Temperature stalls are almost unavoidable when smoking a large piece of meat with a high number of fatty tissues.
They are caused by excess juice rendering and rising and can last for several hours. It’s a cumbersome process to go through.
But sometimes, brisket may avoid any kind of stalling, and for a variety of reasons, including insufficient marbling on the meat, utilizing too much smoke heat, whether or not it has been wrapped, and even the weather conditions outside the smoker.
Fortunately, the pros have been through it all and are willing to share their knowledge with other smokers in the community.
The Science of Stalling
As the brisket smokes, the fatty tissues begin to break down and emulsify into the meat, imparting a delicious texture and delightfully rich flavors.
When the brisket begins breaking down, the excess fluids begin to sweat and rise to the top. These juices cool and evaporate from the surface of the meat, causing the temperature to level out.
Because the heat from the smoker cannot keep up with the rate at which these liquids cool the meat, temperature balances out and briefly stalls. This is known as “evaporative cooling.”
In extreme cases, it can even cause the temperature to temporarily fall.
This can take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours! It will, however, not persist forever.
Once all of the sweated juices have evaporated, the meat will continue to cook and rise in temperature.
Is Stalling Normal?
Stalls are common, especially for brisket. In fact, a wide variety of tactics and techniques have been created particularly to counteract them.
There is a higher-than-average chance of a temperature plateau. Even the cooking time is specified in some recipes.
There is no “set” period, however, when it comes to smoking foods. The temperature controls everything. The rate of cooking will vary across the various brisket slices.
When Does Stalling Typically Occur?
At temperatures between 150 and 175 degrees(F), brisket frequently stalls. But they can happen both before and after that range.
When meat will stall depends on a number of variables. Sometimes stalling can happene at temperatures as low as 125 degrees(F).
Does Brisket Ever Avoid Stalling?
Although its unusual, brisket has been known to go around a temperature stall.
Low-fat brisket or brisket that has had its fat portion “over trimmed” could not have enough rendered drippings to stall.
Another issue is that the smoke’s ambient temperature is too high. Temperatures for smoking brisket should range between 225 and 250 degrees(F). Depending on whether it’s wrapped, a 10-pound brisket can smoke in the stall for up to 20 hours at this temperature.
Additionally, if you are using too much heat, it can substantially speed up the smoking process and push straight though any stalling.
At 300 degrees(F), the same 10-pound brisket will only take 5 to 6 hours to fully cook.
Do Wrapped Briskets Avoid Stalling?
Brisket is frequently wrapped to avoid stalls, or at least mitigate how intense its effects are.
The airflow around the meat is greatly decreased when it is wrapped, preventing the rising juices from chilling and evaporating. In some cases, depending on when you wrap, you might be able to completely avoid the stall.
As previously stated, the stall often happens between 150 and 175 degrees(f). The brisket should be wrapped when it reaches, or starts to approach, one 150 degrees.
What Can Cause Brisket to Not Stall?
Warmer Weather (Summertime Smoking)
Your smoker will get warmer as the temperature rises, which might make your brisket cook more quickly.
The environment outside the smoker has an impact on the ambient smoke heat within. You will need to turn up the heat if it is cooler to make up for the loss.
The converse is true when the temperature rises. You will need to adjust and reduce the temperature inside the smoker more as the outside temperature rises.
Not Enough Fatty/connective Tissues
Brisket takes so long to smoke because the fatty tissues in the meat are broken down and emulsified. This fat rendering and pooling is also responsible for driving the brisket to stall through evaporative cooling.
As a result, if a brisket has had too much of its fat puck removed, it may cook significantly faster than prior briskets you’ve smoked, and either skip the stall entirely, or lessen its effects.
As easy as it may appear to avoid a temperature stall, it usually indicates that something is awry. Either your smoke temperature is too high, or there isn’t enough fat on the brisket.
Both are troublesome. Too much heat can dry out and overcook your brisket, while not enough fat will damage its luscious textures and rich flavors.
In either case, both are trivial errors that are simple to remedy.