Briskets are literally always labor of love. They already take a long long time to cook properly and it is widely regarded knowledge that you also need to rest the cut for a bit before slicing.
This resting is typically done so that the meat juices can be reabsorbed and the temperature comes down to a point where you can serve easily.
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The best way to get this done is to use a cooler. Coolers are insulated and they slow down the resting process for the best results. But how long to let brisket rest in cooler?
Let’s find out:
How Long To Let Brisket Rest In Cooler – How To Rest?
Since a cooler is basically an insulated box, you can keep your meat inside for a long time without losing any quality and taste. A normal cooler will ensure your meat stays fresh for up to 4 hours.
However, that is only an edge case and typically the time you need to cool depends on the size of your brisket.
For briskets weighing 10 lbs and less, 30 minutes of cooling time is fine. 10-15 lbs briskets will need a bit longer at 45 minutes to an hour. While the biggest brisket cuts, more than 15 lbs, will require 1.5 hours of cooling time inside the cooler of your choice.
When using a cooler, however, pulling the brisket at the right time is key. The insulation of the cooler will ensure a lot of carryover cooking and you will end up with a dry brisket if it was already left in the smoker for too long.
With that in mind, the ideal time to pull a brisket is when the internal temperature at the thickest point reaches 190 degrees F.
The exact hours will differ from brisket to brisket but as long as you pull it out and stick it in a prepped cooler when the internal temperature is 190 to 200 degrees F, you’ll be golden.
The keen-eyed among you might have already noticed that we said: “prepped cooler”. So how do you exactly prep a cooler to rest a brisket? Let’s see:
- Thoroughly clean the inside of your cooler with water.
- Bring up a big pot full of water to a gentle simmer (NOT BOILING) and fill the cooler up with hot water. Boiling water may damage the interior of your cooler so ensure the water is only hot and not boiling.
- Seal the lid of the cooler shit and wait for 30 mins to 1 hour depending on the size of your cooler.
- While the cooler warms up, pull out your brisket from the smoker and wrap it up using aluminum foil or butcher paper.
- Throw the water out of the cooler and line the interior walls of the cooler with clean towels and place the wrapped meat in the center.
- Close the lid and let the meat rest.
Since the meat needs to go into the cooler straight off the smoker, we suggest you time the preparation of the cooler properly to ensure zero downtime.
Why Should You Rest Brisket In A Cooler?
If this whole process seems a bit over-engineered to you, that’s because it is. But trust me when I say this, resting brisket in a cooler will give you results better than normal room temperature resting ever can.
There are a few different reasons why that is the case. In no particular order, here they are –
- Redistribution of Meat Juice
This is the primary reason why all meat needs to rest after cooking. Meats like beef are made from fibers and these fibers hold in a lot of moisture when heated up, these juices rise to the surface of the meat.
So if you try to slice a piece of meat right off the heat, all the juices will fall out and the meat will end up dry.
Resting in a cooler will slow down the meat cooling process and ensure that the juices can be reabsorbed by the meat fibers properly, ensuring you get perfect juicy and tender briskets.
- Carryover Cooking
When you take off the brisket or any other large piece of meat, the internal high temperature will make it so that the cut keeps cooking. This process will keep happening as long as the temperature is high enough.
Since the cooler slows down the loss of heat, the cut will cook slightly longer than other methods, giving you the most tender results.
- Keeping the Brisket Warm
This is perhaps the most important reason why one would be inclined to use a cooler. Briskets take a long time to cook and it is pretty difficult to time your other dishes perfectly so that everything can be served warm.
Inside the cooler, your brisket will remain warm for up to 4 hours and this gives you the perfect opportunity to prepare all the sides so that warm brisket can be served at the table.
A dry and cold brisket will not only be awful on your palette, it will discourage you from putting all the effort in the next time.
Resting Brisket Without Cooler – Is There Any Alternative
Like everything else in life, yes there is an alternative to this particular method of resting a brisket. The alternative might provide varying results, but as long as you do it properly, all of the methods will work somewhat decently.
The most attractive alternative is the oven method. Ovens are typically well insulated and you can just set the temperature at 140 degrees F and keep a wrapped brisket for a long time.
Other methods include the countertop method and the towel method. You can rest your brisket traditionally in the countertop, wrapped in foil. But that will obviously give you a lot less time you can store it until it turns cold.
If you want a bit more insulation, wrapping the already-wrapped cut in a towel will give you a bit more time before it cools down.
Resting Brisket Covered Or Uncovered
Resting wrapped vs unwrapped has been another point of confusion for novice smokers. Unfortunately, there is not really a straightforward answer to this and it always depends on the size of the cut and more importantly how long you need to rest the piece.
For the initial resting period, you can really go either way. It does not matter much and you will get great results. Note that this is only for countertop resting.
On the other hand, if you want to rest the brisket for a long period of time, for example, more than 8 hours, always cover it in aluminum foil or butcher paper.
Should You Wrap A Brisket – Butcher Paper Or Aluminum Foil
Butcher paper and aluminum foil each has unique sets of pros that make them both viable for wrapping a brisket. You just need to know which one is right for you.
You should wrap brisket in foil and rest if you are new to this world and want the easier route. Foils are very easy to wrap tightly around anything and it will retain its shape with a good amount of heat to give you great results.
On the contrary, you should rest brisket in butcher paper if you want the best results, especially a good bark. Butcher paper is a lot harder to handle though and it can be hard to find in a lot of places.
Either way, for best results, you need to use butcher paper. The resting time on each of these wraps does not differ much if any and you should rest your brisket according to our guide below no matter what your choice of wrap is.
Resting Brisket Vs Holding Brisket – What’s The Difference
To the uninitiated, resting and holding might mean the same thing. In fact, according to context, these two words can be used interchangeably.
But they are far from the same thing. To be a true pitmaster, you need to know what each of these words mean.
This means to keep a dish, in this case, a brisket, warm until it is time to serve. Holding ensures that you do not have to serve cold meat to your guests or family as an ideal warm temperature will ensure a better taste overall.
Resting is always done so that the juice of the meat can be reabsorbed and does not leak away upon slicing. Compared to holding, while resting, you are intentionally letting the meat cool down just enough for the juices to thicken up and giving you the juiciest slices of brisket.
What Temp To Rest Brisket – Brisket Rest Time & Temperature Guide
When you remove a brisket from the smoker or bbq, it should have an internal temperature of 190 to 200 degrees F. That is the ideal temperature limit and you should always stay in that bracket for the best results.
Then the brisket goes to the resting phase. The purpose of the entire resting phase is to bring the temperature down to exactly 140 degrees F.
Anything below that and your brisket will cool down too much and will not be a pleasurable eating experience.
As for resting time, lets see a handy chart below to easily understand different resting times for different sizes of brisket:
|Brisket Weight||Brisket Rest Time|
|Very Small (6 to 9 lbs)||30 minutes to 60 minutes|
|Small (10-11 lbs)||45 minutes to 90 minutes|
|Medium (12-15 lbs)||1 hour to 4 hours|
|Large (16-20 lbs)||1.5 hours to 4 hours|
|Very Large (21-25 lbs)||1.5 hours to 6 hours|
The important thing to note here is that these times are for select briskets. In Layman’s terms, this means brisket that is very lean and does not have much marbling.
If you have a super expensive cut like a prime or even wagyu, you need to double these times.
Expensive cuts will have a lot of intramuscular fat and more fat means more juice and more juice requires more cooling time.
Can You Let Brisket Rest Overnight?
Yes, you can let briskets rest overnight, in fact, a lot of restaurants do exactly that. However, you can’t just leave the wrapped brisket on your counter overnight and expect it to be fine in the morning.
Ideally, up to 6 hours is the highest you should let a brisket rest. To do it overnight, you need to keep the whole thing in a temperature-controlled environment, like an oven.
Can You Rest Brisket For 2, 5, Or 6 Hours?
Ideal resting time for briskets will differ depending on the size and fat content of the brisket. You can rest any brisket for 2, 5, or even 6 hours but we recommend you follow the handy table we provided above.
You can always adjust it according to your experience and specific cut. But if you are just starting off, sticking to the table will give you a great starting anchor and you can adjust later down the line.
How Does Resting Brisket Work?
As we explained earlier, the whole process of resting is done so that the meat can reabsorb the juice that comes up to the surface when it’s being cooked.
As the temperature of the meat rises, so does the juices inside. The moisture comes up to the surface and it remains there when the brisket is warm.
So if you slice into a hot brisket, you will see all the juices escape and you will have dry slices.
Resting the brisket brings the temperature down just enough for the moisture to redistribute among the entire slab of meat so that all your slices have a consistent juicy demeanor.
What Happens If I Don’t Rest Brisket?
Simply put, if you do not rest brisket, you will have a dry and tough brisket. All the juices will escape and the mouthfeel will not be pleasurable at all.
The taste and flavor might still be there but who wants to chew on a dry slice of brisket for 30 minutes?
Does Resting Prevent Dry Brisket?
Provided that you cooked the brisket properly, yes resting will prevent a dry brisket. For all the reasons we mentioned above you should always rest your steak, brisket, or any other cut of meat.
However, resting is not magic and it will not bring back an overcooked brisket. So smoking or cooking the brisket properly is still the most important factor.
Does Resting Brisket Soften The Bark?
When you wrap brisket in foil, the steam will trap inside and can soften the bark pretty easily. However, unwrapped or butcher paper should not have this problem as butcher paper has small holes for the steam to leave. So yes resting can soften the bark but as long as you use butcher paper, it won’t.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long To Let The Brisket Rest Before Cutting?
A small-sized brisket should have 30 to 60 minutes of resting time while a big size can need upto 2 to 6 hours. Follow our handy table found above.
How Long To Let The Brisket Rest Before Putting In Fridge?
When your brisket reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F, it is safe to put it in the fridge. You can keep it in a container or wrap using foil.
How Long To Rest Brisket Per Pound?
If you want a general rule of thumb, you can rest your brisket for 30 minutes per 5 pounds of weight.
Do You Have To Rest Brisket Before Slicing?
Yes, you absolutely have to rest the brisket before slicing, unless you want dry and tough meat.
When Is Brisket Considered Done And Ready For Resting?
When the internal temperature reaches 190 to 200 degrees F, the brisket is considered done and is ready for resting.
How Long Should I Let A 6 Or 7-Lb Brisket Rest After Smoking?
A 6 to 7 pound brisket should be rested between 30 minutes to an hour after smoking.
How Should You Rest Brisket For 10-14 Hours?
To rest a brisket that long, you first need to wrap it in foil or butcher paper and then keep the whole thing in a temperature controlled environment or oven.
Now you know almost everything there is to know about resting a juicy piece of brisket. If you do have a cooler, now you know how long to let brisket rest in the cooler. In any case, with or without a cooler, as long as you apply all the knowledge you gather today into your next smoking session, you will be rewarded with the juiciest and most tender brisket out there!!!!