Your dinner plans can get severely disrupted if your brisket stalls in the middle of the grilling process. Even if you believe you have planned when to slice and serve, your brisket may end up being caught in the stall for several hours, delaying dinner. You need to break the brisket stall and factor it into preparation rather than letting it frustrate you and let your guests wait for hours.
The goal of smoking brisket is to break the fat collagens and connect tissues in the meat. To break the collagen and separate the fibers, you should smoke the brisket at a certain temperature. This is the temperature that you need to maintain while smoking the brisket. The brisket can reach a temperature at which they stall.
The meat temperature rises for the first few hours; that feels like it is done. But then the temperature drops and your guests still wait for the meat. Read on to learn how to beat the brisket stall in the best ways.
Want your brisket to taste like heaven? Check out our article on the 9 best grills for smoking brisket to get that smokey taste we all know and love!
What is a Brisket Stall?
You place a large piece of meat, like brisket, on the smoker, and the temperature of the meat rise and stalls at 150°F. Now the temperature becomes constant, and this can last up to a few hours after it starts rising again. The stall is a result of evaporative cooling, which means that all the moisture in the meat evaporates due to heating.
People also use words like “the zone” and “the plateau” instead of “stall” that defines the brisket stall temperature of the meat. The reason for the stall is that the evaporative cooling balances the heat produced by the smoker.
Depending on the meat (shape, size, moisture content, surface texture, injection), the stall may start at an internal temperature of anywhere between 150 and 170°F (gas, logs, pellets, charcoal, water pan, airflow, and humidity).
The stall can vary depending on the type of meat and water content in it. The methods of grilling the foods are also different. Check how to cook different foods on a grill.
Why Does the Brisket Stall Happen?
Chefs and grill masters have been debating it for many years. Fat rendering and the transformation of collagen into liquid were the two dominant theories for a while. The theory is that these activities use thermal energy, keeping the brisket frozen at the temperature where the collagen and fat liquefy. However, neither collagen nor the rendering of fat consumes enough energy to keep a brisket from moving for several hours.
All of the heat energy you provide to your brisket is spent in the evaporation of the moisture on the surface of the meat since it is sweating. Likewise, meat sweats in your smoker due to the heat cooled by evaporation. The heating and cooling balancing continues until all the moisture evaporates from the meat.
The stall does not occur in case of low fat meat such as ribs. In such cases, the water and fat content are low, making it easy to grill. Learn how to smoke ribs easily.
How Long Does the Brisket Stall Last?
It’s quite difficult to predict exactly when and how long a stall will last. There are many factors, like the kind of smoker, the temperature at which the food is cooked, the size of the brisket, the weather, etc. No two cooks are precisely alike. There are variations in every piece of beef. All you can do is prepare and hazard a guess. The duration of the stall depends on a lot of factors like the size of the brisket, the humidity, cooking temperature, and the airflow in the smoker. A large brisket stall can last up to five hours or more before its temperature starts rising again.
How to Beat the Brisket Stall?
Most people brisket the stall, and some call it beat my meat. Now, what is beat my meat meaning? It means to break the stall and bring the meat to the required temperature to complete the preparation. There are many ways to beat the brisket stall. Let us know one by one.
Wrap your meat in the aluminum foil at the right time. Then, add a little water and put it back on the grill. The method is commonly known as “Texas Crutch,” which involves wrapping the meat tightly in an aluminum foil and adding a liquid like water or apple juice. Adding a liquid to create steam that will tenderize the meat.
Wrapping in the foil prevents evaporative cooling. The moisture that evaporates from the meat combines with the water or other liquid you added to the wrap. Many people make a mistake while unwrapping the meat. Most people put the meat back on the grill after unwrapping.
The problem with unwrapping is that the surface of the meat is moist, which leads to simultaneous evaporation and cooling. Therefore, it is better to heat the meat to the required temperature, like 200 °F, and then unwrap it to let it cool down to 180°F or a lower value.
Increase the Temperature of the Smoker
Increasing the temperature of the smoker is another strategy for breaking the stall. People who smoke barbeque are frequently instructed to “low and slow,” equivalent to 225F. The likelihood of a stall happening is decreased by raising this temperature from 225 to 250–275°F, or even 300°F (referred to as hot and fast).
Brisket stalls are also less common with some smokers, like electric and pellet smokers. The extremely tight seal produced by electric smokers leads to a humid environment. Heat convection produced by a pellet cooker can hasten evaporation even more.
Increase the Heat
Professionals are not smoking the briskets at a high temperature of 300° F or even higher. The extra heat evaporates the moisture from the surface, which means the stall would happen at a higher temperature. Also, the stall would be over more quickly and will make a competition-worthy brisket.
To beat the stall at a higher temperature, you will need a relatively higher-grade brisket. Avoid the least choice grade and get a higher-grade brisket to try the hot and fast method. However, make sure you don’t end up burning the meat. Know how to keep your food safe when grilling.
Butcher Paper Method
Not all pitmasters will be happy to add an aluminum barrier between the meat and the smoke.
If you want a solution that will allow you to pitch the tent without completely burning the flesh, you can use pink or brown paper. Using pink butcher paper is a bit like making Texas Crutch. Using the same technique, take the meat from the pan at the top of the tent, wrap it, and put it back.
The butcher paper offers the brisket an extra room to breathe so that the cooked meat can have a better bark. The only downside to this method is that you cannot add more liquid when the meat is wrapped in butcher paper.
It won’t speed up cooking time as dramatically as aluminum foil, so it won’t “win” space with pink, brown paper. But you will fight for a delicious draw. Wrapping it in a pink butcher will speed up the time it takes you to get through the booth a bit.
Seal your Smoker Well
A smoked brisket stall gives off a lot of heat and smoke to the environment. And when things go out, that also means things come in. This includes the humidity.
If your smoker is well sealed (some electric smokers are fairly airtight), you can experience significantly less downtime than in a “train” kitchen. If you observe the gaps in the smoker, seal them with high-temperature safe gaskets.
Note, however, that the results can be detrimental to the crust of the meat.
Forget the BBQ Sauce.
Using a sauce means you are adding liquid to the meat. Since this contributes more moisture, it only increases the stagnation time. It is therefore advisable to avoid it. You can always apply the sauce after cooking the meat. With that in mind, you should also avoid using water containers. Remember that more fluid means a longer stall.
The Sous Vide Technique!
Another method to overcome stagnation is to completely change your cooking method. Instead of covering your chosen meats with foil or brown paper, smoke them until the meat reaches the stand, then place them in sous vide.
Because sous-vide cooking involves vacuum-packing the meat, it solves the evaporative cooling problem just like an airtight foil cover. It also offers the usual sous vide benefits like precise temperature control, even cooking, and the fact that the meat cooks in its own juice.
The downside to using sous vide is that it adds an extra step to the cooking process, which some cooks may not like, and requires you to have sous vide facility.
A brisket stall is common, and professional chefs know about it very well. They use some of these methods to beat the stall and try to reduce its time as much as possible. Professionals who know these techniques use them to prepare the meat and serve it as soon as possible. However, people who prepare meat at home as a hobby are less aware of these methods and take longer to prepare it.
Following the methods of beating the brisket in this post can help hobbyists and chefs to prepare their meat and minimize the time of stall as much as possible. However, they need to take care of other things like maintaining the moisture in the meat and retaining its flavor by adding spices. Also, applying a layer of sauce at the end of the stall when the dish is ready to be served is better.