So you are smoking the large cut of brisket that you have bought for your barbecue and it suddenly seems to stop cooking. This is called “the stall” but what is it exactly?
At a certain internal temperature, large cuts of meat like brisket have a stall wherein the internal temperature stops rising for hours.
If you are nervous that the brisket will not make it before serving, do not worry as this is a natural part of the cooking process.
Your barbecue will still continue and your brisket will make it. The brisket is still cooking even though the temperature has plateaued.
So if this is a natural occurrence, why does it happen and how do you get past it? Let us take a look at the details about “the stall” and how you can manage it.
What Is A Brisket Stall?
A brisket stall or stall, in general, is when the large cut of meat suddenly stops rising in internal temperature in the middle of the smoking process.
This usually happens when the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This plateau is natural in the cooking process of large slabs of meat.
When your brisket stalls, you cannot help but worry as it can last for hours on end. If time is not a concern, you can leave it in the smoker and it will rise once more later on.
The stall can also happen at other internal temperatures. There is no need to worry about it as there are many solutions for this.
But exactly why does the stall happen?
The stall happens between 150 degrees and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, there is a lot that happens which allowed the rise of many theories of why the stall happens.
Some myths around brisket stall exist, so let us clear them once and for all.
Myth: The Collagen Breaking Down Is The Cause
At around 160 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature, the collagen in the brisket starts to melt and become gelatinous.
Some believed that this was the cause of the stall. As the collagen turns to gelatin, it cools down the meat, but it does not really make sense as the broken-down collagen should still be hot.
This is not the reason why the stall happens.
Myth: Fat Rendering
This theory is one that many believes is the cause of the stall. As the fat in the brisket renders, it melts into a liquid form and cools down the brisket to make the internal temp plateau.
When the fats are rendered, it does not necessarily evaporate. So it does not slow the cooking process and is not the reason for the stall.
Myth: Protein Denaturing
Protein denaturing is when the protein starts to break down and uncoil. This leads people to believe that the uncoiling opens spaces between the muscle fibers.
The small openings give the heat some room to seep through so the temperature does not rise. However, this is still, not the reason why the stall happens.
Fact: The Real Reason Is Evaporative Cooling
When meat is exposed to heat, it compresses and squeezes the moisture inside towards the surface of the meat.
Some of the excess moisture actually manage to get out of the meat. This causes the meat to cool down a little before evaporating into the air.
At some point, the smoker’s temperature will no longer be able to counteract the cooling effect or at least be hot enough to heat the meat.
This causes the stall to happen and leaves the brisket’s internal temperature at a constant temperature.
The excess moisture will eventually run out, and then your brisket’s internal temperature will rise again. This can, however, take hours before you see some changes in the temp.
Can A Brisket Stall Twice?
A brisket can stall twice or sometimes even more. The stall can happen due to other factors aside from the evaporative cooling.
The brisket will likely stall again when it is exposed to a drastic change while it is being smoked. So not only can the stall happen twice but also multiple times.
If the smoking temperature drops, the brisket can get to a stall once again. Applying sauce or other sources of moisture can also be the cause of the multiple stalls.
How To Handle Multiple Brisket Stalls?
While the common internal temperature when the stall happens is 150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, there are stalls at other temperatures that may occur.
Solving them with one magic solution is not possible as the different temperatures might require different procedures that you cannot apply to the other temperatures.
So in this next part, we will take a look at the most common temperatures where the brisket stall happens and how to find solutions for each of them.
What Temperature Can One Expect The Brisket Stall?
The brisket stall can happen during several stages of the smoking process. It can happen earlier or later before the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Here is a chart that summarizes the different stalls that might occur and how you can deal with each of them. Read on further for more details.
|Brisket Stall At||Cause||Solutions|
|125 degrees Fahrenheit||Low Smoking Temperature||Raising the temp; Wrapping the brisket in foil and cooking in the oven at 300 degrees F.|
|140 degrees Fahrenheit||Low Smoking Temperature; Inaccurate Meat Probe||Raising the temp; Calibrating the meat probe and remeasuring the internal temperature.|
|145 degrees Fahrenheit||Low Smoking Temperature||Adding more fuel to the smoker to adjust the temperature.|
|155 degrees Fahrenheit||Evaporative Cooling||Wait it out; Wrap with aluminum foil or butcher paper.|
|170 degrees Fahrenheit||Evaporative Cooling||Use the Texas Crutch|
|175 degrees Fahrenheit||High Smoking Temperature (usually 300F or higher); Second stall due to spritzing or basting the brisket with liquid.||Turn down the temperature back to 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit.|
|180 degrees Fahrenheit||Second Stall||Wrapping the brisket in foil and cooking in the oven at 300 degrees F.|
|190 degrees Fahrenheit||Low-Quality Brisket||Test if the brisket is ready to be taken out of the smoker and then allow it to rest.|
Brisket Stall At 125 Degrees Fahrenheit
When you cook at a lower temperature, there is a high chance that the brisket stall will happen much earlier than the anticipated 150-degree F stall.
This is the likely cause if the stall happens at 125 degrees Fahrenheit. All you have to do is turn up the temperature of your smoker about 25 to 50 degrees F higher.
So if you were cooking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit, you could raise the temperature to 270 degrees Fahrenheit.
After raising the temperature, the brisket’s internal temperature should rise in about an hour. If this does not happen, you can wrap the brisket in two layers of aluminum foil.
Place the brisket in an oven, turn the temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and let the brisket cook until it rises.
Brisket Stall At 140 Degrees Fahrenheit
If the brisket hits the stall just before 150 degrees F, it is most likely that you are also cooking at a lower temperature.
Consider doing the solution above, but if you are cooking at a higher temperature, check your meat probe.
Adjust and calibrate your meat probe to ensure it gives you the right reading. Once the meat probe is calibrated, test the internal temperature again.
If it still reads the same temperature at 140 degrees F after an hour, try placing the probe in another area as you might have hit an air pocket in the meat.
Note: Reposition the meat probe only once during cooking as too many holes can let the moisture escape from the meat.
Brisket Stall At 145 Degrees Fahrenheit
If the brisket stall happens at 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it is most likely that you are smoking the brisket at a lower temperature.
Add some fuel to the smoker and let it heat up, but ensure you do not go too hot. 275 degrees Fahrenheit is hot enough for the brisket to smoke properly.
Brisket Stall At 155 Degrees Fahrenheit
This is one of the most common temperatures where the brisket stall happens. The stall can last for hours, so it is best to start smoking the brisket earlier than planned.
At 155 degrees Fahrenheit, the evaporative cooling occurs so you either let the brisket cook more or wrap it in foil or butcher paper to speed up the process.
Brisket Stall At 170 Degrees Fahrenheit
Brisket stall at 170 degrees Fahrenheit is also common so there is nothing much to worry about when the brisket stall happens at this point.
The most common solution when the brisket stall happens at this temperature is to apply the Texas Crutch, which we will look at later.
It is where you will wrap the brisket with aluminum foil to prevent the moisture from evaporating and keep the environment hot enough for the brisket to continue cooking.
Brisket Stall At 175 Degrees Fahrenheit
The brisket stall happens at 175 degrees Fahrenheit, most commonly because the smoker’s high temperature.
If the smoker’s temperature is at 300 degrees Fahrenheit or more, you will need to turn it down as it can burn your brisket instead of just smoking it.
Adjust the temperature and turn it down to 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Wait it out, and the brisket should start heating up once again.
Brisket Stall At 180 Degrees Fahrenheit
It is not uncommon if this is the second stall during your smoking process. A stall at 180 degrees Fahrenheit can be easily solved as well.
The best way to do it is to place it in the oven just like we did with the stall at 125F. Within an hour and a half, the brisket should reach the desired internal temperature.
Brisket Stall At 190 Degrees Fahrenheit
A brisket stall that happens right before taking out of the smoker is a downer. If this happens, you can do several tests to see if the brisket is ready to be taken out of the smoker.
The reason for this could be because of the quality of the brisket you bought so make sure to always buy the best brisket on the market.
Allow the brisket to rest once it is ready and the internal temperature should continue to rise after it is out of the smoker.
How Long Does Stall Last On A Brisket?
Brisket stall can last between 2 to 6 hours. That is why it is advisable to start the smoking process ahead of time to ensure it cooks earlier than expected.
6 hours is a long wait so making sure that you have prepared everything you need the day before is a good practice.
You will be lucky if the internal temperature rises again after 2 hours but it is best to expect a stall of 4 to 6 hours so you get to prepare for the long stall.
Usually, at the 4th hour, the brisket’s internal temperature will begin to rise again. That is why there are solutions that you can do when the brisket stalls.
What To Do When My Brisket Stalls?
Not all of us have the luxury to wait for another 6 hours for the brisket’s internal temperature to get unstuck. So there are solutions that you can do when your brisket stalls.
1. Wait It Out
If you are not in a hurry, it is best to just wait out the brisket stall by making sure that the temperature is consistent with only about 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit fluctuations.
Sometimes leaving the brisket on the stall will help make better results.
2. Hot And Fast
Increasing the temperature of the smoker can also help in escaping the stall. Raising the temperature of your smoker to 300 degrees Fahrenheit should raise the internal temperature.
3. Cut The Brisket
You can separate the flat and point. Separating the two sections of brisket can help cook it faster and create better burnt ends on the point.
4. Increase Humidity
When there is a high moisture content in the smoker, it will lessen the evaporation. Since evaporative cooling is the main culprit behind the stall, high humidity can help.
Place a pan with water beside the brisket while smoking it to create a humid environment for the smoker.
5. Wrap The Brisket
Once the brisket hits the stall, wrap it to ensure the evaporation stops and the brisket’s internal temperature rises.
Should I Wrap Brisket At The Stall?
There are a lot of benefits when you wrap your brisket at the stall. It can help keep it moist, you will have a tender brisket, and you can control the bark of the brisket.
You can wrap it with aluminum foil, butcher paper, or other alternatives. Here are some of your options:
1. The Texas Crutch (Aluminum Foil)
The Texas Crutch is where you wrap the brisket in aluminum foil. That way, the moisture from the brisket will not evaporate and cool it down.
It traps the moisture inside and condenses it instead of it evaporating. Evaporative cooling will not happen, so the stall rarely happens when you do the Texas Crutch.
The only downside here is that you will not be able to have a crispy bark on the brisket.
2. Use Butcher Paper
If you want a solution to the stall while keeping the bark of the brisket, you can use butcher paper. Unlike aluminum foil, butcher paper has ways for moisture to escape.
This procedure does not stop the stall, but it will happen for a much shorter time. The bark will develop beautifully though it might not be as crispy as when it is not wrapped.
3. The Sous-vide Method
Although changing the cooking method might not be the most pleasant thing, the sous-vide method can help you with the brisket stall.
It is where you pack the brisket in a vacuum using a bag, preventing evaporation and cooking the brisket in its own juices.
You will have better temperature control as well.
What If I Do Not Wrap The Brisket?
You can increase the smoker’s temperature and avoid wrapping the brisket. This can beat the stall but you have to be careful not to burn the brisket or dry it out.
This will develop a better crust or bark with that crunch that we all love. It is not the best solution but it can help with long hours of smoking.
Then again, patience is a huge part of low and slow cooking method so as a reminder, make sure to start the smoking process ahead of time.
This is to ensure that you have enough time allotted for the stall and the solution you choose, whether to wrap it with aluminum foil, butcher paper, or other options.
Starting early with the smoking process will give you leeway for the stall, so even if you wait it out, you will still be on time for your delicious brisket meal!
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