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Can’t get brisket to 190? (Here’s Why)

Brisket smoking may be a time-consuming and patience-testing activity, but the final product is well worth the effort!

Certain aspects of smoking, however, might truly test one’s patience, such as a brisket that stalls and refuses to rise in internal temperature.

A brisket that stalls at 190°F is extremely aggravating because you are so close to the finish line!

Unfortunately, a range of influences might contribute to a brisket struggling to reach and surpass 190 degrees(F), including insufficient smoke heat, poor weather conditions, malfunctioning equipment, or the dreaded second stall.

Fortunately, professionals have devised a number of strategies and techniques to help alleviate this problem. Here’s everything you need to know to help your brisket if it’s stuck at 190.

Why Is My Brisket Not Getting Up to Temperature?

The Stall

The most common causes of a brisket that won’t rise in temperature is the “stall” or temperature plateau.

Typically, the stall happens between 150 and 170 degrees(F). However, a “second stall” has been noted at 190 degrees(F).

A stall occurs when large pieces of meat with a high fat content are cooked at low temperatures for extended periods of time.

The main objective of smoking brisket is to totally break down all of those connective and fatty fibers, allowing them to dissolve into the meat and create a luscious and melty feel. It’s what gives pulled pork its delicious flavor and texture! 

Excess juices rise to the surface of the meat when these tissues begin to render, causing them to cool and evaporate. This is referred to as “evaporative cooling.”

Essentially, the rising liquids chill the meat at the same rate that the smoker cooks it, causing the internal temperature to temporarily “plateau.” The meat will continue to cook only until all of the extra fluids have evaporated.

This might last anywhere from 2 to 7 hours! But it will eventually be free of the stall’s hold.

Malfunctioning Meat Thermometer

There is no set time frame for smoking meats. It’s a temperature-driven process rather than a time-based one. Different types of meat will take longer to cook than others.

As a result, dependable meat thermometers (probes) are critical, particularly while navigating stalls. It’s critical to ensure that your thermometer is providing reliable readings.

Before putting meat in the smoker, double-check the thermometer.

Also, make certain that it is clean. Char and other gunk that gets stuck on the probe from prior smoking can cause it to read incorrectly.

The issue is that if your probe is unreliable, it may report that the temperature has halted when it actually hasn’t.

Too Much Marbling

If you smoke an untrimmed brisket with its entire fat cap intact, it may have a tougher time climbing to and above 190.

Remember that stalls are caused by surplus fluids from rendered fats rising to the top. As a result, the more fat there is, the stronger this effect will be.

A rule of thumb is the more moisture there is within the smoker when smoking brisket, the longer it will take to cook.

Because fat is significant on a brisket, a good workaround is to only trim half of the fat cap. This way, you receive the wonderful natural basting while reducing the evaporative cooling effects.

Weather

If you haven’t checked the weather forecast before this weekend’s big family BBQ, you should.

The ambient smoke heat inside the smoker is affected by cold weather. It can reduce the heat, increasing the likelihood of a stall at 190. To keep up with the cooler weather outside of the smoker, the temperature must be adjusted.

Windy conditions can also be problematic. High winds can cause a stall by redirecting heat away from the meat. Make sure your smoker is facing the wind in the direction of its natural airflow.

Does Brisket Have to Reach 200 Degrees(F)?

The optimal internal temperature for brisket is between 200 and 205 degrees(F). At this temperature, the brisket is ideal for shredding and making pulled pork.

The brisket will have a delicious and delicate suppleness with a “melt in your mouth” quality at these temperatures.

Although it is a matter of personal opinion, finishing a brisket below or above these temperatures’ risks toughened meat or less quality in texture.

Can You Pull Brisket At 195 Degrees(F)?

Absolutely! In fact, many smokers intentionally remove their brisket from the smoker when it is still 5 to 10 degrees below their target internal temperature.

This is due to a phenomenon known as “carry-over cooking.”

When brisket is pulled and rested, the heat held in the thickest regions of the meat persists and moves towards the centre, continuing to cook it even after removed from heat.

It’s comparable to how eggs continue to cook after they’ve been removed from the pan.

After being pulled from the smoker, the carry-over cooking effect can elevate the temperature by 5 to 10 degrees. So, if you want 205 for your brisket, pulling it at 195 will get you there as it rests.

Is 180 Degrees(F) Too Low for Brisket?

While roasts and other cuts can cook just good at 180, brisket (particularly brisket point) will not be of the highest quality until it reaches at least 195.

Even with carry-over cooking, 180 is regarded too low for a melty, shredable brisket.

Final Thoughts

There are numerous reasons why your brisket may not achieve or exceed 195 degrees(F). While this can be quite aggravating, there are several tactics that can be used to both ease and prevent this from occurring.

It’s all about “practice makes perfect.” So go out there and get smoking!