What is the Texas Crutch? Quite simply it’s aluminum foil:
That’s right, the Texas Crutch is foil. Let’s back up a little to discuss the history of BBQ and smoking. How did it start? Simply put, the rich got all the tender cuts of meat, usually higher up on the animal which is where, “Living high on the hog,” comes from. The rest of us had to make do with the lower, tougher cuts. In order to make them tender the connective tissues have to be broken down. In order to break them down and still keep the meat juicy, the meat had to be cooked at low temperatures. This is why a steak can be grilled at 900 degrees for a couple minutes but a brisket needs to be smoked at under 300 for many, many hours.
Here’s Where the Texas Crutch Comes In
The aluminum foil helps to speed up the process of breaking down connective tissues without drying out the food. The trick is to smoke, say ribs, for 2 hours, and then put them in the foil. After a couple hours, the ribs aren’t taking on any smoke flavor so this isn’t hurting that at all. Inside the foil, the meat will steam in its own juices which hyper accelerates the breaking down of connective tissues while retaining the juiciness of the ribs. This is the key to the 3-2-1 rib method that a ton of people use to grill ribs.
I’m going to show you exactly how to use the Texas Crutch and the dramatic effect it can have on a couple slabs of ribs.
- 1 slab of St. Louis style ribs, membrane removed
- Your favorite rub
- Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- Squeeze margarine
- Brown sugar
What are St. Louis style ribs? Simply put, pork spare ribs that are trimmed to be uniform the entire length of the slab:
I wanted to compare apples to apples
So I cut this slab in half then hit them with salt and the rub:
Then I put them on my pellet smoker at 225:
After 2 hours one slab is heading into the Texas Crutch of aluminum foil:
Lay down a bed of Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil, squirt the margarine and sprinkle the brown sugar:
Place the ribs, meat side down, on the foil:
Wrap the foil around them and then put the ribs, inside the Texas Crutch, back on the smoker next to the other half slab:
Close the lid for another 60-90 minutes and raise the temp. I upped the temp to 350 when I closed the lid.
Back on the grill or serve right away?
Some people pull the ribs from the foil and place them back on the smoker to firm up the bark for 30-60 minutes. For this explanation, I’m just going to pull them after 90 minutes in the foil. So total cook time is 3.5 hours. Two hours at 225 and the last 90 at 350. Here are the foiled ribs sliced and plated:
In the pic above, you can see a nice smoke ring, the bones got some good separation from the meat and you can see that the meat came clean off the side of the one bone on the upper right when sliced. That’s going to be a theme in a second.
Now the un-foiled ribs have a little more pronounced smoke ring:
It’s all about that bite
Other than that, there isn’t much difference between the two until you take a bite. Here’s a bit from a rib that was not put into the Texas Crutch:
That’s a clean bite that BBQ competition judges are looking for. And here’s a bit from the ribs foiled in the Texas Crutch:
Fall off the Bone vs Competition Style Ribs
All of the meat came off clean in one bite. While competition judges would scoff at this, the majority of Americans prefer their ribs this way. If you want fall off the bone ribs, put them in foil. Oh, and don’t forget what’s left in the foil:
That liquid is flavor gold, my friends! Drizzle it over the ribs:
What is the Texas Crutch? It’s your friend!
So we have two racks of ribs, cooked for the exact same amount of time and one is competition tender and the other is fall off the bone. The only real difference between them is one was wrapped in the Texas Crutch. I foil pork shoulders and briskets as well. Foil is your friend. Use it. You can foil and come short of fall off the bone ribs by simply cutting down the time in the foil. The steam action with the Margerine and brown sugar really add some flavor to the ribs. Foil them for about 30 minutes and place back on the grill (reserving the juice in the foil for later). When the bones are peaking out about 1/3 of an inch, they’re competition perfect. Remove them from the heat, drizzle that sauce over them and bask in the accolades of your BBQ guests.
Other uses of the Texas Crutch
The other big advantage of the Crutch is to plow through the stall of a brisket or pork shoulder. Foil can hyper-accelerate the a big cut of meat through the stall finishing the dreaded temperature plateau in sometimes half the time Foil is also the secret to the perfect color on a whole hog.
For the 3-2-1 Ribs fans, you will notice I do not cook them that long because I like my ribs short of fall off the bone. For those that like fall off the bone ribs, go the 3-2-1 method. For those looking for an alternative to the 3-2-1 ribs click here. For the 3-2-1 ribs lovers, check this link.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.
Reynolds Wrap sponsored this post.
If you are looking for rib recipes, click here.
What is the Texas Crutch?
- Reynolds Wrap® Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- 1 slab St. Louis style ribs membrane removed
- your favorite rub
- Squeeze margarine
- Brown sugar
- Hit the ribs with salt and your favorite BBQ rub, bone side first
- Prepare the smoker for 225 degrees and put the ribs on with some smoke wood
- After 2 hours, lay down a bed of foil and hit it with some squeeze margarine and brown sugar
- Place the ribs, bone side down, on the foil and wrap up into a pouch
- Place back on the ribs and crank up the heat to 350
- After 90 minutes remove from the foil and serve