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How to Rest a Brisket (And Why It’s So Important)

How to Rest a Brisket (And Why It’s So Important)

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There is a lot to pay attention to when it comes to making the perfect smoked brisket meal. Of course, it can go without saying that you are going to need to pay attention to the smoker and that everything is being cooked as it should.

But you should also think about how you are going to serve the brisket when it is done. After all, you will want to show off all of your hard work in the best way possible, right?

Unfortunately, many beginner smokers end up ruining all of their hard work by not letting the brisket rest. Many professionals agree that not allowing a brisket to rest is one of the worst mistakes that you can make, especially because there really isn’t much of a way to reverse the damage done.

If you are planning on getting into smoking meats, you should absolutely learn what it means to rest them.

While some meats can recover from not being rested, larger, thicker cuts like brisket cannot, making it all the more important for you to at least understand what the process of resting is, why it’s important, and what you can do to make sure your brisket turns out perfect.

What Does it Mean to Rest Brisket, and How Do You Rest It?

Resting brisket, or any meat for that matter, is an incredibly simple, yet important process that everyone who smokes meat needs to know. Essentially, it involves letting the meat sit for a little bit before you cut into it.

Cutting into the meat too early can absolutely ruin a meal that you have prepared and spent hours smoking to perfection.

Once you take it out of the smoker, or the oven, you are going to want to unwrap the brisket and simply let it rest there at room temperature. If you are planning to eat it immediately after it has finished resting, you only need to let it rest for one hour.

If you plan on eating it later and you just want it to be ready to go, then you are better off waiting for about two hours for it to rest properly.

You would actually be able to notice the difference slightly within 10 minutes, but to get the most out of resting your meat, you will want to wait a minimum of 40 minutes to ensure that you won’t lose anything by cutting into the meat.

You shouldn’t worry too much about any wasted heat from the meat either, even well after 40 minutes, the internal temperature will still be more than enough to serve to your family and friends without any issues.

You should never let the brisket rest for more than two hours though, as this will let the internal temperature cool down too much for the meat to be tasty. While you can always reheat the meat, it is best not to risk having issues with overheating and having it dry out, depending on how you reheat the meat.

Also see my tips on How to Keep Brisket Moist.

Keep in mind that you usually shouldn’t keep the brisket wrapped up or in a closed space when you are letting it rest. Because of the nature of resting, it requires open and moving air to work properly.

This is easy enough to fix, but it is simply another thing that you have to factor in when you are smoking meats for the first time. Making sure that you let them rest properly is going to be key to having a delicious meal at the end of the day.

If you want to be really careful about losing surface temperature, then you might want to consider covering your brisket loosely with foil. You should make sure that there is still some degree of air flow, as you do need the meat to cool down to some extent.

If you plan to serve the brisket at the dinner table immediately after it has rested, you should generally make sure that the foil covering is as loose as possible.

On the other hand, if you are planning to keep the brisket in a cooler for several hours, you will want to make sure that the foil is wrapped up tightly so that it can retain some of its heat before it is time to eat the brisket.

What Does Resting Do?

You might be wondering why it is so important for you to let the brisket rest after you have done all the cooking and smoking for it. After all, isn’t it best served piping hot?

While a hot dish of brisket is always appreciated, there are many reasons why you should wait for the resting period to be over.

The reason why you want to rest the brisket is that it allows the juices of the meat to thicken slightly. The degraded and dissolved proteins from the brisket’s juices will thicken ever so slightly, which slows down how fast the juice pours out of the meat when you first cut into it.

Additionally, the thickened juices help to keep some of the steam inside the meat, keeping it warm while you let it rest. Since most of the brisket’s moisture is going to evaporate through the steam, letting it rest and letting the steam inside the meat reabsorb is going to also help the dish retain optimal moisture.

Nobody wants to eat a dry dish of meat, and nobody wants to ruin a meal that they have spent hours preparing.

These thickened juices can also do more than just make sure that the dish is hydrated and tastes good. Because of the slightly thickened juices, the texture is going to be better for the lean and chewy brisket as well.

If you want to make sure that your family and friends enjoy the brisket that you put so much time and effort into, you are going to want to make sure that you remember to let the brisket rest for one or two hours before it is time to serve it up.

Why Should You Let Brisket Rest?

If you don’t let the brisket rest enough, you can end up causing some major problems when you cut into the meat. The biggest issue is going to be that the juices of the meat won’t be thick enough.

This will cause them to all escape from the meat the moment you begin to cut it up. This will spell some major trouble for you within the next few hours.

When the juices of the meat are no longer there to keep the meat tasty and delectable, it is going to dry out. All of the steam inside of the meat is going to take even more moisture with it, meaning that it is going to dry out the more you cut it up when the meat hasn’t rested.

Within a matter of hours, you will have a dried out version of the brisket that you spent so much time working on, and this is something that nobody wants to have happen.

To make matters worse, while you can usually catch the juices and pour them back onto the meat with lighter cuts, brisket is heavy and thick enough that this method won’t work.

Once the juices are out of the meat, there really isn’t going to be a way to rehydrate your brisket. This is part of the reason why it is so imperative that you make sure you fully understand the resting process for brisket.

What About Carry-Over Cooking?

Cutting Beef Brisket

Something else that you are going to want to factor in when you are planning to rest the brisket is carry-over cooking. This is a phenomenon where the meat will hold on to its internal temperature, even after it has left the smoker or grill, causing it to cook even further than you might want it to.

Some beginner smokers don’t realize that carry-over cooking is a thing, and this can also ruin a good brisket dish.

Thankfully, carry-over cooking is relatively simple and straightforward to combat, and you won’t have to go through too much hassle to do it.

The general rule of thumb is going to be that the larger and thicker the cut of meat you are working with is, the more the internal temperature is going to rise because of carry-over cooking.

This is especially important to note when you are working with brisket, as it tends to be one of those larger cuts of meat that you have to be cautious with.

The easiest way to get around this phenomenon is to simply take the meat out of the oven, smoker, or grill slightly earlier than you otherwise would.

Generally, the internal temperature is going to rise no more than 10 extra degrees, meaning that you should factor this in when you are trying to decide what temperature you want to take your brisket out of the smoker at.

By remembering these tips and tricks, and remembering to let the brisket rest for a couple of hours before you serve it up as a delicious dinner, you can rest assured knowing that you will be making the most out of the hours you put into cooking the meal.

Knowing these things is also a step toward becoming even better at smoking and grilling the best food that you can.

Want quality meats delivered to you? Try ButcherBox and get to work honing your grill skills.

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Loe

Sunday 5th of September 2021

I am resting mine at 150 for 12 hours. After letting it cool to 180.

Joseph

Friday 3rd of September 2021

This must be some pretty outdated information to be recommending no more than 2 hour rest. Look at some of the master pit barbecuers that rest their briskets for 12 to 16 hours at 140° - 170° in an oven. My oven goes down to 170° and the best briskets I've made are usually rested at least 6 hours. Very noticeable difference.

Andy

Friday 5th of March 2021

There is nothing to worry about letting it rest for more then two hours.. every time I have ever done a brisket I leave it wrapped fill a cooler full of towels and let it be last one sat In the cooler for 5 hrs after pulling at 205 and was still 180 when took it out to slice