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A temperature stall, also known as a plateau, is a common occurrence when smoking thick and fatty portions of meat such as brisket or pork shoulder. So, if your brisket has fully smoked while blissfully avoiding a stall, you may be a bit puzzled.
The truth is that the duration and intensity of brisket stalls can vary greatly between briskets. While some may stall for ten hours, others may just stall for two, or none at all!
Stalls are determined by a variety of factors, including fat percentage, moisture in the smoker, whether the brisket is wrapped, and the ambient smoke heat.
This article goes over all of the possible reasons your brisket might have skipped the stall.
Are Temperature Stalls Normal?
Stalls are prevalent, particularly for brisket. In fact, many strategies and methods have been developed specifically to combat them.
A temperature plateau is more likely to occur than not. Some recipes even include cooking time for them.
However, when it comes to smoking meats, there is no such thing as a “fixed” time. Everything is determined by the temperature. Different brisket cuts will cook at different rates.
What Causes a Stall?
Brisket’s fatty tissues begin to break down and emulsify into the meat as it smokes, giving a luscious texture and beautifully rich flavors.
Excess juices begin sweating and rising to the surface of the brisket as they break down. These juices cool and evaporate off the surface of the meat, forcing the temp to plateau.
The heat from the smoker cannot keep up with the rate at which these liquids cool the meat, causing temperature to balance out and temporarily stall. This is referred to as “evaporative cooling.”
This can take anywhere between 2 and 8 hours! However, it will not last forever.
The beef will continue to cook and raise in temperature once all of the sweated juices have evaporated.
When Should a Stall Occur?
Brisket often stalls at temperatures ranging from 150 to 175 degrees(F). They can, however, occur both before and after that range.
Many factors influence when meat will stall. Although it is uncommon, some stalls have occurred at temperatures as low as 125 degrees(F).
A “second stall” has been observed at 190 degrees(F), when the meat is sweating out the last of its residual juices.
Does Brisket Ever Skip the Stall?
Brisket has been known to circumvent a temp stall, but it is unlikely.
Brisket with a low-fat ratio or that has had its fat puck “over trimmed” may not have enough rendered drippings to stall.
Another possibility is that the ambient smoke heat is too high. Brisket smoking temperatures should be between 225 and 250 degrees(F). With the stall, a 10-pound brisket can take around 10 hours to smoke at this temperature, depending on if it’s wrapped.
However, increasing the heat causes evaporation to occur at a quicker rate, ploughing through a stall, or even avoiding one altogether.
Does Wrapping Brisket Avoid Temp Stalls?
Without a doubt! Wrapping brisket is usually used to avoid stalls.
Wrapping the meat significantly reduces the airflow around it, preventing the rising juices from cooling and evaporating. In other circumstances, depending on when you wrap, you may be able to avoid the stall entirely.
This is known as the “Texas Crutch,” and it is used to keep the internal temperature increasing through the smoke.
As mentioned before, the stall normally occurs between 150 and 175 degrees(f). So, when the brisket reaches, or begins to reach, one 150, it’s time to wrap it.
Is Foil or Butcher Paper Better for Wrapping?
Not only will foil produce a tighter seal, but it will also make wrapping the brisket easier for beginners. The foil will keep the brisket snug and locked in with all of its rendered juices.
The disadvantage is that because the foil securely seals in the brisket’s juices, the bark or any crackling skin may lose quality. It may turn a bit mushy as a result.
Butcher paper is for you if you want crispy skin and a healthy bark.
It takes a little more practice to get the wrapping down, but the meat isn’t as tightly clenched. It allows for far greater ventilation than foil.
While paper increases the likelihood stalling, because it is not wrapped as tightly, it produces a far higher quality bark for the meat.
Brisket will almost always experience a temperature stall and is unlikely to skip one all on its own without the use of specific techniques or strategies.
If it does, it usually signifies one of two things:
- There was insufficient fat on the brisket to render and sweat out, resulting in no evaporative cooling effects.
- There was insufficient moisture inside the smoker.