Every good pitmaster knows that you should rest meat for a while after taking it off the heat. But how long is “a while?” And can you rest brisket too long? Let’s explore what happens after the prescribed resting period is up.
Can Brisket Rest Too Long?
When resting brisket, aim for a window of 1 to 4 hours. You might be able to get away with shorter resting times if the cut is small, but 1 hour is preferable. After 4 hours, the meat will start to cool down, even if it’s stored in a faux Cambro. You can hold it in the oven for up to 8 hours, but if you do so any longer, the meat might overcook.
The Importance of Resting
When you rest a piece of meat after cooking, you allow it to sit at room temperature for a set period of time. Smaller cuts like steak or pork chops only need to rest for a few minutes, but brisket should rest for much longer.
What’s the point of the resting period? For one thing, it allows the meat’s natural juices to redistribute throughout. During the smoke, moisture is drawn to the surface of the meat. As it rests, this moisture is reabsorbed into the meat’s fibers.
Put simply, if you were to cut into the brisket as soon as it came off the smoker, all those juices would spill out onto the cutting board. In addition to making a mess for you to clean up, this would result in tough, dry brisket.
The resting period will also promote tenderness. You’ll find that the brisket is easier to carve afterward—and it will be more appealing to diners as well.
There’s a third unsung benefit to the resting period: It allows the flavors of the rub to fully develop. If you’ve applied a sauce to the meat for the final stage of the smoke, it will meld with the rub during this step, giving the brisket a richer and more complex flavor.
So, How Long Should Brisket Rest?
The length of the resting process should depend in part on how large the cut of meat is.
A whole beef brisket weighs about 10 to 15 pounds on average. That said, it’s possible to find the cut in smaller or larger portions. The overall size depends on how large the steer was at the time of butchering.
When the brisket is divided into its two subprimals, it’s naturally smaller and easier to handle. Each subprimal, the point and the flat, weighs 4 to 9 pounds each, although the flat is typically larger.
For briskets weighing less than 10 pounds, aim for a resting period of about half an hour. That should be sufficient when the cuts are this small. It won’t do any harm to rest them a bit longer, but 30 minutes should do nicely.
Briskets weighing in at 10 to 15 pounds should rest for at least 45 minutes. If you’re more comfortable rounding up to an hour, feel free to do so.
Once you head into the 15- to 20-pound range, it’s best to wait an hour before carving and serving the brisket. After all, these cuts require an extended cooking time—it will take time for those juices to settle back into the muscle fibers.
Extra-large briskets—weighing in at 20 pounds or more—should rest for at least 90 minutes. Be aware that we would recommend dividing cuts this large before adding them to the smoker, because they’re easier to handle that way—and will take less time to cook.
Should You Cover The Brisket As It Rests?
It’s not necessary to cover a brisket during the resting process. The bark will remain crunchy if you allow the meat to rest uncovered. What’s more, it will be ready to slice and serve that much sooner, since the circulating air will cool it more quickly.
On the other hand, briskets that rest beneath a foil cover—or using the faux Cambro method, which we’ll talk more about in a moment—will be juicier. In the end, it comes down to personal preference.
Is There Such Thing As Resting a Brisket for Too Long?
Yes, it is possible for brisket to rest for too long. After a while, the meat will start to cool down, which will affect the texture when it’s time to serve it.
You can offset this issue by resting the meat in a faux Cambro or low oven, but this can be problematic in its own way. You don’t want the meat to continue cooking once you’ve taken it off the smoker. Overcooked brisket is unpleasantly dry and difficult to chew.
We would suggest that you allow brisket to rest for no longer than 4 hours. If you’re smoking the point or the flat alone, try to aim for a maximum resting time of 3 hours.
How To Rest Brisket In Foil
Tenting the cooked brisket with foil will help it retain more moisture. We don’t recommend wrapping it tightly when resting it at room temperature, however, or you could end up softening the bark.
When the brisket has cooked to 195 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the smoker and set it on a large cutting board. Tent the meat with a sheet of aluminum foil—you might need two sheets for larger briskets—and let rest for the prescribed amount of time.
The Faux Cambro Technique
When you still have 3 to 4 hours to go before serving time, a faux Cambro is the best way to hold the brisket.
To make a faux Cambro, fill a large cooler with hot water and close the lid. After 30 minutes, empty the cooler and line it with clean towels. This will create an environment that’s warm enough to hold the brisket without overcooking it.
After pulling the meat from the smoker and wrapping it in a double layer of foil, set it in the prepared cooler and close the lid. It should maintain the correct serving temperature for up to 4 hours.
Can You Rest Brisket In The Oven?
Although we wouldn’t necessarily consider it “resting,” you can safely hold brisket in a low oven for up to 8 hours. This is a great option when the brisket is finished cooking much sooner than you’d expected.
To begin, set your oven to its lowest temperature. Most of the time, this will be 160 or 170 degrees, but some units can be set to 150 degrees.
It’s not a good idea to try this method if your oven doesn’t have a setting lower than 180 degrees. Attempting to hold the brisket at higher temps will result in overcooking.
There’s no need to wait for the oven to reach the set temp before you put the brisket inside, but it shouldn’t take too long to hit its goal. For best results, place an internal temperature probe in the brisket to ensure that it holds at 150-160 degrees.
When kept in this way, you should be able to hold the brisket for 8 hours. Should you need to hold it any longer, it might be a better idea just to let it cool and reheat it when it’s time to serve.
The Bottom Line
Depending on which method you use, resting brisket too long can either result in cold meat or brisket that’s dry and overcooked. It’s up to you to determine the best method for holding the brisket until you’re ready to carve it.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!