Stay calm. It is common during a long cook – like smoking a pork butt or beef brisket – for the internal temperature of the meat to stop rising for a period of time. This is called the “stall”. Be patient – it will resolve itself. Grab a beer and resist the temptation to raise the smoker temperature! Low and slow is the way.
Now if patience is not your thing then you have another option. It is known as “the Texas Crutch”. Learning about the stall and the Texas Crutch will save you some headaches if you are new to smoking. These large cuts of meat require a long cook to help break down the connective tissue and soften the meat. What is a stall you ask? Largely because of the combination of the size of the meat cut and the low smoking temperature, the internal meat temperature just stops rising and stalls. The Texas Crutch helps you power through the stall and speed up the cook.
There is lots of science around this but for now, all you need to know is to expect this and what to do about it. For starters, if you have lots of time you can do nothing and just wait it out. Eventually, the temperature will begin to move back up again. When should you expect the stall to begin? Generally speaking, it will be at around the 160 F | 71 C internal temperature range.
The Texas Crutch
If you have guests coming over for dinner, and you don’t have the time to wait, The Texas Crutch is the answer. Here are the two easy steps:
Tightly wrap the beast in foil or butcher paper at the start of the stall. Back into the smoker without raising the temperature, and continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches just above 200 F | 90 C.
Pull the meat from the fire, still wrapped, and wrap it again in a towel. Stash it in a picnic cooler for 1 – 2 hours to let it rest and soften further.
How do you wrap the meat? Here is one example. There is some debate as to which option is better – foil or butcher paper. For us backyard smokers either one will work just fine, provided the beast is wrapped tightly. We want to trap all of the moisture, so the meat will partially braise and soften. If you are intent on retaining the texture of the bark on the surface of the meat, the butcher paper is your best option.
Just prior to service, remove the wrappings and you should see immediately the meat is supple and soft. You are ready to slice and enjoy with your favorite sides.