To some, smoked brisket is a main course. To others, it’s an art. Since we fall squarely into the latter category, we want to do everything we can to ensure that the results will be perfect. At what temperature should you slice brisket for serving? Let’s find out.
What Temp To Slice Brisket
Brisket should be sliced when the internal temperature drops to 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit. If you cut into it when the meat is still too hot, most of the cooking juices will leak out. However, once it dips below 140, it enters the “danger zone” and needs to be refrigerated.
Why It’s Important
The resting period is one of the most critical steps when it comes to smoked brisket. In fact, you should rest just about every type of meat after pulling it off the smoker, even hamburgers. Here’s why.
When meat cooks, its natural moisture is drawn toward the surface. A lot of it will evaporate into the surrounding air, which is why cooked meat weighs so much less than it did when it was raw.
Some of this moisture will remain behind, giving perfectly cooked meat its juicy texture. However, the meat’s fibers need time to reabsorb the fluid. Otherwise, it will flow out onto the carving station when you cut into the brisket.
What’s The Ideal Temperature For Smoked Brisket?
Ideally, you should pull brisket off the smoker when the internal temperature registers 195-200 on an instant-read thermometer. It’s fine if it’s a few degrees higher, but try not to let it go too far past 203.
As the brisket rests, the temperature will continue to rise for a bit until the meat has had a chance to adjust to the change. This is called “carry-over cooking,” and it should allow the brisket to cook to 210 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s crucial to pull the meat before the temperature hits this threshold. While the brisket’s fibers will break down and become mouthwateringly tender between 200 and 210 degrees, they will start to dry out if the meat is allowed to cook past that temp.
What Temp To Slice Brisket
Now that you know why it’s important to rest the brisket after cooking, let’s talk about when you should actually start slicing it.
Unlike some of the other stages in the smoking process, you have a fairly large window when it comes to carving. You should be able to slice the meat when the internal temperature registers between 150 and 170 degrees.
At above 170 degrees, you run the risk of draining some of the brisket’s natural juices. If the temperature drops below 150 degrees, though, the sliced brisket might be a shade too cool.
Remember: If meat is kept in the “danger zone” between 40 and 140 degrees for longer than two hours, it could become contaminated by hazardous bacteria. You’ll want to slice and serve the brisket before it can creep into this territory.
Should You Rest Brisket in a Cooler?
Holding a cooked brisket in a cooler is known as the “faux Cambro” technique. This is a good method to follow if you have more than 2 hours to go before your planned serving time.
A Cambro is a container that’s used to keep food at its optimal temperature until it’s ready to be served. At home, you can create your own faux Cambro with hot water, a large cooler, and clean towels.
Make sure you have a cooler that’s large enough to hold the whole brisket before you begin. When the brisket is nearing the 195-degree marker, fill the cooler with about 3 gallons of hot water and close the lid.
After 30 minutes, drain the water and line the empty cooler with clean towels. As soon as the brisket is off the smoker, wrap it tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil, then add it to the prepared cooler. Close the lid until about 30 minutes before serving time.
When you use a faux Cambro, the brisket should stay nice and hot for up to 4 hours. After taking it out of the cooler, unwrap the meat and tent it loosely with the foil for at least 30 minutes. Then carve and serve the brisket as you normally would.
About Resting Brisket on the Counter
If you’ve timed the barbecue well enough, you might not need to enlist the faux Cambro at all. When the brisket is ready within 2 hours of serving time, you can rest it on the counter at room temperature instead.
Brisket can be held at room temperature for up to 2 hours before it needs to be refrigerated. As the meat rests, more fluid will be reabsorbed into the fibers, so longer resting periods translate into juicier brisket.
During the resting period, tent the brisket loosely with foil, but don’t wrap it too tightly. The meat should be exposed to moving air as it rests, which is why we suggest removing it from the faux Cambro at least 30 minutes before you carve it.
Can You Slice Leftover Brisket?
If you’re not serving the meat right away, feel free to wait and carve it after you’ve refrigerated the leftovers. The brisket will retain its moisture better if it’s left whole. This is why we suggest carving only as much meat as you’ll need right away.
While we’re on the subject of carving leftovers, we should point out that it’s better to reheat the brisket while it’s still intact. If you attempt to reheat the slices separately, they may turn out too dry.
How To Revitalize Leftover Sliced Brisket
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you wind up with leftover sliced brisket anyway. That’s fine—there are ways to perk up the slices even if they’ve dried out a bit during their time in storage.
When carving brisket, try to salvage as much of the cooking liquid as possible. Slicing the meat on a concave cutting board will help immensely. If you don’t have one, set your cutting board on a larger tray, so you can catch the juices when they spill over.
Set aside these juices and refrigerate them separately. When it’s time to reheat the sliced brisket, add the cooking juices to the pan so that the meat steams a little in the broth. This will prevent them from gaining that unpleasant sawdust-like texture.
How To Reheat Brisket For Slicing
If you’ve left most of the brisket intact, you should wrap the leftovers in aluminum foil before storing the meat in the fridge. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and keep the brisket on the lower shelf.
Give yourself an hour or two between the time you preheat the oven and the time you plan to serve the brisket. You want to reheat the meat slowly so that it doesn’t dry out.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. When it’s come to the correct temp, add the wrapped brisket. Heat until the meat achieves an internal temperature of 145-150 degrees.
When the brisket is warm enough, carve it into thin slices and serve. Since the meat will have lost some moisture during its time in the fridge, it might be a good idea to serve it with barbecue sauce, preferably on a toasted roll.
What you need to keep in mind when deciding what temp to slice brisket is that the meat will lose its juices if you slice too soon. Once it’s dropped below the 170-degree threshold, you should be able to carve into it without excess moisture loss.