“The Brisket Stall” is a term commonly used in the world of barbecuing, specifically when smoking brisket. It refers to a phenomenon that occurs during the cooking process where the internal temperature of the brisket plateaus or stops increasing for an extended period of time.
While this can be frustrating for pitmasters aiming for a timely cook, there are ways to mitigate and avoid the Brisket Stall altogether.
The Science Behind: What is The Brisket Stall
The Brisket Stall is primarily caused by evaporative cooling, a process where moisture evaporates from the surface of the meat, causing a cooling effect. Just like our bodies emit sweat to keep us cook, well the same can be said about briskets.
As the surface temperature drops, it counteracts the heat supplied by the smoker, leading to a plateau in the internal temperature of the brisket.
This phenomenon typically occurs when the brisket reaches an internal temperature of around 150°F to 160°F (65°C to 71°C). During this stage, the connective tissues and collagen in the meat begin to break down, resulting in the conversion of collagen to gelatin.
Is hard to tell if the brisket has “stalled” by just looking at it. This is why is so important to use a good meat thermometer that can monitor the entire cooking process. I have smoked hundreds of briskets and nothing helps more than using a good thermometer.
Strategies to Avoid The Brisket Stall
While the Brisket Stall is a natural occurrence, there are techniques that can help you navigate through this plateau and maintain a steady cooking progress:
1. Wrapping in Foil, Butcher Paper, or Towels:
Wrapping the brisket in foil, butcher paper, or even towels during the stall can help retain moisture and increase the temperature inside the wrapping. This technique, commonly known as the Texas Crutch, can accelerate the cooking process and minimize the stall duration.
2. Increase Heat or Adjust Cooking Method:
If you encounter a hard stall, consider increasing the heat in your smoker, adjusting the cooking method, or transferring the brisket to a hotter environment. This can help break through the stall and resume the temperature rise.
When smoking small briskets, the stall can be handled by simply increasing the heat but when smoking large briskets, wrapping is absolutely necessary to avoid drying the meat.
3. Patience is Key:
The Brisket Stall requires patience. It is crucial not to rush the process or try to force the temperature increase by adjusting the cooking time excessively. Allow the stall to occur naturally and persevere through it. Rest assured that the cooking process will eventually resume, and the brisket will reach its desired internal temperature.
4. Spritzing or Mopping the Brisket:
During the stall, you can spritz or mop the brisket with a flavorful liquid, such as apple cider vinegar or a mixture of fruit juices and spices. Spritzing helps to moisten the surface of the meat, which can reduce evaporative cooling and potentially shorten the stall duration.
5. Consider the “Hot and Fast” Method:
Alternatively, you can choose to cook your brisket using the “hot and fast” method, which involves cooking the brisket at higher temperatures than traditional low and slow smoking. This method can help minimize the duration of the stall, but it requires careful monitoring to prevent overcooking.
I don’t recommend cooking briskets hot and fast since likely the brisket will be tough and not as desirable as a slowly smoked brisket.
6. Resting and Finishing the Brisket:
Once the brisket has overcome the stall and reached its desired internal temperature (usually around 200°F to 205°F or 93°C to 96°C), it is essential to rest the meat before slicing.
Resting allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier and more tender brisket. Wrap the brisket in foil or butcher paper and let it rest for at least an hour before slicing and serving.
Understanding the Brisket Stall and knowing how to navigate through it is a valuable skill for any pitmaster or barbecue enthusiast. By employing techniques such as wrapping, adjusting heat, and practicing patience, you can reduce the duration of the stall and achieve a perfectly cooked brisket with tender, flavorful meat.
Experiment with different methods and find the approach that works best for you. Happy smoking!