Why Won’t My Pork Shoulder Reach the Right Temp?
Pork Shoulder Often “Stalls” When Smoking
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The “stall” occurs when the meat literally “stalls” at a specific temperature. The temperature will refuse to rise, often known as the “plateau zone,” which can be quite distressing because it can last for hours.
Don’t be alarmed if this happens; it’s a typical and likely occurrence when smoking pork butt, pork shoulder, or any large piece of meat at low temps for extended periods of time. Fortunately, this is not an uncommon event.
As a result, the experts have devised methods and techniques to combat the dreaded “stall” when it occurs, which we’ll talk about later.
What Causes the Stall?
The stall is caused by a process known as “evaporative cooling.” It occurs when the meat begins to “sweat” out its moisture while cooking, causing it to cool. Only once the meat has sweated out all of its moisture will its internal temperature rise again.
What Temperature Does The “Stall” Occur?
The internal temperature of the pork shoulder will progressively climb at the start of the smoking process. When the internal temperature starts to creep up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll want to start paying more attention.
The “plateau zone” refers to internal temperatures ranging from 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is the temperature range at which the pork shoulder will most likely stop raising its internal temperature, which is why this stage is known as the “stall.”
During the stall, the interior temperature will either rise in painfully slow increments or stay completely steady, which can last as long as 6 hours.
The ideal internal temperature for smoked pork shoulder is between 195 and 205 degrees (F), so waiting 6 extra hours may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re entertaining guests.
But don’t be intimidated! This is a natural step in the process. But we do have a few tricks up our sleeves that will help you get through the stall.
How to Get Through the Stall Faster
First and foremost, do not overheat your meat. Many beginners assume that when they reach the stall, they must crank up the heat to get it going. Never do that unless you want to spoil your chosen cut. Keep in mind that the stall is natural, and the pork shoulder will eventually cook.
That being said, there are a few tactics you can still do to help you cook it faster.
Don’t Baste the Pork Shoulder
When grilling a variety of meats, basting with a brush (or a “barbecue mop”) is a standard technique. They keep the meat moist while adding an abundance of taste. However, because the basting brushes are kept at cooler temperatures than the inside of the smoker, this can extend the cooking time.
Always Use a Meat Thermometer
Although this may seem obvious, you’d be shocked how many individuals overlook to utilise a reliable meat thermometer. If you frequently barbecue and smoke, you should invest in a high-quality thermometer. Navigating the stall will be extremely tough if you can’t keep up with correct temperature readings.
Ditch the Water Pan
Water pans are frequently used with smoking to keep meats moist. The water gradually evaporates, providing a humid environment within the smoker. This aids in the retention of moisture in the pork shoulder when smoked for extended periods of time.
The issue is that the stall will continue until most of the moisture in the meat has evaporated, therefore a water pan within the smoker will naturally lengthen the time of the stall.
Keep in mind that this is not advised. Smoking is a lengthy process that necessitates perseverance. If you don’t use a water pan (or skip the basting), you run the risk of drying out your pork shoulder.
Raising the Initial Cooking Temperature
This is another technique that we do not advocate, however it will speed up the cooking time of your pork shoulder.
We’re not talking about turning up the heat after you’ve struck the stall, but about initiating the smoking process at a greater temperature from the start. Depending on the size of the cut, you should set your smoker to 180 to 225 degrees (F). However, if you set the smoker at 300 degrees (F) right from the start, you will significantly reduce stall time, if it occurs at all.
Using a Pellet Smoker
Pellet smokers operate in a different way than traditional smokers. They use an internal fan to mimic the operation of a convection oven. Because the heat is distributed more evenly, evaporation happens faster, reducing the stall time significantly.
When to Pull the Pork Shoulder Off the Smoker
When the temperature of the pork shoulder reaches 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s ready to be removed from the smoker!
There are several variables at play, such as smoker consistency and cut size, but the entire process can take anywhere from 12 to 20 hours!
Why Do We Wrap the Pork Shoulder?
When your pork shoulder reaches an internal temperature of 150-170 degrees (F), it’s time to wrap.
The wrap traps the steam that is released by the moisture in the pork shoulder. This helps prevent the meat from cooling and lingering in the stall. It will also help the pork in retaining all of its wonderful juices and rendered fat, rather than allowing them to drip off into the coals. This tactic is also known as “the Texas Crutch”.
Tin Foil or Butcher Paper
Tin foil is the traditional go-to. It is considerably easier to seal and creates a more insulative wrap. When compared to paper, it will not only provide you with a speedier cooking time, but also a more juicer and moister product. The sole drawback is that tin foil causes the pork to lose some of its exterior char, or “bark.”
Butcher paper, on the other hand, is noted for producing a brilliant bark on the outside. However, it is slower than tin foil and because it is more difficult to seal, it does not retain as much of the juice and rendered fats from the pork.
Smoking, at the end of the day, requires time and patience. Sometimes, in order to attain a perfect result, you must wait, which is unfortunately the case with delicious smoked meats. So, if you’re having a stall, don’t freak out. It happens to everyone, and it will ultimately achieve the ideal internal temperature!
This article was written by Robert McCall, the founder of bbqdropout.com. Robert also owns and operates the BBQ dropout YouTube channel where he demonstrates his first-hand experience cooking all kinds of meats and strives to provide helpful, authoritative content for people looking how to barbecue.
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