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The PLATEAU . . . what is the temperature range??

DavidRDavidR Posts: 178
edited 6:44PM in EggHead Forum
I'm having a little 'debate' with some friends of mine on exactly where the plateau is when doing pork butts and briskets.[p]I say the range is from 160* to to 170*. Is that accurate, or does it vary from one type of meat to another?[p]I would like to hear a lot of opinions on this subject. I think it would be an interesting read.


  • Ca_rnivoreCa_rnivore Posts: 120
    DavidR,[p]I think 160-170 is just a guide line, as it's the most typical temp range for the plateau. I've seen a plateau start at 145 and another that didn't start until 170-175.
    I think it has something to do with the amount of fat and collagen in the particular piece of meat. I think that both you and your friends are right! Anyway, someone with more scientific data should come along and help us both learn about the plateau range.[p]--Kevin

  • Ca_rnivore,
    The Plateau is caused by cells brust releasing moisture, as this happens the internal temp of the meat stalls in it's climb, at times if enough cells burst at once the internal temp can drop slightly. This process is from 150º internal and up, once the meat temp reaches say 175 to 180º then the internal temp will continue to climp evenly again.
    There is a fine line where you can help the stall and render fat and break down the collegen, but if you are trying to help by dropping pit temps you can stay in this mode to long and dry out the meat, thus the term Art Form when you describe cooking BBQ.

  • DavidRDavidR Posts: 178
    Jim Minion,[p]Thanks for your input. I don't know if you read my earlier topic, "Juicy tender brisket . . I FINALLY go it!", but the more I think about, the more I'm wondering if I just stumbled onto a good cook by accident . . . meaning I don't know if I can repeat it.[p]Let me ask you this. 'Theoretically' speaking, if you were to take a 10 lb. brisket and cook it based on one hour per pound, which is 10 hours, how many hours would you keep it in the plateau before you'd worry that you were starting to dry it out?[p]Another thing that I'm wondering is . . . if you have successfully broken down all the collegen while it was in the plateau range . . . why continue with the cook? Why not take it off right then?[p]I know that BBQing is an Art Form, but I hope you don't mind me picking an "artist's" brain.;)[p]
  • DavidR
    I speaking in terms of no foil would be used during this cook just at the end during the rest.
    First 1 1/2 per pound would be a better gauge to use than 1 hour, that said I gauge everything by internal temps, a much better guide.
    I would take the brisket straight from the frig to the cooker and keep the pit temp in the 190 to 225º range till the internal temp reaches 140º at that point the smokerings is done being produced.
    At this point the question is do you leave the pit temps 225 or less? The amount of time that you are going to want to hold the brisket at the Plateau is directly related the fat content of the brisket.
    IE: a select brisket can dry out on you becuase this grade will have less marbled fat thru-out.
    A choice brisket you can hold longer because the fat content is higher and thus you can stall the internal in the 160 to 170º with much less chance of drying out.
    Most of the time anymore I let the pit do it's thing as far as pit temps are concerned not worring about the stall, I'm happy with 250º, as long as I stay under 270º it's OK.
    Once the brisket hits 190º internal I use the probe from a Polder to check for tenderness. When it feels correct in the flat it is time to pull it and let it set wrapped in plastic and foil for about an hour.
    Brisket does become easier after you have cooked a number of them. I will say that not all briskets are created equal
    and some will fight to the bitter end before they give up and tenderize.
    Good luck

  • SpinSpin Posts: 1,375
    DavidR,[p]Cooking is certainly an art form, with the goal being to create the next very best meal. Even if the cook is to repeat a prior quite good, it is still an exercise in the art of cooking. Becoming skillful at any art requires learning all of the tools used in the practice of the art. The meat to be cooked is a major tool in our art as it is the canvass we use.

    Meat cooking times are always a guesstimate, with brisket being particularly contrary. Some like to plow right along with no plateau seen at all, while others seems to prefer to take their time with a plateau.[p]Cooking temperatures, timing, and internal temp readings will only get you so far with a brisket cook. The “feel” of the meat is a valuable tool as our sense of touch is well defined and something we are very natural at learning. Using a table fork, push it into the raw brisket in several places to get a feel for the meat. Cook as you wish until you reach the point that you begin to wonder about your cook. Give the meal the same test. Repeat as necessary until you remove the meal for serving.[p]The meal will initially be difficult to penetrate without some force. As the meat begins to break down, the fork will penetrate easier but the meal will grab the fork on removal. When the collagen has broken down, the fork will slide easily into the meal and will also remove as cleanly. Cooking longer will only dry the meal.[p]Thoughts from an aspiring artist,

  • StogieStogie Posts: 279
    DavidR,[p]The collagen does not completely break down during the will continue breaking down and more and more fat will be rendered the longer you cook it. You have broken down most of the collagen, just not all of it. As has been mentioned, you can take this too far, especially in inferior grades of meat.[p]I have a hard time believing you had a tender brisket when the temp was only 165º. I have cooked to 185º and had to go a few more points to get it tender enough.[p]My definition for tender is this......hold a slice between finger and thumb in both hands. It should stay together but break apart with the slightest tug. [p]I have started cooking my pork butts to 200º and then wrap in foil and let cook another hour. You would be amazed how much fat is rendered out in this last step.[p]I got the idea from Cook's Illustrated. They did some research on cooking a beef roast. They found the best results were obtained by cooking to an internal temp of 210º and then cooking for another hour. [p]My butts are now that much better.[p]Hope this helps!
  • Stogie,
    After cooking in MIM and spend some time with Gary Kerse of Pig Pounda Kappa I have been cooking Butt to 195º, I did inject with some of my rub as part of the ingredients.
    The butt has been best we have ever produced, we also have come up with a vinegar sauce that has a little sweetness to it but it's complex in flavors.
    It's very moist and the fat and collegen is cooked out, those boys in the mid-south and south-east can cook some pork.

  • Spin,
    Your on the path Brother.

  • DavidR,
    You need to cook some briskets and take notes. From the first steps you have taken with close observation those things you stumble upon is how you grow.
    Start by close inspection of the brisket, quality, fat cover and how marbled is it.
    Then try to take that info in incorporate that into your cook, low on fat: then no stall would be called for and maybe cooking a pork butt over it for basting purposes is called for.
    Higher fat content (choice or better) then a stall might help.
    The internal temp and pit temps are your guide and the feel is the test if it's done.
    Collegen breaks down until you stop the cook, if you take it to far the brisket dries out, don't take it far enough the brisket will be tough.
    Cook them and you will get it down. The main things how you think about what your are doing, BBQ isn't set it and forget it.

  • StogieStogie Posts: 279
    Jim Minion,[p]Yes they sure do know how to cook! I have met Gary several times in the past few years. I believe many of these guys used to cook together long ago. So, many of the techniques are very similar. Hell, they all use the same cooker, too![p]Glad you were able to experience the MIM event. With Buffalo being cancelled, I should have gone to MIM this year, but too late notice. Buster from Boggy Pond keeps bugging me to come and cook with him. [p]Stogie
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