How to Rest A Brisket


Waiting for the brisket to sit and rest is the hardest thing ever – and there’s a very reasonable explanation.

You see, smoking brisket isn’t easy. Hours of prepping, a night of keeping the meat covered in a rub, 6-9 hours of cooking – that’s plenty of hard work!

All you want to do, after the elaborate process, is to cut a slice off the chunk of meat and put it in your mouth. But that’s where you can make an irreversible mistake by skipping an essential step – resting brisket, i.e., letting it wait for a while off the heat before cutting it.

Cooked Brisket

It’s understandable if you and your carnivore clan are impatient to devour your smoked brisket. Why would you want to wait, staring at the meat while it rests?

Well, hold your horses!

Not allowing resting time can ruin the game for any new smoker. To ensure that all your hard work does not go to waste, find out why resting the smoked meat is essential to keep your brisket’s juiciness intact.

Resting Brisket – What does it mean?

Okay, so you have already sensed that the process of resting brisket is crucial. But what does resting brisket even mean?

It’s a straightforward yet crucial part of the brisket experience. Once the cooking process is completed, you have to remove the meat from the heat and let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature.

That’s necessarily all you have to do to rest a freshly smoked brisket!

The only tricky part of the entire process is the wait, and that’s all on you. The rest of the magic happens inside the meat, all on its own.

As the meat sits away from the heat, it starts to relax, and the temperature gradually drops. The juices in the meat will redistribute inside and begin to thicken.

Eventually, when you slice the meat, every bite in your mouth will be full of heavenly succulence. But if you dig your knife into the brisket right after you take it off the smoker, the liquid juices will pour right out of the brisket.

The texture will never be the same as a well-rested brisket. Besides, the meat will dry out within a short time.

That’s something from which you cannot turn back. There’s no way to reverse the drying process once the large slab of the meat runs out of all the internal juices.

How resting brisket works

To understand why resting brisket is crucial, let’s know a little more thoroughly how the entire process works. Let’s first throw some basic biology at you: raw brisket is 71% water.

When the brisket undergoes smoking in high heat, this water content starts to rise to the surface from within the fibers. In fact, the perfect time to stop cooking is when the meat starts to release the moisture within.

Now, when you take it off the heat and let it rest, the moisture doesn’t evaporate. Instead, it begins seeping back into the fibers and spreading across the softened meat.

Resting the brisket also helps the meat to start cooling. So, the dissolved proteins mix with these juices that begin to thicken across the entire brisket. 

Simply put – resting brisket locks the delicious, meaty juice inside the meat. That’s because the thickened meat juices cannot escape easily when you cut the meat.

But if you don’t rest the meat, the thin liquid runs out immediately when you cut it. With that, all the rich moisture and flavors seep out easily – leaving you with dry brisket. The only way to salvage this is to collect the juice and pour it back over the brisket, though it will work only if the meat and the cutting board are small. This method won’t be enough to rehydrate a large and thick brisket.

Also Read:

How to rest a brisket after smoking

You’ve understood why it’s important to rest a brisket to get a chunk of delicious meat packed with flavors. But how to rest a brisket and make it take like it’s a pitmaster’s work of art?

Several factors come into play here. Brisket rest time, wrapping, and the internal temperature of the meat need to be considered.

Large briskets are considered to be perfectly cooked when the internal temperature of the meat reaches around 200 F. Yet, there’s a reason why you should take the brisket off the heat a little before the thermometer shows this temperature.

You know that brisket is a large and thick chunk of meat. Did you know that even after you take it off the heat, the temperature continues to spike inside such a piece and cook it?

There’s a term for this: carry-over cooking – and there’s an effortless way to prevent this. You need to remove the meat from the heat before it hits the 200 F mark.

So, when you take the brisket off the heat, the carry-over temperature will rise by around 10 degrees. Then, when you rest the brisket for a couple of hours, the internal temperature will drop, though quite slowly.

Sliced Brisket

So how long should you let the brisket rest?

Ideally, the brisket rest time should be at least 1 hour if you’re in a hurry. If you plan to devour it later, let it sit for two hours so that it’s well-rested.

Don’t kid yourself by resting it for 15 minutes, as that duration might work for a chicken breast at best. Even if you’re in some brisket emergency, the rest time cannot go below 30-45 minutes for a small slab.

But how long is too long for resting brisket after smoking?

See, the longer you let the brisket rest, the juicier your meat will be. Some people make their smoked meat sit for as long as four hours.

The duration depends on the internal temperature of the meat. You must make sure that it does not drop below 140 F, an excellent temperature for slicing.

Now, many people wrap briskets in foil in the last stage of cooking. But is it necessary to do the same while resting a smoked hunk of meat? 

After removing the brisket from the smoker, remove the foil before setting the meat down to rest at room temperature. But cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum.

This will prevent the juices on the surface of the meat from evaporating. Without this cover, the surface of the brisket will become cold and dry too quickly.

But don’t wrap the meat during resting time. Otherwise, the heat trapped inside the meat will continue to cook the meat and spoil the brisket.

Final Words:

Many home smokers use the Faux Cambro technique to “hold” a particular internal temperature. The brisket may be kept inside an empty cooler, wrapped in foil and towel, to keep it hot.

It is not the same resting, though. You need to rest the brisket in the open at room temperature.

Waiting to eat your brisket for a couple of hours even after it’s out of the smokers is difficult. Resting brisket for an hour or two will give you the juiciest, tenderest meat.  After all, the best briskets come to the cooks who rest their smoked meat.

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Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled.

Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.