How Long Should I Rest Brisket? We Asked The Pitmasters

Picture the scene: you’ve bought a lovely looking piece of brisket from the butcher and you’re looking to cook it this weekend for the whole family.

You’ve completed the whole cooking stage, dealing with the smoker, and it’s all gone very well so far. However, the process isn’t over yet.

How Long Should I Rest Brisket? We Asked The Pitmasters

The last stage of cooking a brisket is to let the meat rest, because meats continue to cook even after they’ve left the smoker. But how long should you leave the brisket to rest? What will get you the best texture and taste?

Well, we’ve got the answers for you!

In our useful guide below, you’ll find out exactly how long you should let the brisket rest once you’ve taken it out of the smoker, along with lots of other handy details, like what you should wrapper you should cook it in – among other things.

Read on, and you’ll have the perfect brisket in no time!

How Long Should I Rest Brisket?

Let’s begin with the big answer that you’ve been looking for. On the whole, you should leave your brisket to rest for at least half an hour before you try to slice it up and serve it out.

If you don’t wait this time, then the juices will spill out of the container and the meat, and you’ll be losing a lot of the succulence and flavor.

When you leave the brisket to rest instead, or “hold” the brisket as it’s also known, you’re allowing the muscle fibers of the meat to relax.

This lets it reabsorb the moisture, making the meat much more succulent and juicy. 

If you can, leave the brisket to rest for longer than half an hour – 30 minutes is really just the minimum. You can leave it resting for 3+ hours. 

Resting Brisket – Covered Or Uncovered?

Now that you know how long you should leave it resting, you may be wondering what the optimum conditions are for doing that resting.

Should you have the meat covered or uncovered? Well, the best thing to do is to leave it in the wrapping that it’s already in. Leave it in its covering, while aso placing it in a dry cooler that’s lined with a towel.

This will help to insulate it even more, keeping the heat in much better. 

Really, you will need to take into account how long a brisket needs to rest, and adjust the time you want to eat around that.

If you usually eat lunch at 12, then take off a few hours before that for resting, and then further take off the cooking time on top of that. 

The process of the brisket continuing to cook after you’ve removed it from your smoker is known as “carryover cooking”. This is what the meat is busy doing while it’s wrapped in its wrapping.

As we’ve touched upon, putting it in a towel-lined dry cooler will help the carryover work even more efficiently. 

To better control and keep track of the carryover cooking, though, you can use a thermometer. Don’t use a regular human thermometer that you use on yourself, obviously, but buy a special cooking thermometer.

By inserting this into the meat, you can measure its internal temperature, and make sure that it’s on track with what you want it to be when you carve off some slicer for eating.

Remember, the brisket could possibly grow even hotter when it’s being left to rest.

Therefore, if you want the internal temperature to be something specific, you’ll want to adjust your cooking temperature beforehand (but making sure that it still properly cooks through and is safe!).

You can also measure the temperature periodically by taking it out of the smoker, so that when you remove it at the end and leave it to rest, the temperature can rise up to the one you want.

You don’t want to overshoot your target temperature.

What Should I Rest My Brisket In?

We’ve mentioned a few times now that you should leave the brisket in its wrapping while it’s resting. But what should the wrapping be?

Resting In Foil?

Wrapping your brisket in aluminum foil when letting it rest is crucial. As you now know, keeping the meat wrapped up will help it to not lose its juices and flavor.

As we’ve said, you should leave it wrapped in the aluminum foil and then put that into a dry cooker that’s been lined with a towel.

Meat-smokers and pitmasters like to do this technique in order to get the best tasting brisket possible. 

However, there is a downside to wrapping it in aluminum foil, and that’s that it produces a lot of smoke as a result. This may not seem like much of a problem, but it actually softens the bark on the meat.

What is bark? Well, bark is the mixture of the spices that you applied and the smoke that’s been created by the smoker, making a rough texture on the exterior. 

Resting In Butcher Paper?

Resting In Butcher Paper?

Using butcher paper may seem like a good idea – after all, butchers certainly know meat! Therefore, whatever they use is probably a good idea.

If you’re going to wrap the brisket in butcher paper while it’s cooking in the smoker, then remove the whole package once it’s reached about 195 degrees fahrenheit.

Now leave it to rest, where the meat will keep hold of its juices and succulence. 

After  a few hours of resting, or “holding”, take your meat thermometer and stick it into the brisket. If the meat has reached anywhere around 150 degrees fahrenheit, then that’s a good place to stop.

From there, you can very carefully unwrap it (it’s hot!) and begin to carve delicious slices out of it.

If it’s not reached that internal temperature yet then just leave it to rest further, with the thermometer sticking out of it and allowing you to keep track of how hot it’s getting.

You can leave it for a good 3 or 4 hours before it’ll start to lose its heat.

What is butcher paper? It’s a special type of thick paper that’s been made out of kraft pulp, with a few chemicals added, and some sizing agents in order to help it keep juice in and prevent leaking – which is essential when keeping those meat juice in.

On top of that, butcher paper is resistant to moisture, meaning that it won’t be damaged or dissolved by excess moisture.

This is absolutely essential for its wrapping purpose, because it needs to hold the wet meat juices in, not be damaged by them and allow them to leak out. 

The idea of wrapping a brisket in butcher paper in order to retain the juices and keep it hot was first popularized by Aaron Franklin.

He found that it had plenty of benefits by comparing how a brisket would cook and rest when wrapped in aluminum foil, as well as how it would do when it wasn’t wrapped in anything at all.

Foil can certainly have its advantages too,and it’s much cheaper, so it’s really just about picking on which one you think will give you the best results for the brisket that you’re trying to get. 

If you want a good butcher paper, this one from Bryco Goods has plenty of roll to use with its 175 foot length and reasonable price. 

Should I Rest My Brisket In A Dry Cooler?

We’ve mentioned quite a few times now about leaving a wrapped brisket to rest in a dry cooker that’s lined with a towel, and you may be wondering how essential this stage is, and just what it does for the brisket. 

Well, we do think that the best thing to do is indeed put the wrapped brisket in a dry cooler, specifically one that’s been lined with a towel, keeping the heat in even more.

Once you’ve put the whole package in the dry cooler, you can leave it to rest there for 3 to 4 hours, where it’ll continue to stay hot, but not lose any of its moisture or juices. 

A dry cooler is even a great way to transport your meat while allowing it to still cook and stay hot! If you’re traveling with the meat somewhere, you may wonder the best way to transport it without it going cold.

For example, you may be taking the brisket over to your relative’s house for a holiday celebration. Maybe you even prefer brisket to turkey at Thanksgiving!

Either way, you’ll want to keep it hot, and a dry cooler is a great way to do that. Just securely store the cooler in your vehicle, making sure it won’t bounce around or open, and drive!

Checking The Temperature

Obviously, you’ll want to keep checking the temperature while the brisket is in the dry cooler.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s a good idea to get a meat thermometer, which will give you accurate readings of the brisket’s internal temperature when you stick it inside the meat.

However, there are a few types of meat thermometer that you can get. 

We would recommend using a “leave in” DOT (Digital Oven Thermometer) one, because you can leave these in the meat – as you can probably guess from the name.

These types differ from instant read thermometers, which will give you an instant reading of the internal temperature when you put them in.

However, you would keep inserting and removing this thermometer, and that would be a hassle. On top of that, it may not be safe to continually be going near the hot meat.

Therefore, just get one that you can leave in and read repeatedly.

The temperature that you should be looking for is around 150 degrees fahrenheit.

This will be the prime internal temperature for you to carve and serve the meat, because it’s still a perfect level of heat, as well as giving a great and succulent flavor – full of juice, too.

Letting it get hotter or colder than this will result in you having a meat that isn’t quite as tasty, and that would be a waste of all the hours you’ve had to put into cooking it already. 

When Is A Brisket Finished In The Smoker?

You may be wondering how you’ll know when a brisket is done in the smoker, we have the answers for that too! Using your meat thermometer, you can check the internal temperature periodically.

When you get a reading of around 203 degrees fahrenheit, this is a good place to stop and remove it, where you can then allow it to rest.

A few degrees either way of this temperature will be fine, too. If it hasn’t reached that, you need to leave it in for longer. 

How else can you tell when it’s done, though? Besides measuring the internal temperature, the texture of the meat will tell you.

When you’re inserting the probe of a thermometer, you can tell from the feedback of the meat whether it’s cooked or not. If the meat jiggles as you insert it, and the texture of pushing in feels soft like butter, then it’s probably been cooked.

Check the internal temperature on top of this though! Though with in no time you’ll get a feel for it, and be able to tell much more easily. 

Leaving Brisket To Rest Before You Slice And Serve

Of course, you will need to let the brisket rest after it’s come out of the smoker anyway, as we’ve touched upon already. Thirty minutes is the minimum resting time, but really you can leave it to hold for up to 4 hours. 

The reason that we leave brisket to rest after it’s been taken out of your cooker or smoker is because slicing it early will give you dry meat, with no succulence and little flavor.

On top of that, the meat will be very chewy, which will make it very unpleasant to eat. When the meat is resting, it’ll continue to cook, because it’ll be re-absorbing all of its juice which will allow it to keep sufficiently heated.

The brisket is tenderizing during this time, which means that it’s becoming more tender, which means softer and less chewy.

Once the brisket has rested for a good enough amount of time, ideally a few hours, then it should be at an internal temperature of about 150 degrees fahrenheit.

Just measure this while it’s in the dry cooler with the towel lining, and remove it when it’s got to a figure that’s around that. It doesn’t have to be precise!

A few degrees lower will still be a good and tasty heat level. 

Does Resting Your Brisket Affect The Bark?

You may be wondering whether the resting process for your brisket will affect the bark on the meat, more specifically causing it to soften.

As we touched on earlier, bark is a kind of rough texture that will develop on the coating of the brisket – a bit like the bark on a tree trunk but a lot more delicious!

Bark on brisket is caused as a combination of the spices that you added beforehand and the smoke from the smoker. They mix with the meat protein, and you get that unique texture on the outside of the brisket. 

Well, letting the brisket rest can soften the bark. This is down to the wrapping of the brisket, mainly if it’s wrapped in foil. Aluminum foil around the brisket will create steam, which will soften up the bark.

There is a way around this, however. Place the brisket over the heat again to harden the bark back up.

To do this, allow it to rest up to 150 degrees fahrenheit, then remove it from the aluminum and put the meat back on the smoker for half an hour. This will let its outer layer dry and harden again. 

Just be careful not to leave it too long, making sure that heat is below 220 degrees fahrenheit! 

Timing

Timing

You’ll have noticed that timing is essential to getting brisket results, and you’ll need to allow for it if you’ve got a scheduled meal coming up.

For example, you can plan ahead by taking off about 4 hours from the time you’re set to eat, and then a few hours of cooking time on top of that.

However, a brisket is not cooked to set timings! The only way that you know it’s been cooked is because the internal temperature is hot enough (203 degrees fahrenheit).

It’s not a matter of time, but temperature!

The only way you’ll be able to get your timings better is by practicing and practicing, cooking more and more. For help, you can roughly follow this table:

Total Cooking TimeStart Cooking At…Start Spritizing At…Wrap The Brisket At…Finish In The OvenDone Time (203 degrees fahrenheit)Resting Time In Dry Cooler Lined With Towel (1-4 horus)
12 hours6pm9pm12am12am6am7am-10am
15 hours5pm8pm11pm11pm8am9am-12pm
18 hours2pm5pm8pm8pm8am9am-12pm

Cooking Tools

You’ll have noticed a few tools popping up over and over in this article, which are below. On top of that, there are a few extra devices you can use.

Butcher Paper

Wrapping your brisket in this unwaxed butcher paper rather than aluminum foil will prevent steam from building up and softening your brisket bark. 

Meat injector

You can inject your meat with these large syringes, which you fill with different marinades. The syringe will allow you to distribute the marinade evenly into the meat. 

Marinade

Speaking of marinades inthe meat injector, you can choose which marinade you put in, and each has their own benefits.

A very popular choice is the Butcher BBQ Prime Brisket Injection, which you can get in large packets with plenty of usage here

Meat Thermometer

Speaking of injecting into the brisket, a meat thermometer is essential in order to keep track of the internal temperature of the meat and to make sure that it’s cooking properly.

The ThermoPro TP20 is a good and popular model that offers very precise accuracy, which you can get here

Instant Read Thermometer

Later in the cooking, you’ll need to take regular readings from different points in the brisket. The affordable ThermoPro TP19 is a good make for this, which will give you rapid and precise readings.

Available from their website here.

Advanced Thermometer 

If you have the money, this advanced thermometer will allow you to monitor the temperature of up to 6 pieces of meat.

Brisket Rub

A rub is a blend of seasonings and flavoring ingredients that are applied to the exterior of the meat before it’s cooked. Putting a brisket rub on your brisket will help to give it even greater richness and flavor. 

Final Thoughts

And there you have it! If you want your brisket to be perfect and succulent, with plenty of flavor and a lack of chewiness, then it’s essential that you leave it to rest – the longer the better, up to 4 hours.

Be careful, and always make sure that your meat is fully cooked through! 

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