When To Wrap Pulled Pork – Timing Is Everything

When it comes to barbecue techniques like wrapping, timing is everything. If you wrap too early, you won’t get a nice bark. If you wrap too late, the meat is exposed to other risks. I asked the barbecue gurus when they wrap pork shoulder when making pulled pork. 

The best time to wrap pulled pork is about 4 or 5 hours into the cook once the bark begins to crack. At this point, the internal meat temperature should be close to 160° F, which is usually when the stall occurs. However, there are no hard-and-fast rules when to wrapping pork. As long as the bark has set, it’s safe to wrap.You can use either foil or butcher paper to wrap the pulled pork. You can also skip wrapping altogether, but expect the meat to take an hour or two longer. 

Don’t Wrap Too Early

For the first 4 or 5 hours of the cook, leave the pork alone. This first phase of the cook is all about bark development. Wrapping will soften the bark because it creates steam inside the package. If you don’t develop a firm bark prior to wrapping, the bark won’t survive the wrapped phase.

Wrap Before The Stall

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. 

Unwrapped Pulled Pork

Don’t get into the mindset that you absolutely must wrap smoked meat. Not every pitmaster uses this technique. Known as bark sharks, some pitmasters prefer a crispy bark over any of the advantages of wrapping. As long as you keep the temperature low-and-slow, an unwrapped pork roast will survive and still taste delicious. If you’re planning on smoking a naked pork roast, just use mild wood and keep the temperature of your smoker under control.

Another thing to keep in mind is an untapped brisket will take a few hours longer to cook. Aaron Franklin doesn’t always wrap. More than anything, Franklin goes by look and feel. If he thinks the pork needs wrapping, he wraps. If he doesn’t think the pork needs wrapping, he doesn’t wrap. 

Wrapping Protects The Pork From Being Over-Smoked

Wrapping is the best way to protect the meat from being over smoked and becoming dry. When smoking pulled pork, the roast will need to be in the smoker for many hours, which puts it at risk of drying out, or tasting bitter. Strong smoking woods like mesquite or hickory can overpower the meat with a strong smoke flavor. To avoid this, use a mild smoking wood such as apple, cherry or pecan. 

Wrapping Protects The Pork From Bad Smoke

Wrapping will also protect the pork from bad smoke. If you’re burning a nice clean smoke, then I wouldn’t be too worried. However, if you’re getting a dirty black smoke, then I would definitely be wrapping. 

Paper Vs. Foil

You can either wrap your pork butt in foil or butcher paper, and there are subtle differences between the two methods. A foil-wrapped roast will create more steam, so the bark is noticeably softer. The bark on a paper-wrapped pork roast won’t be as soft because paper allows the meat to breathe. 

What Is The Bark On Pulled Pork?

The bark on smoked meat is a combination of dehydrated meat, fat, barbecue rub, and smoke. When you shred your pulled pork, you want to have a nice mix of bark with the meat. You have some strands of meat that are tender and juicy from the middle of the roast, but you also want to have bits of bark mixed through because this will provide some crunch.

When smoking pork, pro pitmasters like Aaron Franklin spend hours nurturing the bark, and they will only wrap once they are satisfied with the outer layer. The first phase of the cook is all about that bark development. 

The Rub Set To The Bark 

The rub and the spritz play a huge role in the development of the bark. Spritzing is a great way to keep the pork moist, but it will also prevent it from drying out. Spritzing will also help the rub fuse with the meat. 

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.

WeightTemperatureTotal Cook TimeResting Time (1 hour)
6 pounds220°F9 hours10 hours
10 pounds220°F15 hours16 hours
6 pounds250°F6 hours7 hours
10 pounds250°F10 hours11 hours
6 pounds(Hot and Fast) 300°F5 hours6 hours
Estimated total cook times for pork butt

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.

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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