It might take a long time to completely smoke an excellent brisket, sometimes up to 12 hours!
So, you can imagine how frustrating it was to check on the meat after around 6 hours and discover that the temperature is actually falling!
Don’t be frightened!
You haven’t done anything wrong (most likely).
In reality, this is a very normal occurrence when smoking heavy meats like brisket or pork shoulder.
Many things can contribute to a brisket’s temperature dropping, including cold weather, too much fat on the brisket, and, most infamously, the stall.
However, this can sometimes be due to human mistake, such as not using enough heat or over-basting the brisket.
Fortunately, this situation is common enough that smokers have invented a variety of strategies to help you get through a temperature dip while smoking brisket.
The following content discusses various strategies for dealing with this problem, why it occurs, and how to help prevent it.
Why Is My Brisket’s temperature Falling?
You’ve almost certainly heard this term thrown about, whether you’re new to smoking or a seasoned professional.
The stall can occur with any thick piece of meat with a higher fat content that is cooked at “low and slow” temperatures.
This is almost always the culprit when you find your brisket temperature is falling.
Brisket’s fatty and connective fibers break down and redistribute themselves into the meat as it smokes, resulting in that flavorful, “melt in your mouth” brisket you know and love.
However, as these tissues breakdown, the excess liquids rise to the top and evaporate, causing the meat to cool at the same rate or even faster than the smoker can cook it.
This process is called “evaporative cooling”, and unfortunately, it’s completely normal.
The stall usually occurs between 150- and 170-degrees Fahrenheit and can last many hours, depending on the cut of meat.
Only when all of the additional liquids have evaporated will the meat continue to cook and rise in temperature.
This tactic is referred to as “The Texas Crutch.”
When a brisket is wrapped, the airflow around it is limited, keeping the brisket and its juices warm.
This can significantly reduce the effects of evaporative cooling
(Some smokers will turn up the heat from the start, which can occasionally help them avoid the stall entirely. However, this is not suggested because additional heat might compromise the quality and texture of the brisket.)
Too Much Basting
Remember that the more moisture there is in your brisket, the longer it will take to cook.
These principles also apply to basting and spritzing!
You’ve probably heard the term “mopping” the brisket.
While the brisket is smoking, you can use a brush to add thin layers of sauce (marinades) on the outside.
Similarly, some smokers “spritz” the brisket with acidic liquids like apple cider vinegar, orange juice, or sometimes even beer (one for the brisket, one for the cook!).
However, if you over baste/spritz the brisket, it can push it to a halt and even momentarily decrease its temperature.
Have you checked the weather forecast before throwing the big cookout?
The temperature within the smoker is affected by cold weather.
If it’s a cold day, increase the ambient smoke temperature; otherwise, the smoker may not generate enough heat to drive it through the stall.
(Oppositely, if it’s a hot day, the smoker may overheat and perhaps overcook the meat.)
Furthermore, windy situations can be problematic, especially for smokers with poor ventilation.
Heat and smoke can be redirected away from the meat by the wind.
Position your smoker so that the wind blows into the vents in the direction of its natural airflow.
Rain can also create difficulties.
When moisture accumulates on the outside of the smoker, it evaporates, naturally lowering the smoker’s temperature (much like a stall with a brisket).
If it starts to rain while the brisket is smoking, increase the heat to compensate for the moisture build-up.
Inaccurate Meat Thermometer
You’d be surprised at how many smoking mishaps occur solely due to poor equipment.
Because smoking is a cooking method focused on temperature rather than time, make sure your meat probe is accurate.
Probes collect grease, char, and other muck from the cooking meat, so it’s critical to clean them before each smoke.
A contaminated thermometer can provide incorrect readings.
Can Brisket Be Pulled at 160 Degrees(F)?
Technically, pork can be ingested safely once it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees (F).
However, the ideal internal temperature for brisket is between 195 and 205 degrees (F).
So, pulling a brisket at 160 degrees(F) is perfectly fine, but it won’t produce the same results.
Briskets require time to redistribute their rendered juices.
If it’s pulled at 160(F), it won’t have a melty texture and will be much more difficult to shred.
In most circumstances, a temperature drop is not entirely your fault.
It’s a normal component of the process that requires patience and practice to master.
However, there are also cases where user error is to blame, such as not using enough heat or basting the brisket too much.
If this happens to you again, remember that you have plenty of tools at your disposal to get through it and serve a fantastic brisket.