Using foil Question

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Original poster
Jun 12, 2006
I have a question maybe some of you can help me with. During the time my smoker was being built , I was getting some coaching on how to smoke meat from a friend who has been smoking meat for several years.He told me that after 4 hours of smoking , your not going to get any more smoke flavor , so after 4 hours you wrap the meat (no matter what kind) inheavy duty foil and finish your cook time , otherwise your meat will come out dry. I've heard since then people say dont wrap anything. I've read the 3-2-1 article , and I've tried a picnic shoulder that I did use the foil on and it turned out great. Is there a right or wrong way about wrapping in foil or is this just a matter of personal preference. I would be grateful for your input.


Buddy, meat will take on smoke flavor as long as it is in a smokey environment.

In simple terms, foiling changes the cooking environment from roasting to braising. Braising is a great technique for tenderizing. As far as preventing drying, a lot of people will debate me on this but I don't think it really helps with moisture retention, but it is worth doing for the sake of tenderness.
Raw meat has the moisture bound within the protein molocules. As the meat cooks the proteins begin to break down and the internal moisture is released. As it cooks further and the molocules begin to shrink the moisture is forced out of the meat. If foiled the moisture doesn't stay in the meat, it just stays in the foil.

Dry meat comes from over cooking, tough meat comes from under cooking. The trick is to hit the window past tough and before dry.

I would take any cooking advice based on time alone with a grain of salt as differences in pit temperatures alone can change the timing of what's happening during a cook a LOT. When to foil should be based on the internal temp of the meat. For a butt if wrapping I wrap at 165, for briskets I wrap at 170-175.

The down side to wrapping is that the bark turns to mush. On a butt, to me that's no big deal, for a brisket thats a real shame.

As to foil or not to foil, my advice is to try a couple of butts or a pair of brisket flats, foil one part way into the cook and don't the other and see what you think.

There is no right or wrong way, just the one that suits you your tastes and your cooker best.
I mostly agree with the post above... Foiling will help in preserving some moisture. It is doing this through braising or steaming the meat. About the only time I foil anything before removing from the pit is when I'm in a time crunch.

I prefer to do ribs w/o foil... as suggested, try it both ways and decide what works for you.

Howdy Buddy.

Your friend may have been a little mistaken or he may have meant after 4 hours that the meat had enough smoke for his taste.
But it will continue to take on more smoke flavor through the cook.

The smoke ring will stop developing at around 140* which may have been what he meant or heard.

Foil can be used for several reasons; to control the amount of smoke the meat gets, to help keep the color from getting to dark, to speed the cooking process, and to tenderize the meat by braising.

Scott pretty much summed up what I do too.
I really appreciate all the input I'm getting on this question , it has helped a lot! I'm new to the forum and I'm not sure if this is where I post a thank you reply , but thanks James , Scott , Bob. The same guy who told me about wrapping after 4 hours also told me that putting a rub or seasonings on your meat was a waste of time because it just evaporated off , and that you cook all your meat at 250* for the same length of time , which I know is not right.

Thanks Buddy
Buddy, you have been given some straight up advice about using foil so I won't comment further.
It's perfectly alright to revisit a post and add a "Thank you". It's classy on your part and much appreciated by those it is intended for.
see now i have heard the same thing about smoking as in it dont really take on much more smoke after 4 hours. i think i read that in here actually since this is my sole sorce for smoking knowledge, besides the voices in my head.

as for foil. i quit using it all together, i heard aluminium is linked to alzhimers (i really heard this). Now use plastic wrap after a little while it causes a nice bond to the meat and really holds on tight.

im not really sure about the rub thing but a friend of mine also says rub is a waste of time. he may do a little salt and pepper and some garlic but he just throws a slab of meat in the smoker and thats it. i like the taste of the crust the rub leaves behind. mmmmmm crustations..

I guess my two cents won't hurt anything. In my experience (very little) I have in the past smoked chicken for three hours and finished off in the oven at a higher temp because I was in a time crunch, and also I have smoked chicken for around 5 hours, I think I was using around 215F (I need to start to writing these things down), and I can tell you that you absolutely can taste more smoke flavor with a longer smoke. I basted every hour or so and the chickens were very juicy.

Based on such experience, and the fact that foiling will stop the addition of smoke flavor just as throwing it in the oven, I would say that more time in the smoke more smoke flavor. And that foil should just be used to control the amount of smoke flavor to your preference.
My 2 cents-
Once the meat has passed through the 140 deg. mark the chemical reaction between the smoke and the nitrates & nitrites in the meat ceases and no longer contributes to the creation of the smoke ring. As long as the meat is in a smokey environment, it will continue to take on smoke unless covered or removed from the smoker.
On another note, I read that it's the ingestion of aluminum that is the suspected cause of Alzheimer's.

My beer can's are aluminum. :shock:

I personally think as long as the meat is in the smoke it is taking on smoke flavor. Up to a certain point that is good :D , But to much of a good thing is still too much. :idea:

Foil after the temp hits about 140 and avoid the bad smoke.
I think a large % of the time "oversmoking" is experienced, it isn't due so much to too much smoke but too much bad smoke (any is too much) or too much of the wrong kind of smoke (from strong woods like mesquite or hickory).

Cleanly combusted, properly seasoned wood, will produce the sweet blue that it's hard to get to much of.

Stong woods like mesquite, cherry or hickory should be augmented with lighter flavored woods like apple maple or oak. Stronger woods can also be used in lesser quantities with charcoal (lump or briq) to keep smoke at a desireable level.

Proper fire management will take care of "oversmoking" but there are still lots of good reasons to use foil if you want to. I do on some things on some cookers and don't in other situations. I don't think there's one right answer to the foil or not to foil question.
Scott, thanks for your comments-especially when you said "I don't think there's one right answer to the foil or not to foil question". The same could be said for any aspect of smoking- what works for one person may not work out for someone else. And that is one of the reasons that we encourage folks new to the art of smoking to try different methods and find what works best for them. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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