The Smoking Stall


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Ah, “the smoking stall”, possibly the most dreaded words in smoking? For all the new smokers out there, it is worth noting that no one is exempt from the stall, from the pros doing this for 30 years of the new guy in his backyard, no one can escape it. If you are new to smoking, you will probably learn about the stall soon enough and hopefully this post will tell you more below.

The stall is not so dreaded once you know its coming. It is that first occurrence or two when you are not expecting it, you have guests showing up for dinner and whatever meat you have on the smoker has decided to park itself at an internal temperature of 160°. For all of us, especially when guests are pulling into the driveway, panic sets in. Unless of course, you happen to have burgers or a frozen pizza on hand. Come on, we all have been there at some point. Its ok to admit it!

What Exactly is The Smoking Stall?

So what exactly is the stall, besides a panic inducing scenario? According to the science, it is the water in the meat evaporating and in turn cooling the meat down, sometimes it is also called evaporative cooling. Where you will frequently experience the stall is with the larger pieces of meat such as brisket, pork shoulder or pork butt. Don’t think the smaller pieces will escape the stall either, you will also get it on some smaller cuts like a chuck roast, otherwise known as “poor man’s brisket”.

It is not uncommon that not only will you see the temperature of your meat stall out but possibly even decrease once the stall hits. Go ahead, check your temperature gauge, its not broken. Whether you are using a WSM, Traeger or electric smokers, you cannot avoid the stall. The stall has arrived!

How to Beat The Smoking Stall

This is going to come down to personal preference. When the meat stalls, you have a couple of options. First take a deep breath, you will eventually get to eat. Your options are the following:

  • 1. To wrap the meat
  • 2. Not wrap the meat
  • 3. Increase the temperature of the smoker, and wrap or not wrap

Wrapping your meat is at times referred to the Texas crutch. I wanted to mention that in case you see referenced out there.

I have done all three, under different scenarios and sometimes it’s a combination of 2 of the 3. If I feel like I started early enough and have plenty of time to finish, I will not wrap the meat and ride it out.

If you do decide to not wrap it ensures a nice bark on your meat and avoids the hassle of having to wrap. I tend to find myself doing that most frequently, now that I know the stall is coming. I usually handle different cuts of meat differently too. A chuck roast I may be more inclined to not wrap and let it ride out the stall. If I am making pulled pork, I will usually wrap as that is already a 12+ hour smoke. Same with a beef brisket, its already a long smoke, I don’t want to wait out the stall so I will wrap.

Every once in a while, if I let it ride and do not wrap in the last 30 minutes or so I will crank up the temperature a bit and finish it that way. That usually happens in cases where, I am pushing up against dinner and I have a galley watching me wanting to know when we are eating.

On days I got a later start and I am running short on time, I will wrap and have increased the temperature to get it done in time. The wife gets hangry and there is nothing like that hanging over your head while smoking. The two do not mix! If you asked 20 different people you might get 20 different variations on what to do with the stall and how to get past it.

The next question I am sure you are asking it what to wrap in. Couple of options. You could use aluminum foil, that seems to be the better options on smaller cuts of meat. With a brisket you can do aluminum foil but butcher paper tends to work better. Just know that if you are wrapping and are looking for a good bark on the meat, wrapping will impact the bark. If you can, wait until the you are happy with you bark and then wrap it. Butcher paper tends to preserve the bark better than foil so if you want to maintain the bark, use butcher paper.

The stall is part of smoking, once you know its coming it is not so bad, just know its coming. Good luck and keep the smoke rolling!


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