If you’ve ever cooked a brisket, then you know about the dreaded stall. It’s that point in time when your meat has
been cooking for hours and the temperature just stops increasing. In effect, your brisket stalls cooking. It’s a culinary plateauing of sorts.
About The Stall
“The Stall” is what we call it when the temperature of your brisket suddenly drops and your brisket stops cooking.
The reasons and the solutions to a brisket stall all vary depending on the temperature you were cooking at.
A brisket stall typically happens at around 150-170F. This is usually around the time people baste and check on their briskets which is what can cause the sudden temperature drop.
There are lots of myths about the stall and why it occurs. One such myth has to do with the collagen in the brisket.
Collagen breaks down at around 160 degrees, typically when the stall occurs. So people put two and two together and assumed the collagen breakdown was the reason why.
However, this is not the case, as there’s nowhere near enough collagen to cause a temperature drop in the brisket.
Another stall legend goes that the reason is the protein denaturing. Protein denaturing happens when cooking meat, and is when the molecules begin to break down.
This also occurs around the time of stall, at 160 degrees. But this has been disproven as well.
The real reason the stall occurs is actually because of evaporation. Specifically, evaporative cooling. Evaporative cooling also occurs when humans sweat.
It’s why you feel a lot cooler after your sweat evaporates. The principle is the same with the brisket.
Why Do Briskets Stall?
The brisket sweats out its moisture, then the moisture evaporates and cools the meat down as it does. This then causes a drop in the brisket temperature.
If the heat surrounding the brisket isn’t enough to fight off the cooling effects then the brisket will stall.
Another reason could be that there isn’t enough smoke being produced by the fire. If this is the case, you’ll need to adjust the number of wood chips used.
The last thing that can cause a stall is the size of the roast. A larger roast will take longer to cook than a smaller roast.
When cooking a large roast, it’s important to keep checking on it frequently so that you don’t overcook it. But by frequently checking on it, you can cause a stall due to the temperature drop.
To avoid a stall, make sure that you monitor the internal temperature of the brisket with an instant-read thermometer. Also, make sure that you have plenty of smoke going into the cooker.
Is It Possible For Brisket To Stall More Than Once?
Unfortunately, a brisket can stall multiple times. There are several factors that can contribute to this.
If the temperature of the smoker drops significantly while smoking a brisket, then the brisket may stall before reaching the target temp. This is especially true if the smoker is set up for indirect heat.
If the humidity level is high, then the brisket will absorb water from the air. This can cause the brisket to stall before reaching the target temperature.
If you’re basting the brisket, then you’re adding extra liquid to the surface area of the brisket. This can increase the rate at which the moisture in the brisket evaporates and cause evaporative cooling.
How Do I Handle A Brisket Stall?
The reason behind a brisket stall, and the way you can handle it, all depends on the temperature. In the section, we’ll go over what to do when your brisket stalls at specific temperatures.
Brisket Stall At 125
A brisket is most likely to stall when it hits the 150 to 170-degree scope. If your brisket is stalling at only 125 degrees then there’s a likelihood that your smoker temperature is way too low.
The average smoker is set to about 225 degrees when cooking a brisket. If this is the case and you’re stalling, then try increasing the smoker temp to 250 or 270 degrees.
If a brisket stalls for too long then it’s prone to bacteria and could cause food poisoning, so you need to get the temperature back up as quickly as possible.
When cooking a brisket, you should aim to maintain a steady temperature throughout the entire process. You want to ensure that your brisket cooks evenly.
If you notice that increasing the temperature of the cooker doesn’t help the brisket temp rise, and it’s still stalling, then you should wrap your brisket.
You can do this with foil, parchment paper, or even butcher paper. Then return the brisket to the cooker.
Brisket Stall At 140
As mentioned above, stalling below 150 degrees means your cooker isn’t hot enough. The best solution here would be to raise the temperature of the smoker.
However, if this is not an option, then you can use a different method to speed up the cooking time.
You can wrap your brisket tightly in aluminum foil. This will prevent any more evaporation of moisture and will also help retain some of the heat.
Surprisingly though, you might find that your brisket isn’t stalling at all. The problem could be your thermometer.
This is especially likely when your brisket is stalling at temperatures lower than 150 degrees. To re-calibrate your thermometer, you should follow these steps:
1) Remove the thermometer probe from the brisket.
2) Place the probe into a cup of boiling water.
3) Make sure the temperature reads 212F. If it doesn’t, you can manually set it to 212F (boiling point of water) using the nut on the rear of the thermometer.
4) Insert the probe into ice water now. It should read 32F, if not manually adjust it again.
Then you can place the thermometer in the brisket and get an accurate reading. This will not work for digital thermometers.
If your thermometer is working fine and you still get a temperature readout of 140F, and it doesn’t seem accurate, then the location of your probe might be the problem.
When checking the temperature of the brisket, it’s possible to accidentally push the probe into an air pocket. This can cause an inaccurate readout.
You should therefore re-insert the probe in a different area of the brisket and see if that changes the readout.
Brisket Stall At 145
Similar to a brisket stall at 140, the reason behind a stall at 145 could be because of an inaccurate thermometer. These are a lot more common than you would think.
Or it could be because of the probe placement as well. In any case, always check whether those two are the culprit before going into any brisket saving actions, as it could be unnecessary.
To fix this issue, just repeat the same procedure as described above.
If your thermometer still shows a temperature of 145F, and it’s definitely accurate, then we’d recommend wrapping your brisket in foil.
This will keep the meat moist and help retain some of the juices. The foil will also help keep the brisket warm and direct the current of heat more evenly.
Foil is a great conductor of heat which makes it excellent for combatting a stall.
You can also try adjusting your smoker. You can fiddle with the dampers to increase the airflow. You could even add more wood chips or pellets to fuel a hotter fire and increase the temperature.
In a smoker, there are two different parts. The dome and the grate. The grate is where the brisket is placed, and the dome surrounds it.
Because of the air currents in the smoker, there can be a difference of up to nearly 70 degrees in the temperature between the grate and the dome.
This can sometimes make it very tricky to gauge how long it will take for your brisket to cook. That’s why it’s recommended to use a pit probe for an accurate temperature readout,
instead of just relying on the readout on the smoker’s lid. This will also lead to better heat handling and make you less likely to stall.
Brisket Stall At 155
This is the most common temperature for your brisket to stall at. You should almost anticipate that your brisket will stall at this temperature and plan for a solution in advance.
A bad stall can delay cooking by up to nearly 6 hours, so you need to work fast to fix this.
The best solution for a stall is to wrap your brisket. And the best method for wrapping a brisket is called the Texas crutch. This is just when you wrap the brisket in foil, or butcher paper.
Butcher paper is the most popular material of choice for wrapping a brisket because it allows the moisture to leave the brisket while stopping the cooling effects of evaporation by keeping the brisket wrapped and warm.
Brisket Stall At 170
At 170 degrees, seasoned brisket chefs like to employ the Texas Crutch. This is because it’s the perfect
temperature to do so since your brisket has reached the necessary 165F to cook thoroughly. This is regardless of whether your brisket has stalled or not.
But it’s also a great solution for a stall at 170F. Wrap your brisket in either butcher paper or foil. The benefits of
using foil are that it will keep your brisket warm. Foil conducts heat around the meat and leads to a more even cook.
Moreover, where butcher paper allows moisture to escape, the foil doesn’t. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The foil keeps the liquid that can’t evaporate through its aluminum barrier.
It all collects inside the foil and gets reabsorbed by the brisket. The result is that you get a delicious, braised, juicy brisket.
Brisket Stall At 175
If you’re having trouble getting past a stall at 170F, you might want to consider wrapping your brisket in a thicker piece of foil. This will allow you to hold out until you reach the desired temperature.
Also, if you have a slow cooker, you may want to consider putting your brisket in the slow cooker before placing it into the smoker. This will give you time to adjust the temperature and smoke level.
Briskets stall at 175F after about 2 hours. So, you’ll probably need to wait another hour or so. At this temperature, if your brisket stalls, it’s likely because of basting the meat.
Especially if this isn’t the first stall. The extra liquid can cool the brisket and cause a stall.
You have two options. Either you can wrap the brisket or you can wait out the stall. If the stall is due to basting then we recommend waiting it out.
Brisket Stall At 180
Stalling at 180F can feel like falling over the second to last hurdle. Since you’re so close to finishing the brisket, the best way to overcome a stall like this is to wrap the brisket.
Then you can go one step further and hurry the cooking process along by finishing it in a 300-degree oven.
This should help the brisket overcome the stall. You should have a juicy brisket in as little as 90 minutes.
Brisket Stall At 190
If you thought stalling at 180 was bad, 190 is worse. Stalling at 190 is like reaching the end of the race only for some asshat to move the finishing line.
Typically, you should wait until your brisket reaches 195 before pulling it out of the smoker. However, you are able to take the brisket out at 190.
So if your brisket stalls at 190, it might not be the end of the world. You can just take it out, let it hold, and serve.
But if you’re just that little bit anal, and you want to get your brisket up to the recommended 195 before taking it off, you can always use the wrap method.
Though, by this point, your brisket should already have been wrapped. Ideally, wrap your brisket when it reaches the 160F mark.
You can also increase the temperature of the smoker. A much quicker method is to use a 300-degree oven.
Stalling a brisket isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s quite normal. It happens to everyone. Just make sure you know what causes it. And how to avoid it.
Hopefully, our guide to brisket stalling at different temperatures will help you figure that out when the time comes.
But the most important thing to remember when your brisket stalls is this: If in doubt, wrap it. Swaddling that brisket like it’s a baby might just save your dinner.
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