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Everything You Need To Know About The Brisket Stall

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Mastering the Brisket Stall: Insights from a Central Texan

Growing up in Central Texas, I’ve been surrounded by the rich aroma of smoked brisket for as long as I can remember. Brisket isn’t just a dish here; it’s a legacy.

As someone who has smoked countless briskets, I can tell you there’s one challenge every pit master will encounter: the brisket stall. Let’s delve into this unique phenomenon and how to navigate it.

A watercolor painting of a Texan cowboy riding a horse in the desert, capturing the spirit of the Wild West.

Understanding the Brisket Stall

During the smoking process, there comes a point when the brisket’s internal temperature lingers between 150°F and 170°F for an extended period. 

It might even seem to plateau, showing no signs of rising. Fear not! This is the infamous brisket stall. While it may test your patience, it’s a natural part of the smoking process.

Why Does the Stall Happen?

An illustration of a pitmaster checking a brisket on a smoker, with a caption bubble mentioning the brisket stall.

This stall is primarily due to moisture on the brisket’s surface evaporating, cooling the meat, much like how sweating cools our skin. The brisket won’t rise in temperature until most of this moisture has evaporated.

Overcoming the Stall

  1. Wrap it Up: To combat the stall, many pit masters wrap their brisket in butcher paper or foil. This technique, often called the “Texas Crutch”, helps trap moisture and speeds up the cooking process. But, be aware, wrapping in foil might soften your brisket’s bark.
  2. Turn Up the Heat: Another approach is to increase the smoker’s ambient temperature. By doing so, you’re forcing the brisket through the stall. However, this method requires a watchful eye to ensure the meat doesn’t overcook.
  3. Patience: Of course, you can also do nothing and let the brisket ride out the stall. This will take longer but is often rewarded with a deliciously tender result.

The Double Stall

Yes, there’s more than one potential stall. The first, as mentioned, happens between 150°F to 170°F. As you power through this, approaching 190°F, you might encounter a second stall.

An illustration of a brisket on a grill with two thermometers, accompanied by a caption about the double stall.

Again, don’t panic. This is another moisture-related plateau. After a while, the temperature will shoot up towards the 200°F mark, signaling your brisket is almost ready.

Addressing Common Questions

  • How Long Does the Stall Last?: Typically, the first stall can range from 30 minutes to several hours. The second stall, if it occurs, is generally shorter.
  • Should I Wrap My Brisket During the Stall?: Wrapping can expedite the cooking process, but it might affect your bark. Depending on your preference for bark, you can choose to wrap before or after the first stall.
  • When Does the Stall End?: Typically, the stall breaks around 170°F. However, each brisket is unique, and other factors like humidity can play a role.

Final Thoughts from a Central Texan

Embrace the stall. It’s a rite of passage for every pit master. Being raised amongst the BBQ pits of Central Texas, I’ve learned that good brisket, like all good things in life, requires patience. 

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Whether you choose to wrap, increase the heat, or let it ride, the key is to enjoy the process. After all, the journey is as rewarding as the juicy, smoky brisket at the end. Happy smoking!