Cooking trends come and go. The bad trends fall by the wayside while the good trends stick around for years or a lifetime. When cooking at home, most of us rely on quality products to prepare the best meal possible for our family or guests. If you’re like me, you take no shortcuts. Take butcher paper for example. While butcher paper has been used for years by our butchers and fish stores, more and more cooks have become wise to its cooking benefits. From roasts to smoking brisket, the possibilities are endless – and delicious. We will touch on the “how” and “why” shortly, but first, let’s get a good understanding of what butcher paper is.
What is Butcher Paper?
If you have ever purchased meat or fish from a local butcher or fishmonger, you have likely had your product wrapped in butcher paper. This paper is of a higher quality than common freezer paper, and its best uses come when cooking with it.
In most cases, butcher paper is 100% food grade and FDA approved. This means that you can trust the product so much that you can cook with it alongside your favorite meat or fish. You would want to avoid cooking with any other type of grocery-grade paper as they will likely be traced or lined with plastic – not the best complement to your roast!
Butcher paper is almost always within arms distance of every great chef or pit master. Whether you’re preparing a meat or fish for family at home, or outside smoking a brisket, butcher paper can be used in any situation depending on the recipe and what you’re looking to achieve.
The Right Butcher Paper is Key
As mentioned above, you will first want to start with weeding out any freezer paper or wax paper that comes coated. Again, quality is important, but most important is to choose a product that will not be harmful to you or your friends and family. While it may seem obvious some things need to be said. Don’t even think of using paper bags that may be used for bagging your groceries. Aside from the strong possibility that they may catch on fire, they are not sterile and may have been produced using chemicals. So, avoid at all costs. If your plan is to cook a roast wrapped in butcher paper, even wrapping it in foil will be better than any of the options above.
Why Use Butcher Paper?
As we know, the French have perfected the art of cooking. While cooking meals wrapped in a pouch likely goes back thousands of years, the French have it down to a science. Known as “en papillote”, or “in its pouch”, this style of cooking food wrapped in butcher paper, or similar, allows you to toss in herbs, vegetables, butter or your favorite sauces alongside your meat or fish of choice. The end result? Perfection. The seal created by the butcher paper allows for the moisture to combine everything inside the package, creating an amazing pocket of deliciousness that is hard to duplicate without this process.
There is no shortage of proteins you can wrap in your favorite butcher paper. While the most common is fish, chicken, roasts, and vegetables can all be wrapped in butcher paper to create an amazing meal. Of course the more you add to your recipe the more flavors will meld together, so don’t be afraid to get creative.
Types of Butcher Paper
White butcher paper
White butcher paper is also found in your local fish or meat store. You may have had your deli sandwich wrapped in it too. While white butcher paper is FDA approved and uncoated with harmful chemicals, it less common with cooking because it is more breathable. Meaning that it does not trap in moisture.
Pink or peach butcher paper
Do not let the name fool you. Pink and peach butcher paper comes in more than two colors, ranging from light brown to a darker pink, but this is the standard when it comes to cooking with butcher paper. This durable paper allows your meats and fish to breathe, preventing it from getting soggy. Peach paper is perfect for wrapping meats that you plan to roast or smoke since the paper allows flavors to be absorbed. A common ally of BBQ pit masters when smoking meats like brisket.
Unlike the higher quality pink or peach butcher paper, freezer paper comes coated. This coating prevents freezer burn, so it has its place in the cooking world, just avoid it if you plan on using paper for roasting, baking, or smoking.
Butcher Paper vs Foil
Wrapping your food in foil grabs the meat’s fat and juices, allowing it to be reabsorbed, creating a braising effect. Depending on the type of meat you plan on cooking, and where you plan to cook your meat (oven vs smoker), foil can provide plenty of benefits, but you should also be aware of producing an overly moist environment.
Looking for breathability in your wrapping? Butcher paper wins hands down. Butcher paper traps less steam compared to foil, keeping your meat moist without making it overly soggy.
Why Wrap Your Meats?
Cooks and pit masters wrap their meats to prevent the meat from drying out at the end of the cooking process or to allow moisture to be present throughout the entire cooking process.
In the End, Choose Wisely
When choosing a paper always choose a food grade product. Made in America is always a good start but ensure the butcher paper is FDA approved. Again, this means that it is safe to be in contact with food. While you can always choose a lower quality paper for presentation, if you plan to roast, cook, or smoke your meat or vegetables, the best quality butcher paper won’t do you wrong. But keep in mind that food grade does not always mean that you can cook with it. Food grade simply means it can come into contact with your food without contaminating it with harmful chemicals.