Stall, I love you!


The Stall, from nightmare to powerful ally

In the era of digital communications, at a time when it has never been so easy accessing to knowledge and having the opportunity to verify knowingly the reason of things, the barbecue world is very still tied to the empirical paradoxes. Everything still travels through an information maze where urban legends and superstition, have a very important role. In a world like this, still poor of absolute certainties, the icons retain much of their existential role, to act as a Cliff on which to build our landmarks. Let’s face it, who of us, for example, during our evolutionary past never got into the much celebrated Smoke Ring? In truth the famous purple ring that characterizes the edges of the long barbecue cooking is by no means a guarantee of a good smoke flavoring and even less, of good cooking. Yet the Smoke Ring is still seen through the eyes of the griller as a coveted trophy, a measure of their skills.

As a counter to many positive icons, may this role be justified or not, there is a negative one that is the bugbear with which all grillers sooner or later have had to deal: the dreaded stall.

StalloFirst of all let’s clarify the concept: in the slow progression through which the internal temperature of a Brisket or of a Boston Butt approaches the number of degrees to which the barbecue cooking achieves its magic, the stall is an odious step in which growth slows to then hang permanently (sometimes even withdraw a few degrees!), for no apparent reason. The duration of the standstill is indeterminable, can be minutes, hours like, totally getting high any estimation of cooking time.

The Stall works in a manner not very different from our sweating: when we warm, the body excretes of liquids on the skin, so that they absorb part of the heat that we produce, for the purpose of cooling it and restore the balance. On the same basis, the increase in the internal temperature of the meat during cooking entails a progressive increase of the evaporation layer around the meat, which absorbs the kinetic energy transmitted by the heat of the device, up to a threshold temperature in which all the forces in play arrive at an equilibrium point, the fact Stall.

The classic solution, suggested by most texts and used to override the stall is to wrap the meat in double foil and raise the temperature by a few degrees. This prohibits moisture to disperse and raise the level of the heat absorption by the meat. And so far so good, except that as I always say, we do not talk about bolts but meat: as efforts are made to standardize the conditions, its behavior will be different every time. The Stall may come at a temperature rather than at an other, or even not arrive at all. Furthermore the passage in foil has the ugly defect to stop the formation of the bark, turning it literally to mush those still not completely defined. Needless to say how all this turn to mush with the bark also the best schedules of the griller, both in terms of results, both in terms of timing.

Temperatura StalloPersonally, my relationship with the stall, is radically changed when I started to train with continuity for my first barbecue competitions. At the beginning I frustrating noticed how every time the meat arrived at the time of the stall, and consequently at the time of inclusion in foil, under different conditions: the size, the thickness, the aging, the type of injection, each variable seemed to mess up the cards on table and making them somehow more indecipherable.

Then suddenly a revelation. It was an incredibly cold and rainy evening of autumn and the bark that day were really a disaster on both the two Brisket I was cooking, went stalled just a few degrees away from each other. With very slim hopes to pull off something decent from them, I decided to put in foil only the less bad of the two for dedicate myself to other scheduled preparations. When it was the turn of the second Brisket, it was stalled for nearly two hours and with my surprise, the bark had improved significantly. I had no good Briskets that day but it was a fact that the one put in foil as second, the worst one, revealed indisputably better than the other.

From then on I started to move more and more in advance with cooking, and the moment of the stall has become along the time a searched and waited phase instead of a dreaded one. That was the moment when I evaluate the cooking conditions, and depending on what I found and the time it took to get there, I would decide whether and how to continue with the phase of stall, using it like a rubber band to shorten or lengthen depending on my needs. It happened so that I simply stopped using the thermometer, no longer needed. The only important parameter becomes the bark: when its structure becomes fully robust and defined, it means that it is able to withstand the next phase of foil. If the stall arrives before that it is no longer relevant, you will have to wait for that result anyway,

The conditions kept on changing e so did the raw material and how this came to the Stall but when I removed my brisket from the smoker it was always the same. The Stall is your best ally. Take advantage of it!

Pulled Pork Stallo

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