Brisket Stall Temp: Everything You Need To Know (2023)
Experienced pitmasters are familiar with brisket stall temp, but it can be frustrating whether you are BBQing your first brisket or your 100th.
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Experienced pitmasters are familiar with brisket stall temp, but it can be frustrating whether you are BBQing your first brisket or your 100th. The good news is that you are not alone and didn't do anything wrong. We will help you understand brisket stall temp and how to beat it.
Get Past Brisket Stall Temp
Your brisket's stall temperature isn't much to worry about if you have time on your hands. The stall occurs due to a scientific phenomenon; if you stay the course through the cooking process, your brisket will eventually break through.
Half the battle is understanding that you didn't mess up, and the brisket will eventually continue the cooking process assuming your smoker is hot enough. Mostlow-and-slow enthusiasts recommend stabilizing your cooker at 225°F.
Once you've stabilized the cooker, you can insert a digital meat thermometer to track the internal temperature of the meat. This is great because most cookers include a thermometer to help you manage the cooking temperature, but the meat thermometer will give you a read on the internal brisket temperature.
What Does Brisket Stall Temp Mean?
The brisket stall temp is the internal temperature at which a brisket seems to stop cooking. At a scientific level, the brisket stall occurs because of a process known as "evaporative cooling," which means your meat is sweating to regulate. As the hot moisture content within the meat evaporates, the meat cools.
Many have theorized regarding morecomplicated explanations. For instance, some pitmasters believe that a protein called collagen goes through a process called "phase change." Others speculate stall occurs as a result of pure beef fat rendering.
Nonetheless, a professor from Boston University named Greg Blonder scientifically proved that the evaporative cooling effect is the culprit for brisket stalls.
Of course, this dynamic is not unique to smoking brisket. Internal temp stall may occur when smoking any large cut of meat, including pork butt or beef brisket. Evaporative cooling may happen when making baked goods too.
What is the Brisket Stall Temperature?
Your internal brisket temp may stall between 150 and 170°F. Many factors may impact the exact temperature at which a brisket stall might start, including the meat's size, shape, and quality. Remember also that a brisket stall is the equivalent of your meat sweating, so humidity also plays a significant factor.
Other factors may include whether you added a rub or injection to your brisket and what type of cooker you utilize. A pellet smoker creates a different environment than charcoal, gas, etc. I will also add that investing in a high-quality meat thermometer is essential because an inaccurate temperature reading may throw off the entire process.
To achieve the perfect, tender brisket, shoot for a target temperature of around 203°F. Achieving the ideal smoked meat is surprisingly as much science as art, but when your meat reaches near 203°F, you might start convincing yourself that you are a true brisket master.
Why Does Brisket Stall Happen?
A brisket stall is frustrating, and it is even possible that your meat may stall multiple times. So, why does a brisket stall happen? The scientific reason for your beef brisket to stall is known as evaporative cooling. While that might sound complicated, evaporative cooling is the equivalent of your meat sweating to regulate temperature.
And while you might be craving a juicy brisket at the moment, a stall can occur with any smoked meats (and even baked goods). The science doesn't change whether you cook pork shoulder or a whole brisket. The actual stall temperature of the meat may vary depending on the piece of meat and various other factors, but it will likely still occur.
So, what should you do? Some newbies might panic and crank up the temperature inside the cooking chamber. Don't do this. Hot-and-fast never achieves the juicy tenderness you will get with a low and slow cooking method.
Ways To Avoid Brisket Stalls?
The easiest way to beat the stall is to ignore it. Assuming your smoker temperature sits around 225°F, the internal temperature of the meat will eventually start rising beyond the stall point. This is the most surefire cooking method to keep your meat moist.
Others just cook their brisket at a higher temperature, usually around 300°F, so that the brisket cooks right through the evaporative cooling event. This is also generally effective for avoiding the dreaded brisket second stall.
Still, increasing the temperature generally lowers the final moisture content, resulting in a dryer brisket.
The Texas Crutch
Sometimes you don't have time to wait for the brisket stall to pass. We get that. The Texas Crutch is one method experienced pitmasters use to speed past the stall.
Most pitmasters execute the Texas Crutch by wrapping their brisket in aluminum foil and adding a tablespoon of liquid (i.e., water, apple juice, or beer). The foil prevents evaporation, and the cooking process continues without a stall.
You may even find that the Texas Crutch impacts the surface texture too. Heck, it will likely affect the overall tenderness, inside and out. A brisket without wrapping may be tougher. A foil wrapping captures the moisture and results in a juicer brisket.
The foil enables your brisket to quickly hit its target temperature, tenderize, and cook evenly. Tried and true pitmasters often prefer wrapping brisket in foil, also referred to as a "Foil Jump," because the cooking process results in more tender meat.
Wrapping Your Brisket at Stall
Most people wait until the stall to wrap their brisket so that smoke can infuse the meat before it is covered. Think of your brisket cooked in thirds. Start your brisket unwrapped. Wrap your brisket in the middle of your cook to retain moisture. Unwrap your meat at the end so a crispy bark forms.
Like anything in the world of cooking and BBQ, deciding when to wrap brisket is part art and science.
The good news is that you don't need to mess with your smoker's temperature either way unless you just prefer cooking at a higher temperature. Still, many pitmasters prefer lower temperatures and the low-and-slow methodology. Since evaporation is the culprit for brisket stalls, you don't need to mess with your smoker's heat.
Some people use the butcher paper method instead of relying on aluminum foil. Pink butcher paper is a favorite, and while it will allow a little more of the smoke into the brisket, it will also enable more evaporation. Using butcher paper and aluminum foil are both effective, but aluminum foil will cook your meat much faster and hold more moisture inside the brisket.
Perfect Internal Temperature
Target an internal temperature within a few degrees of 203°F. Whether you use a cooking method involving butcher paper, aluminum foil, or just setting aside enough cooking time to naturally beat the stall with an unwrapped brisket, the target temperature will be the same.
Meat stall may be frustrating, but it is beatable, so don't give up when you hit that initial stall. Smoking meat might take a little practice, but it will be well worth it. Delicious food awaits.
Can A Brisket Stall at 180?
Brisket usually stalls between 150 and 170°F, but some pitmasters report that their brisket may stall multiple times. Various factors impact the timing and length of the stall, including the size, shape, and quality of the meat. Your cooking method (i.e., pellet grills vs. using a water pan) could also impact your internal cooking temperature.
Can a brisket stall because of the weather? Absolutely. Climates and weather patterns with high humidity and extra moisture can impact the evaporative cooling process. Conversely, tightly wrapping in aluminum foil or butcher paper may reduce evaporation and the meat temperature.
How Long Does The Stall Last on A Brisket?
The internal temperature of the meat may stall for several hours. In fact, it could even stall multiple times. For these reasons, a meat thermometer, a well-stabilized temperature in the cooking chamber, and lots of time are the best ways to beat the BBQ stall.
If one stall frustrates you, be aware that some pitmasters face more than one stall. Wrapping your piece of meat and utilizing the Texas Crutch are the most surefire ways to avoid this if you don't have the patience for a low-and-slow smoker temperature.
Brisket Tips & Tricks
Cooking the perfect brisket is a learned skill that will come more easily to some than others. The truth is that it will likely require practice if you haven't done it before. Of course, preparation goes a long way, and if you've read this far to avoid brisket stalls, you are on the right track.
Secret To a Tender Brisket
The secret to a tender brisket is moisture. We've talked a lot about the fact that evaporative cooling causes the dreaded plateau, but we've largely glossed over the impacts on quality. Brisket is a tough cut of meat, but retaining moisture within the meat helps to tenderize it.
This is why wrapping your brisket in foil or butcher paper is so popular. It's not just about raising the internal temperature above the plateau but also about the resulting tenderness and quality.
Does Brisket Get More Tender The Longer It Cooks?
Cooking brisket low-and-slow allows time for smokey flavoring to infuse the meat thoroughly, but it also results in more tender brisket. Pumping heat energy into your smoker may help your brisket to cook more quickly, but it will also produce tougher meat. Wrapping your brisket in foil or butcher paper should also help with tenderness.
Tips To Cook Brisket Just Right
Most pros recommend setting your smoker somewhere between 225 and 275°F. You will find that pitmasters are an opinionated bunch, so some people may claim they've found the perfect temperature, but somewhere in this range should work just fine.
Your brisket will take about one hour of cooking time per pound of meat. An 8 lbs. brisket should take about 8 hours, while 12 lbs. brisket should take about 12 hours. Understanding this should give you two takeaways. For one, you need to plan your time accordingly. Secondly, a heat thermometer will provide you with a read on the internal temp and remove the guesswork.
Lay your brisket flat, with the fat side up. Utilize foil to retain moisture. The most advanced pitmasters will start their brisket unwrapped, so smoke infuses the meat and the foil wrapper for the middle third of the cook, and then remove the foil at the end for a crisp bark. Cook your meat until the internal temp hits about 203°F.
Grills To Power Through Brisket Stalls
By the time the stall hits, there isn't much you can do besides waiting or cranking up the heat higher than you intended to go. Still, managing a stable temperature is a critical aspect of managing stall.
Owning the right grill will enable you to adjust the temperature quickly and regulate the temperature evenly. Plus, pellet grills and smokers are incredibly versatile. You can smoke mushrooms or vegetables, or stick with your favorite meat.
Best Pellet Grills
We recommend that you choose a pellet grill if you are in the market for a new grill. Sure, it might not be as authentic as using a traditional wood smoker, but the convenience and enhanced technology are worth the trade-off.
And the reality is that a pellet grill is substantially more practical for most people. You can control most modern grills with an app downloaded to your phone. Plus, because pellets feed from the pellet hopper, you don't have to deal with adding just the right amount of fresh wood and just the right time to keep the temperature inside the smoker stable.
Fortunately, there are quite a few brands in the pellet grill space at this point, leaving no shortage of options.
Traeger Pellet Grills
Traeger grills are generally the leader in the clubhouse. The brand pioneered the pellet grill industry and still invests more in research and development than most of the competition. Honestly, most of the competitor brands still add features after Traeger in an attempt to follow the leader.
While Traeger is generally higher quality, featuring considerations like insulated lids to maximize heat retention, Traeger is also much more expensive. It may be well worth the price if you want to master the perfect brisket, but Traeger will be out of reach for some.
Comparing Pit Boss vs. Traeger is an excellent place to start if you want to invest in an industry leader but want to consider options that are more affordable than Traeger.
Other Pellet Grills
Pit Boss and Traeger are the two industry leaders in pellet cooking. Nonetheless, there are more and more brands worth considering.
On the affordable end of the spectrum, Z Grills sells direct-to-consumer grills that might be the best value in the grill market. For years, the company behind Z Grill manufactured some of the competitor grills, which are made with similar quality.
Eventually, as they cultivated expertise in manufacturing, Z Grills decided it would be worthwhile to sell directly from the manufacturing team to the consumer. Cutting out at least one middleman, sometimes two, saves the consumer money.
At the higher end of the spectrum, Camp Chef expanded from campsite cooking systems into cast iron cookware and pellet grills. We recommend that you consider Camp Chef if you are interested in versatility. Camp Chef pellet grills have a modular-like design that enables you to add a flat-top grill or artisan pizza oven to the side of the main cooking chamber.
Best Charcoal Grills
Charcoal is an interesting choice because it offers a more authentic and hands-on experience than pellet grills, yet it is easier to regulate temperature than a wood smoker. Some purists enjoy the craft of regulating cooking temperatures, but mastering such a craft is much more difficult for the novice than using a pellet smoker might be.
Nonetheless, you shouldn't flatly reject the idea of using a charcoal grill or smoker. There is something pure and craft-driven about cooking with a charcoal grill or smoker.
If you are in the market for a charcoal smoker or grill, then Weber is the best name in the game. Still, comparing Weber vs. Char-Broil may be worth your time to ensure you make the best decision.
It can be a little tricky to light a charcoal grill, but the flavor profile is second only to wood-fired grills and smokers.
Powering Through Brisket Stall Temp
There are a few different ways to fight brisket stalls. The most authentic low-and-slow technique is to stabilize the cooking chamber's temperature to around 225°F and then wait. It may take a few hours, but the meat will heat beyond the stall when the moisture inside the brisket evaporates.
The other option is to wrap your brisket in butcher's paper or aluminum foil. Butcher's paper may allow more smoke into the brisket but also allows more moisture to escape. In this sense, butcher's paper is the middle ground.
On the other hand, aluminum foil may block much of the smoke but retain most of the moisture. Still, most people using aluminum foil remove the foil when the brisket reaches 180°F, which is generally past the stall temp and close to the target of ~203°F. This unwrapped time at the end of the cook allows smoke to penetrate the brisket.
Still, others increase the ambient temperature to go hot-and-fast rather than low-and-slow. Increasing heat input is one way to go, but this approach has definite downsides. Namely, it may result in a less tender piece of meat, even if you bully through the brisket stall temp.
So, there are several ways to beat the brisket stall temp. Choosing the right method will depend on your patience and willingness to try new things. We hope you enjoy your next brisket regardless of which way you choose.
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