Quick Recipes and Easy

The Barbecue “Plateau”

I know nearly all BBQers or “slow smokers” reading this have done this before… your butts or briskets are not done yet, it’s about dinner time or competition turn in time and you start to panic. You either crank up the heat in your smoker or give up on the smoker altogether and commit a cardinal sin by throwing your meat in the oven. What kind of half way decent BBQer would use an oven!? This all starts out about 3/4 of the way through your cooking time. You are using some kind of meat thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your meat like any excellent BBQer would do. The internal temperature reaches 165 deg F and doesn’t seem to change. After banging on your thermometer and re-inserting it about 10 times, you start having crazy thoughts… is my meat thermometer broken? Is my fire not hot enough? Is my smoker not working right? Is it too cold outside? What’s incorrect!?

Don’t worry! Cool down! The barbecue “plateau” is normal! Just take a deep breath, go get another cold beer and relax! Your temperature will seem like it’s stuck 165 deg or 170 deg. But after a couple of hours, it will slowly start to go up. Sometimes it will shoot up quickly. Just keep an eye on it. Now you know one of the “secrets” to slow smoking brisket and butts. This happens with chicken and ribs too but nowhere near the same degree as the larger cuts of meat. You know the plateau is coming, so be prepared for it and stick to your guns! Whatever you do, keep your smoker temperature steady and don’t use the oven or microwave!

Here’s two more tips that will help you end by dinner time… give yourself enough time to start with. Brisket and butts cook in about 1 to 1.5 hours per pound. So… prepare for the longer cook time of 1.5 hours per pound. Add in 1 or two hours just to be safe. You can even cook it a day ahead of time. My brother-in-law swears his brisket tastes better and is more tender after it’s been sitting in the refrigerator for a day after cooking. The other secret tip is you can pull your meat off the smoker, wrap it in plastic wrap and then in tin foil and place it in a cooler (with no ice of course) to keep it warm until dinner time. It will really continue to cook in the ice chest. Many competition BBQers will take their meat off early, wrap it, and end the cooking in the ice chest. It will stay hot for many, many hours. Of course, always unwrap your hot meat and let it rest for ½ an hour to 1 hour before slicing or pulling.

Now you know not to panic when you get stuck on the barbeque “plateau”!

Bill Anderson
The Chatham Artillery BBQ Team
co-author of “Competition BBQ Secrets”
bbq-book.com bbq-book.com

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