“Peach paper” is a term that’s rattling around a lot of barbecue pits in recent years. Is it made from peach trees? Was it stolen from your grandmother’s stationary? Is it just your buddy trying to recreate the look of iconic Texas BBQ joints? What gives?
Read on, pit master, and demystify.
By now, you understand that a grill is not like a Star Trek replicator where delicious food just appears by magic. There is a vast collection of knowledge and techniques surrounding barbecue. Styles, methods, and ingredients get passed down in families as jealously guarded alchemical meat secrets. The skilled can become the envy of the neighborhood and even the world.
The tools involved in achieving great barbecue are no less varied, but can be straightforward if you know what you’re looking for and how to use it. The legendary peach paper, also known as pink butcher paper, is one such tool that can boost your grilling to new heights. So quit flipping those store-bought hamburger patties and get up to speed on what makes this trend more than just hype and a certain Texas aesthetic.
Let’s break down what this paper is, isn’t, and how to use it.
Peach paper is a style of unbleached butcher paper that has applications before, during, and after the grilling process. It is made of 100% virgin wood pulp and is certified food-safe by the FDA.
It is not:
- Freezer paper, which is coated in a layer of plastic or wax. Great for keeping freezer burn off your meat, bad news in your 300 degree grill.
- Steak paper, which is heavier and less breathable because it’s made specifically for storing raw meat.
- Parchment paper, which is made with silicon to make it moisture- and grease-proof. Awesome nonstick properties, doesn’t allow meat to breathe.
- Kraft paper, which shares the first stages of manufacturing but lacks the wet strength of butcher paper and will disintegrate.
- Any old paper that happens to be dyed that color. Not food safe, who knows what it’s made out of.
- Made out of peaches or peach wood. (Or stolen from Grandma.)
Imagine perfect brisket: The meat is fork-tender and juicy, laced with smoke flavor, and enclosed in a delicate but robust layer of bark that keeps you coming back bite after bite. Pink butcher paper helps you achieve craveable results like this by controlling the moisture and heat exchange during cooking, usually in the latter half of the process.
During grilling, the meat develops a seared crust (thanks, delicious Maillard reaction!) on the outside that’s flavorful and has amazing texture. Beneath the surface, the interior of your cut cooks more slowly. A longer, slower cooking time helps break down muscle fibers and keep the meat tender while distributing flavors from seasonings and smoke.
You can wrap the meat during the second half of the cooking time to protect the bark from burning and trap more heat in while the meat finishes up. Butcher paper’s permeability means that while it helps retain moisture, steam can still escape rather than condensing and soaking the meat. Wet cooking conditions are great for a pot roast, but that ain’t barbecue. Wrapping in an impermeable barrier like foil or parchment also prevents smoke from reaching the meat, meaning no more smoky flavor.
Because pink butcher paper has been treated for superior integrity when wet (or “sized”, in paper lingo), it’s a great help when storing raw meat during dry brining, before it hits the grill, and cooked meat before serving. Finally, serving a lined basket or paper cone of fries definitely gives your feast a bit of authentic BBQ flair.
Grill on, friends! Your summer awaits you.