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Brisket Temp stall at 190: Why does it occur?

Temperature stalls are almost unavoidable when smoking big cuts of meat like brisket. However, most people are unaware of the dreaded second stall…

If your brisket stalls twice, don’t worry; you probably didn’t do anything wrong. Brisket and pork shoulder have been known to stall at 190 degrees(F), which is especially aggravating when they are so close to being finished!

190 degrees(F) is a pivotal temperature for brisket. This is the point at which the remainder of its excess juices are rendered out, resulting in a second phase of evaporative cooling.

However, your brisket may undergo this second round of stalling at 190 for a multitude of reasons, including insufficient heat, weather conditions, and smoking brisket with too much fat.

This article discusses all of the various reasons your brisket may stall at 190, and what you can do to help it.

Why Does Brisket Stall?

The idea of smoking brisket is to fully breakdown all of its magnificent fatty fibers and connective tissues. However, when they begin to render, a surplus of excess juices rise to the brisket’s surface.

These juices begin to cool and evaporate when they ascend to the surface. The rising temperature of the meat is stopped by these cooling juices.

This is referred to as “evaporative cooling.” The ambient heat of the smoker simply cannot keep up with the rate at which the evaporative cooling chills the meat.

Only once all of the excess liquids have evaporated will the brisket continue to rise in temperature. Unfortunately, this can take anywhere from 3 to 8 hours!

This happens most often when the brisket is between 150 and 170 degrees(F), but it has been known to happen at temperatures as low as 125 degrees(F).

Why Does Brisket Stall At 190?

Not Enough Heat

Long or secondary stalls can occur if your smoke heat is not adjusted high enough or does not maintain consistent temperatures.

The ideal temperature for smoking brisket is between 225 and 250 degrees(F). Brisket will smoke at a rate of 1½ to 2 hours per pound of meat at these temps.

Some individuals prefer to smoke their brisket around 200 degrees(F), but this can cause secondary stalling. It will not be able to combat the effects of evaporative cooling if there is insufficient heat.

Smoking “Untrimmed” Brisket

Untrimmed brisket has its entire fat cap intact and having too much fat on a brisket may cause extra stalling. The more fat on a brisket, the more superfluous liquids will pool when rendered to the meat’s surface.

This may not only result in a more severe stall, but it also raises the likelihood of multiple stalls throughout the smoke.

Over Basting

It’s common practice to baste or spritz a brisket as it smokes. It helps you to spice the meat while also keeping it moist.

However, excessive basting can add too much moisture inside the smoker, resulting in unexpected stalling.

This is especially true if you do not wrap your brisket. Extra basting will be required to keep it hydrated. However, too much can induce evaporative cooling, which can cause your brisket to come to a halt right at the end.

Can Brisket Be Pulled At 190?

When smoking brisket, strive for a heat of 200 to 205 degrees(F). All of its tissues should have been properly broken down and emulsified into the meat at these temperatures.

It’s the perfect range for tender and supple pulled pork.

However, due to a phenomenon known as “carry-over cooking,” pulling at 190 can be extremely advantageous.

Carry-over cooking occurs when thick slabs of meat continue to rise in temperature after being removed from the smoker or grill. Similar to how eggs continue to cook in a pan after being removed from heat.

Heat is trapped in the densest regions of the brisket, which continue to travel towards the centre after being pulled. This can sometimes increase the internal temperature by up to 10 degrees(F).

As a result, a brisket pulled at the optimal temperature (203 degrees(F)) can occasionally overcook while resting.

How To Help a Brisket Stalled At 190

If it hasn’t already been wrapped, the best course of action is to do so now.

Wrapping your brisket with butcher paper or foil reduces airflow around the meat, keeping the juices warmed and reducing the effects of evaporative cooling.

This is a pretty standard technique known as the “Texas Crutch,” and it’s been helping smokers coast through stalls for decades.

Keep in mind: Many beginners believe that increasing the smoke heat will help them get through a stall faster. While this is true, it raises the likelihood of overcooking or smoking the brisket.

This might be especially jarring when you’re so close to the end!  Unfortunately, sometimes the best solution is to simply wait it out. The meat will ultimately break free and continue to cook.

Final Thoughts

The prospect of a second stall so close to the finish line can be discouraging. But don’t worry! This is something that even the pros cope with, and fortunately, they have shared their knowledge with the rest of the smoking community to assist.

Remember: 

  • A second stall can be caused by a variety of factors, such as insufficient heat, too much fat, or too much moisture inside the smoker.
  • Wrapping your brisket minimizes the likelihood of it stalling at 190.
  • Avoid raising the temperature of your smoker, since this increases the risk of overcooking and drying out the brisket.