz can help to create a flavorful and well-developed bark on the pulled pork.

Spritzing Pork

Don’t spritz the pork too early, otherwise, the rub and seasoning will wash off, leaving a patchy bark. If you want to know when to spritz, touch the pork with your finger. If you notice the rub sticking to your finger, it’s too early to spritz. If you touch the pork and the rub no longer sticks to your finger, then it’s safe to spritz. Once you have wrapped the pulled pork, place a thermometer probe into the meat to keep track of the internal temperature. Take the pork butt to around 200° F.

In Summary

  • Timing is important when wrapping pulled pork for barbecue
  • The best time to wrap is usually around 4 or 5 hours into the cook, once the bark has begun to crack and the internal meat temperature is close to 160° F
  • Wrapping too early can soften the bark, while wrapping too late can expose the meat to other risks
  • Wrapping can be done with either foil or butcher paper, or can be skipped entirely
  • Wrapping the pork before it hits the stall, which occurs between 160° F and 170° F, can help push it through the stall and prevent it from becoming dry or having a strong smoke flavor
  • Wrapping can also protect the pork from bad smoke and help the rub set to the bark
  • The bark on pulled pork is a combination of dehydrated meat, fat, barbecue rub, and smoke, and is important for providing crunch to the final dish
  • Spritzing the pork with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water can help keep it moist and fuse the rub with the meat, but should not be done too early in the cook
  • The final internal temperature of the pulled pork should be around 200° F, and the meat should be tender and easily pull apart with a fork.

Pulled Pork Cook Times

My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.

Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.

Wireless Thermometer: The latest thermometers on the market have no wires and can be controlled by wi-fi via your phone. Airprobe 3 is the best of this technology.

Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.

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