How to Rest a Brisket? (3 Techniques & Why It's Important)

Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

During my ten years on a carnivore diet, I’ve cooked countless briskets and quickly learned what a difference resting the cut makes.

I experimented with different rest times and talked with a chef friend to get an expert's opinion.

For the best cooking results, you need quality brisket. ButcherBox is a good place to start, as this meat delivery company has a wide selection of grass-fed and grass-finished cuts.

Here’s everything you should know about resting a brisket for the most delicious results.

Quick Summary

  • You should rest the meat for one to two hours.
  • The resting period is a crucial part of having a delicious brisket.
  • You can rest your brisket in several ways.

How Long Should You Rest a Brisket?

A close up shot of a brisket on a wooden board

You should rest a brisket between one to two hours, regardless of the cooking method. Never rest for over two hours because your brisket will go cold and become dry, even if you reheat it.

Resting brisket for at least one hour lets the meat fibers reabsorb the juices, so they aren’t lost when you cut into the meat.

Note: The only instance when you can rest for longer than two hours is placing the brisket in an insulated container (more on below). Never rest brisket overnight, or it’ll develop harmful bacteria.

The longer you let the brisket rest, the juicier it’ll be. Nevertheless, stick to the two-hour mark, or the brisket bark will become mush.

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3 Ways to Rest Briskets

The brisket reaches maximum tenderness around 200 degrees, when you should remove it from the smoker and let the meat rest.

Remove any foil or butcher paper, and move the brisket to a dish such as a pan, quality cutting board, or another dish that can catch the juices, and let the meat rest.

There are several different ways you can let the brisket rest.

1. In a Cooler

A blue cooler that can be used for resting a brisket

You can rest the meat in a cooler, the faux cambro method. Before I explain how this works, let’s get into brisket resting vs. holding.

Resting meat is when you let the meat sit for a certain period of time so that it reabsorbs the juices.

But another option is to hold the meat. Holding brisket is the best option if you don’t plan on eating the meat an hour or two after cooking it.

Holding is also a great solution for preparing brisket in advance, as it lets you keep the meat at a warm temperature for a long time — the meat’s internal temperature is above 140 degrees. You can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.

You hold brisket by placing it on a container, such as a holding oven, a cooler, or a cambro.

“Brisket is full of connective tissue, so brisket must be cooked over low heat for a long time to break down the tissue without overcooking the meat.”
- Traeger, World’s Leading Grill Brand

Resting meat in a cooler is a faux cambro technique. A heavily insulated cooler is best, but you can use whatever cooler you have in your home. Rest brisket wrapped. You can use a towel, blanket, or aluminum foil for wrapping. Wrap the brisket several times to ensure it stays insulated.

A cooler slows down the cooling process and keeps the brisket hot for longer. This ensures the meat stays at a safe temperature for when you eat it later.

Pro tip: You can pour hot water into the cooler, let it sit for half an hour, and then pour it out. This heats the cooler before you place the brisket in it.

Note: Holding smoked brisket in a cooler negatively affects the bark. It won’t be as crisp because the meat will steam in the wrapping.

2. In a Cambro

Resting brisket in a cambro is another holding technique. Cambro looks like a mini fridge; some versions even have heaters.

This device is great if you don’t plan to eat smoked brisket immediately, as it retains heat for a long time.

A Cambro is a great investment if you smoke often or want to try competitive barbecue and catering.

For easy transportation, you can choose between different sizes, front-load or top-load models, and weights.

3. At Room Temperature

A top view of sliced brisket resting on top of a wooden board

Finally, many believe the cis is at room temperature. You remove the brisket from the smoker and place it on your counter on an aluminum pan or a cutting board.

Resting at room temperature is great if the bark hasn’t set quite how you like it. Room temperature hardens the bark during the resting period.

Remember you can only let the brisket rest at room temperature for up to two hours, or you’ll enter the danger zone [1].

If cooked brisket sits out and its internal temperature goes below 140 degrees, bacteria spread, and you can get food poisoning. This also means you should wait to let the brisket rest overnight.

Resting Brisket Wrapped vs Unwrapped

If you wrap raw brisket before cooking, rest the meat wrapped. Simply take out the brisket from the smoker and rest it on whatever you wrapped it in.

The wrap keeps the juices around the meat and provides extra insulation during resting.

Wrapping the brisket also helps carry-over cooking, meaning the meat’s temperature rises even when you remove it from a heat source.

Carry-over cooking helps break down connective tissues and collagen.

Pro tip: Use butcher paper instead of aluminum foil for better results. Aluminum foil molds to the brisket, while butcher paper provides better airflow. The foil is easier to use, but butcher paper is more breathable and prevents oversteaming.

However, some pitmasters are against wrapping the brisket. They remove the wrapping from the brisket immediately after taking it out from the smoker. The theory is that brisket needs air circulating to rest properly.

Wrapped brisket traps in the heat, so you risk having an overcooked and dry brisket. Also, smoking and resting the meat unwrapped results in better charr.

Overall, both methods have pros and cons, and deciding how to rest your brisket is up to you. My advice is to try both ways and see what works best.

Why It’s Important to Rest the Brisket?

A close up shot of a juicy brisket resting on a wooden board

It’s important to rest the brisket because resting lets the juices redistribute. If you cut the beef brisket right after removing it from heat, the juices will run across the container and not stay inside the meat, and you’ll have a dry and tough cut.

Raw meat has a lot of moisture. In fact, brisket is made up of 71% water [2]. The cooking process makes the muscle fibers contract, which forces the moisture toward the center and the surface of the beef brisket.

This is why meat can be very tough and dry when cooked to the recommended temperature.

The resting process prevents this. Brisket is rich in collagen, which dissolves during cooking.

But, as the brisket cools, collagen firms up again and acts as a thickening agent for the natural juices. The longer the meat rests, the thicker the liquid. In other words, the juices won’t escape when you start slicing.

Some people think they can scoop the drained juices and use them to baste the sliced brisket.

However, this doesn’t work well because if you cut the brisket without resting, you lose a lot of steam, which you can’t recover. The meat turns tough when the steam and juices escape.

Note: Some juices may still run out even if you let the brisket rest. That’s why you should keep the meat on a rimmed platter or a board with a groove.

FAQs

How Do You Keep the Brisket Moist While Resting?

You can keep the brisket moist while resting by wrapping a whole-packer brisket in foil or butcher paper.

Do You Flip the Brisket After Wrapping?

You should flip the brisket after wrapping. The airflow in any smoker is uneven, so if you leave a wrapped brisket in one position for the whole time, it’ll dry out. Flip at least once during the smoking for a flavorful brisket.

What Dries Out Brisket?

Lack of marbling, cooking at a too high temperature, cooking too long, not wrapping, and resting the cooked meat too long dry out the brisket.


References:

  1. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/03/25/spring-food-safety
  2. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/
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About the author

Gabriel Woods
Chef/Food Editor
Gabrielle Woods holds a BSc degree in Hospitality Management with a summa cum laude distinction from the University of Santo Tomas, majoring in Culinary Entrepreneurship. She helps clients achieve specific fitness goals through protein-based meal prepping. She believes cooking is both an art and a science best done with a balance of tradition and innovation.
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