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How to Wrap Ribs in Butcher Paper (with Pictures!)

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
October 14, 2022

While I don't wrap ribs in butcher paper much anymore - I was a big believer in doing so for a long time.

The biggest benefit of butcher paper is that it's less susceptible to tearing. It's also fairly cheap and can be made malleable by spritzing with water during application.

Butcher Paper vs Aluminum Foil for Ribs

Something that I think a lot of folks in barbecue do is sort of stick to what they know.

I'm even a good example of this.

I was taught to wrap in butcher paper by my Father - so I've wrapped in butcher paper for 15 years. My Dad also taught me to wait longer in the smoking process as apposed to wrapping early - which a lot of people get wrong.

After wrapping in both butcher paper and foil - and waiting longer - the difference is negligible (sorry Dad!). You can learn how to wrap in foil by reading this article.

The only reason I say that though is because I don't wrap early.

If you're someone who is on the fence between the two materials, try both and see what you prefer.

How to Wrap Ribs in Butcher Paper

When wrapping with butcher paper, the main concept to keep in mind is to keep the wrap tight. Equate it to wrapping a Christmas present - you want right angles and tight seals.

To start, all you'll need is:

  • Butcher paper - Ensure the butcher paper you're using isn't impregnated and/or coated with wax/silicone; In some cases it's also not wax and is a thin polyethylene coating.
  • Ribs that have been smoked till roughly 175-180F.

The butcher paper I use is from Bryco Goods Store - you can buy it here.

In the past 4 years I've bought two 175 foot rolls.

1. Start by laying out two sheets of butcher paper.

spritzed butcher paper

In terms of length, I'd suggest being rather generous - around 2 feet is more than enough. Remember, you can always tear excess paper but you can't necessarily add paper.

You also want to overlap the sheets in the center by about 9 inches.

Note: My butcher paper is 18" wide so 9 inches is half way with my paper.

2. Spritz the upper portion of the butcher paper with warm water or apple cider vinegar/apple juice or really any liquid you have on hand - even beer would suffice.

You're not saturating the paper, you're spritzing it so that it's workable and so that you can create a tighter seal on your ribs.

Note: Butcher paper is a porous material, unlike aluminum foil which is non-porous. Meaning, you can't wrap with excess amounts of liquid or wrap ingredients.

Granted, I think most folks who wrap with butcher paper aren't huge fans of liquid wraps anyway. If you're someone who is new to butcher paper, the above is important to keep in mind.

With that said, butcher paper will absorb rendered moisture/fat from the ribs.

I also know some folks like to wrap with lard/tallow (pig fat/beef fat), however I've never found this to be necessary. If anything the extra fat works to seal the paper and does what the foil would do.

3. Place the ribs so that they're oriented meat side down over the spritzed area.

ribs meat side down butcher paper

4. Curl the upper portion of the butcher paper over the top of the ribs.

first fold of wrap

Then tuck the paper under the rack and pull the rack/paper towards you. Again, the goal is to create as tight a seal as possible.

5. Fold the sides of the paper inwards over the edges of ribs.

second fold of wrap

Once folded, use your hand to make a crease into the folds on the length of the remaining paper - do this on both sides.

6. Fold the now wrapped ribs onto the creased sides once.

third fold wrap

7. On the other end of the remaining paper, fold it on-top of itself once.

8. Now fold the ribs over one more time so that the ribs lay meat side down over the end of the paper.

Note: If you don't have excess paper, no sweat! As long as the ribs are wrapped in 1-2 layers of butcher paper, you're set.

The reason I like to have excess is so that the rendered fat and moisture build-up will collect in the paper. The meat will further tenderize as it sits on top of the fat/water-laden paper.

9. Return the ribs to your smoker meat side down (or bone-side up) in the butcher paper wrap.

butcher paper wrapped ribs on smoker
Butcher Paper Wrapped Ribs, Meat Side Down

Final Thoughts

That's all there really is to wrapping in ribs in butcher paper.

Another added benefit is that you can essentially bend test the ribs inside the paper. You can learn about the bend test in this article.

Granted, if you're someone who likes to probe the ribs for tenderness or for internal temperature, it's a bit harder to do just because you have to unwrap the meat and then attempt to re-wrap the ribs if they're not done.

If they're not done, the paper almost always won't go back the way you originally wrapped it.

With foil it's as easy as opening the top of the foil.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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