The BBQ Stall Explained: How to Beat It

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Let me paint you a scene, one that many pitmasters will be all too acquainted with.

The weekend is here. You’ve bought a hog shoulder or a quality beef brisket and asked your friends and family to share it with you.

You start your smoker using the Minion Method, regulate the pit temperature, and relax with a well-earned drink.

The temperature of the meat rises for the first few hours, giving you a nice sense of achievement, and then falls. Perhaps, to your dismay, the temperature of the meat begins to plummet.

Your visitors are becoming hungry, all eyes are on you, and your promised meat is really moving away from that magical 203F temperature.

Welcome to stall town!

The good news is that the BBQ stall is not a divine retribution from the Pit Gods. It’s simply chemistry, and there’s a solution.

In this post, we will discuss what causes the BBQ to stall and your best alternatives for dealing with it.

What is the barbecue stall, and why does it happen?

The BBQ Stall Explained: How to Beat It

The barbecue stall occurs when a big piece of meat, such as brisket, is placed on the smoker and the temperature of the meat reaches roughly 150F and stops increasing after two to three hours.

The halt might continue up to six hours before the temperature begins to rise again.

There are several hypotheses circulating around as to why particular meats stall while cooking.

Thankfully, the teams at Amazing Ribs and Genuine Ideas agreed to do a series of experiments to figure out what was causing the standstill.

Their investigation revealed that evaporative cooling was the most probable cause of the stoppage.

Simply stated, while you’re sweating because your meat isn’t reaching temperature, your brisket or shoulder is doing the same.

The increasing temperature of your smoker removes the moisture in the meat after around three hours of cooking.

This evaporative cooling balances out the heat created by your smoker’s fuel, allowing the meat temperature to plateau, generally at approximately 150F.

This is the same mechanism that causes you to sweat on a hot day to keep your body cool.

or rub) as well as the grill (gas, charcoal, logs, pellets, ventilation, water pan, and humidity). The stall may begin at an internal temperature ranging from 150 to 170F, depending on the kind of meat (size, shape, surface texture, moisture content, injection, and so on).

Meathead Goldwyn

The temperature of the meat will then refuse to rise until enough moisture has evaporated that evaporative cooling cannot compensate for the heat of your smoker.

Our smoking times and temperatures chart shows average smoke times for all of the greatest smoked meats.

Three common stall misconceptions to avoid

The BBQ Stall Explained: How to Beat It

Since we first discovered the delay, the reason has been disputed in pitmaster circles.

The difficulty is that many of the hypotheses that emerged, as well as their recommended remedies, focused on the incorrect culprits.

With several studies demonstrating that evaporative cooling is to blame for the stall, below are a few previous myths that have been debunked.

1. The stall is caused by latent heat lipid phase transition

Its a bit of a mouthful, right?

The latent heat lipid phase transition occurs when collagen in your meat interacts with water and transforms into gelatin.

As the collagen’s stiff structure melts into soft, flavorful gelatin, this shift is an essential aspect of the cooking process.

The latent heat lipid phase change happens at 160F, which is also where the stall generally begins.

Pitmasters were naturally quick to blame the standstill on the change.

However, collagen only contributes for roughly 2% of your meat’s entire structure. There just isn’t enough collagen in your brisket or pig butt to compensate for the heat generated by your smoker when it changes to gelatin.

2. The stall is caused by protein denaturation

Proteins in beef begin to denature between 140F and 150F.

When proteins are subjected to enough heat, they undergo denaturation.

They unfold from a sophisticated 3D geometry into a looser arrangement due to the heat energy. This allows them to more readily mix with other things in your meat, such as water.

This transition does occur, and it occurs at around the same temperature that the stall usually begins. However, the protein in your meat is insufficient to counterbalance the heat energy generated by your smoker.

3. The stall is caused by fat rendering

On the surface, this idea seems to be more plausible than protein-based approaches.

A pork shoulder is about 15% fat.

Genuine Ideas put this hypothesis to the test by baking a lump of pure beef fat and a cellulose sponge soaked in water in the same oven.

The temperatures were then monitored to determine whether the rendering of the fat caused it to stall. Their findings strongly refuted this idea.

The fat continued to climb in temperature as predicted, whereas the sponge reached a heat plateau at just about 150F and stalled, much like a piece of meat would.

This is because the fat melted rather than evaporated, which requires significantly less heat energy.

What types of meat/cuts are most affected by the stall?

Unfortunately, avoiding the stall is more difficult than just selecting another piece of meat to cook.

The reason of the stall, evaporative cooling, is due to two factors: the fact that most beef is roughly 65% water and the low and slow cooking technique.

The stall becomes a component of the cooking process because to the size of the piece of meat you’ll be cooking, the low temperature, and the high water content.

When cooking brisket or pig butt, the stall is particularly dreaded.

How long can the stall last?

When the internal temperature of the meat is about 150F, the stall usually begins after two to three hours. The stall may last up to 7 hours before the meat’s temperature begins to increase again.

When the temperature begins to rise, it may climb rapidly. Briskets often reach the ultimate temperature of 170 203F in an hour or two.

Evaporating moisture from the meat will then stall its temperature, with the stall going from the outside to the center.

This stall will continue until the moisture in the air has evaporated to the point that it can no longer balance the heat energy generated by your smoker. The temperature of your meat will then begin to rise once again.

The duration of your stall is difficult to anticipate since it is dependent on a huge number of variables:

  • The size of the meat you’re attempting to cook The bigger the piece, the more water it will hold and the longer it will be able to stall for. The surface area of the flesh also has a role. A bigger surface area will result in more moisture evaporation.
  • The appearance of your smoker Smokers with more airflow promote evaporation. Some pellet smokers may even have a fan, which may help to a reduced stall time. Electric smokers are also more well sealed, which lowers evaporative cooling.
  • Making use of a water pan Water pans maintain high humidity levels within your smoker, reducing moisture loss while cooking. They also enable water to combine with the smoker on the surface of the meat, enhancing the smoky taste. The disadvantage is that they increase the moisture on the surface of the meat, causing it to stall longer.
  • spritz Many pitmasters use a number of tactics to add moisture to the surface of their meat while it cooks. This offers the same advantages as the water pan, but it also reduces cooking time by adding to the stallbrush.Using a damp mop

With so many factors, it’s difficult to predict how long a halt would last.

Murphy’s Law dictates that the stall will probably take an hour longer than you anticipated.

I’ve heard of brisket stalls lasting over 10 hours in certain severe circumstances!

How do I beat the stall?

The good news is that now that we know why the delay occurs, we can work around it:

Option 1: Start early and rest your meat until ready to serve

This is the greatest solution for you. You can prepare for the stall once you realize it is a part of the cooking process and what to anticipate.

As a suggestion, use our smoking hours and temperature table, and then add an hour or two (or more for stuff like brisket or pulled pork) as a buffer.

Download a free copy of our smoking timings and temperatures charts to have on hand for future reference.

You will no longer be stressed when the stall occurs. Although it may seem that nothing is occurring and that something is amiss, the stall indicates that everything is proceeding as intended.

Moisture evaporates off the surface of your meat and mixes with rendered fat and denatured proteins within, keeping your meat wet.

So, how can you ensure that your brisket is ready to serve at a certain time?

The idea is to start early enough so that the meat is done at least an hour before you need to eat.

Remove the meat from the smoker after it has reached the desired temperature.

The meat may then be wrapped in a couple old towels and placed in a refrigerator to keep warm for up to 3-4 hours (while still covered in foil or butcher paper).

The length of time you may safely keep meat depends on how effectively your cooler is insulated.

Related The best soft-sided coolers

The faux cambro technique has the extra benefit of giving the meat time to rest and relax.

This strategy was a game changer for me when I first began utilizing it. Now I always have the meat ready a few hours before people arrive, which gives me time to work on sides or converse and drink a few beers (or smoked cocktails!).

Option 2: Use the Texas Crutch

The Texas Crutch is a method of avoiding the dreaded stall by securely wrapping your meat in aluminum foil.

You might also add more moisture in the form of beer or fruit juice at intervals.

For years, pitmasters have used the Texas Crutch with the notion that wrapping and added moisture generate steam, which speeds up the cooking process.

While the procedure works, the real reason is that the foil hinders evaporative cooling.

When the meat is wrapped with foil, the moisture that escapes is not transported away. It condenses on the inside of the foil and pools near the meat’s base.

The stall does not occur in the absence of evaporative cooling to lower the temperature.

Consider sprinting in your raincoat or sleeping through a hot night in a cheap plastic tent.

You’ll definitely be sweating, but you won’t be getting any colder.

The Texas Crutch’s disadvantage is the same feature that makes it valuable in stall breaking.

The Texas Crutch makes it almost hard to build up the black crispy peel that many brisket fans want by retaining moisture adjacent to the surface of the meat.

How to wrap your meat for the Texas Crutch

  1. Smoke your meat for around two-thirds of the whole cooking time, enabling the bark to attain the desired color.
  2. Remove your meat from the grill when it reaches the stall temperature of 150-160F and refuses to rise any higher.
  3. Wrap your meat in a double layer of heavy-duty foil. Before you close it up.
  4. Make sure your foil seal is tight. The goal here is to let as little moisture as possible to escape in order to reduce the evaporative cooling impact.
  5. Return the tightly wrapped meat to the smoker, and you should see it burst free of the stall as the temperature rises again.
  6. If you want to acquire as much bark as possible, remove the foil when the meat reaches your desired temperature and return it to the smoker to allow the bark to firm up.

Option 3: Use the butcher paper method

Not every pitmaster will be pleased with a foil barrier between their meat and the smoke.

Pink butchers paper is a good option if you want to beat the stall without completely closing up your meat.

Butchers paper, unlike foil, is porous. This allows the smoke to infiltrate the paper and reach the meat underneath.

The disadvantage of using butcher’s paper is that it does not produce a strong enough barrier around the meat to entirely eliminate the stall. Your meat may still stall, but it will do so for a far shorter period of time than unwrapped meat.

Aaron Franklin is well-known for his use of pink butcher paper. In the video below, he compares unwrapped, foil wrapped, and paper wrapped beef in a brisket wrap test.

If you want to attempt the Texas Crutch or learn more about how to wrap your brisket, we’ve prepared a whole piece on it that you can find here.

Option 4: The Sous-vide method

Another way to get around the stall is to modify your cooking process entirely. Instead of wrapping your meat in aluminum foil or butcher’s paper, smoke it until it reaches the stall and then transfer it to a sous-vide.

Because sous-vide cooking involves vacuum packing the meat, it addresses the evaporative cooling problem in the same manner that a tight foil covering does. It also provides the standard sous-vide advantages of precise temperature control, consistent cooking, and the fact that the meat cooks in its own fluids.

The disadvantage of utilizing a sous-vide is that it adds another stage to the cooking process, which some pitmasters may not enjoy, and it necessitates the use of a sous-vide setup.

If you’re still hesitant, check out our approach to mixing sous vide with BBQ for amazing results.

Option 5: Cook it hot and fast

If you want to avoid the stall that comes with low and slow cooking, one approach is to cook your meat hot and quick.

This approach does not work with a flat brisket because it leaves the denser, less fatty meat dry and tough. It will, however, allow you to cook a brisket point in roughly 6 hours, which is fattier and includes more collagen.

How to cook a brisket point hot and fast

  1. Season a brisket point weighing 5 to 6 pounds with salt and pepper.
  2. Place the brisket point into a 400-degree smoker
  3. Wait until the internal temperature of your meat reaches 165°F. This should take around two and a half hours.
  4. Once the meat has reached room temperature, place it in a roasting pan and place it, uncovered, in a 250F oven.
  5. Continue to roast the brisket until the internal temperature reaches 205F.
  6. Remove the brisket from the oven and set it aside at room temperature until the internal temperature of the meat returns to 140F.
  7. Serve your brisket against the grain to the eager crowd.

Bust that stall!

Now that you understand why the stall occurs, you can devise a strategy to overcome it.

You can wait out the stall if you don’t have any timing constraints. This will assist you in obtaining that crispy bark.

You may stop the evaporative cooling by striking straight through the stall with the Texas Crunch. Simply replace the foil with butchers paper if you still want extra smokey taste.

You can also switch things up by cooking your meat hot and quick or using your smoker to flavor it before finishing it in the sous-vide.

The essential point is that you no longer have to have a nervous breakdown when you reach the stall; you know what’s going on and how to deal with it!

Have you have any tricks for beating the stall or any stall horror tales you’d like to share with us? We’d appreciate it if you could leave them in the comments section below.


How do you beat the BBQ stall?

Smoke your meat for around two-thirds of the whole cooking time, enabling the bark to attain the desired color. Remove your meat from the grill when it reaches the stall temperature of 150-160°F and refuses to rise any higher. Wrap your meat in a double layer of heavy-duty foil. Before you close it up.

How do you beat the brisket stall?

Wrap the meat in foil or butcher paper before returning it to the grill or smoker. This procedure is a dependable strategy to combat brisket evaporative cooling. As you securely wrap the meat, the temperature inside begins to increase, pushing the brisket over the stalling point.

What is the science behind BBQ stall?

What Is Causing the Stall? The stall is produced by the evaporation of fluids on the surface of the meat. This evaporative cooling works similarly to sweating when working hard. Because the delay lasts for hours, it may be aggravating.

How do you get past the stall when smoking pork?

The “Texas Crutch” is a technique that is used to assist power past a stall. Three-quarters of the way through the smoking process, the meat is wrapped in either aluminum foil or Peach Paper. (Peach Paper is a pinkish-brown butcher paper that is food-grade.)

Do you wrap brisket when it hits the stall?

Brisket suffers from the dreaded stall when natural evaporation causes a cooling sweat to form on the flesh when left uncovered. This pause might continue from a few minutes to many hours. If you see your bark becoming too crispy, you may easily wrap it and continue smoking.

What is the secret to fall apart brisket?

When it comes to briskets and roasts, you may discover that the flesh is tough after cooking. This is most likely due to the brisket being undercooked. Simply increasing the cooking time for the meat will result in the desired fall apart awesomeness. The longer you cook the beef, the more soft it will get and the simpler it will be to shred.

What temp does brisket stop stalling?

I should mention that brisket only stalls at lower temperatures. The stall duration is reduced after the smoker temperature reaches 300 F. In fact, it may not happen at all. The stall commonly occurs while smoking brisket at temperatures below 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

What temp does meat stall when smoking?

Prof. Blonder documented the cooking of a brisket in a thermostatically controlled smoker. In his experiment (seen above), the stall occurs after around two to three hours of cooking, when the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 150°F. The pause lasts roughly six hours before the temperature starts to rise again.

What is the Texas crutch method?

The Texas Crutch is a smoking method that includes wrapping a partly smoked piece of meat (often brisket, hog shoulder, or other roast-like hunk) with thick aluminum foil to concentrate heat, speed up cooking, and reduce evaporation.

How long does the stall last on pulled pork?

Many first-time smokers go insane and turn up the heat or move to a hot oven, never seeing the rear end of a stall. A brisket or pork butt stall may take from 2 to 6 hours, but 4 is approximately usual.


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