There’s no doubt at all that smoking a brisket is a lot of fun. For starters, the whole process of rubbing, curing, trimming, and smoking the meat is almost meditative. And on top of that, after the whole process, you even get to eat the delicious meat afterwards!
But keep in mind, smoking your meat is only half the battle.
Many first-time smokers and beginners tend to overlook the “resting” part of the meat smoking process, which is a huge mistake.
As many experienced chefs will tell you, if you don’t rest the meat after cooking, you can ruin the entire dish.
So, to make sure your hard work doesn’t go to waste, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know about how long to let brisket rest before serving it.
Read on to learn more.
What Does “Resting” Your Meat Mean?
Resting simply refers to letting your meat sit for a while at room temperature after cooking. That’s all it means.
But while resting is simple, the processes that happen while your meat is resting aren’t. Remember, when you smoke a piece of meat, the juices constrict. So, after you cook the meat, you need to let the meat rest for a while to let the juices redistribute themselves inside.
Additionally, just because you took the meat out of the smoker, that doesn’t mean it isn’t cooking. Once you take the meat out of the smoker, resting it will allow the internal temperature to rise a couple more degrees, which makes the interior much more tender.
We’ll get into the fine details of what exactly happens while resting your meat later. But for now, just know that resting your brisket after smoking is integral to its quality.
Resting vs Holding
Before you finish the hours-long smoking process though, it’s important to understand the difference between holding and resting.
If you’ve smoked a brisket before or have hung around chefs, you might have heard of the faux Cambro technique. With this technique, you can keep the brisket warm for hours after smoking by wrapping it tightly in aluminum foil, setting it up in an aluminum pan, then placing it in a warm cooler.
This is very useful if you’re hosting a party and need to keep the brisket warm for longer without overcooking it. However, this is very different from resting your brisket.
Resting your brisket means leaving it out in moving air. If it isn’t exposed to moving air, it isn’t resting. So, if you used the faux Cambro technique for your brisket, keep in mind that you still have to rest it after wrapping it.
That way, you can ensure a tender and juicy brisket that all the guests will enjoy.
How Long Should I Rest My Brisket?
So, now that you know what resting a brisket means, it’s time to learn how long to let a brisket rest before slicing it and eating. If you’ve cooked steak and other meat before, you might be assuming that it will only take a few minutes to rest a brisket after smoking.
However, this isn’t the case.
While a 10-15 minute rest might be all right for a small piece of chicken breast, it’s far from enough for a whole brisket. If you’ve just smoked a brisket, most chefs and experts recommend letting it rest for at least an hour.
With that said, a one-hour rest is seen as the bare minimum for brisket and should only be applied if you plan to eat right away. If you have the time to wait longer, we highly recommend doing that.
Generally, a two-hour rest is considered to be the sweet spot for brisket. If that seems too long, don’t worry. Remember that brisket is a huge chunk of meat, so even if you leave it in the open air for more than an hour, it will still be warm when you dig in.
With that said, don’t let your brisket rest for any longer than two hours. After the two-hour mark, the meat will begin cooling much faster, which could greatly affect the eating experience.
If you really want to make sure that the brisket stays warm while resting, you can wrap it loosely in foil, which is completely optional. When doing this, we recommend wrapping it loosely. That way, the meat is still exposed to air but won’t lose that much heat.
Why Rest a Brisket After Smoking?
So, why do you need to rest a brisket?
Well, for starters, if you don’t rest the brisket properly, you risk wasting all those long hours spent smoking the meat. As we mentioned earlier, when you cook meat, the juices inside constrict. This is a completely natural part of the cooking process.
However, if you slice into the meat right after cooking it, the juices are still constricted and will simply flow out of the meat after slicing. This results in you losing a lot of the flavor in your meat. In fact, if you don’t rest your brisket after smoking and slice it right away, there’s a high chance the brisket will end up really dry.
Since brisket is known for its juicy flavor, this is definitely not something you’d want or need after smoking the brisket for 18 or more hours.
No one wants to smoke and cook a piece of meat for hours on end just for it to turn out tough, dry, and unpleasant to the tastebuds.
Additionally, resting the brisket allows the internal temperature to rise further. This is a process called carry-over cooking and it’s very common for a lot of different recipes. When resting, the internal temperature of the brisket rises 5-10 degrees.
This allows the meat inside to further tenderize, which gives you the signature taste and texture you would want from a smoked brisket. With that said, that also means you need to adjust a bit when cooking.
Since the temperature in the meat rises even after you take it off the heat, we recommend removing the brisket from the smoker when it hits 195 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal internal temperature for smoking brisket is around 202 degrees, so if you take it out of the smoker while it’s a bit cooler than that, the temperature inside will naturally rise up until it hits the sweet spot.
Do I Need To Rest A Brisket After Smoking?
It might seem like resting a brisket after smoking is optional, but it isn’t.
We understand how hard it can be to wait another hour or two after already smoking the brisket the whole day or night. But if you don’t rest your brisket after smoking, you might end up wasting all the time you spent waiting for the brisket to hit the ideal internal temperature.
A good brisket is tender and flavorful. To achieve this, you need to rest the brisket. So, whether it’s your first or tenth time smoking a brisket yourself, never underestimate the power of resting the meat after cooking.
How Does Meat Resting Work?
Now that you know what meat resting is and why it’s important if you’re smoking a brisket, you may be wondering the exact chemistry behind it.
Don’t worry, it isn’t as complicated as you might think, and we’re here to prove that.
When you buy a raw brisket, water accounts for over ⅓ of its weight. And when you cook the meat, all the muscle fibers contract, which causes the water to move to the surface and the center of the beef.
Without the water, the meat will be tough and dry, especially when heated to above 170 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than the ideal temperature for brisket. Additionally, since brisket is a relatively lean piece of meat, the tendency for it to dry out is even bigger.
So, when you rest the meat, all the juices and water will be redistributed around the meat, creating a more pleasing, tender, and even texture throughout the brisket.
Another key part of the resting process is collagen. There’s a lot of collagen in a brisket, which can dissolve when it cooks for a long time. So, if you allow the meat to rest and cool, the collagen can firm up again.
The collagen plays a big role in thickening up the juices of the meat. That way, the juice won’t all flow out of the meat when the brisket is sliced. The thicker the juices, the better your meat will taste, whcih is why resting your brisket is crucial.
With that said, you may also be wondering if you can skip the resting process and just re-baste the meat with the fallen juices after slicing. While this may sound like a good solution, it doesn’t exactly solve the problem.
When you slice a brisket, it isn’t just the juices that flow out, but water evaporates in the form of steam. While you can always re-soak the meat in the juices, the water that evaporates is gone forever, which can mean a dry and unsatisfactory brisket.
Tips for Making a Great Brisket
Now that you know why and how long to rest a brisket, we’ve listed a couple of other useufl tips you can use to make higher quality and tastier briskets for you, your friends, and the family!
Buy the Right Meat
First, you need to buy the right brisket for the job. Generally, you have two options of brisket cuts: the point and flat. If you want a stronger and beefier flavor, we recommend getting the point as it has a higher fat content.
But if you plan on slicing the brisket into thin slices, then the flat will serve you better.
With that said, if you want to serve a lot of people, we recommend just opting for the whole packer brisket. This is because it offers the best of both worlds and even if a whole brisket is too much, you can just save the slices for a meal at a nother time.
Keep the Smoker Closed
It can be tempting to regularly open and check on the brisket. However, we don’t recommend this. If you open the smoker frequently, you let out heat and energy. That means that the meat will take even longer to cook, which is far from ideal for just about anyone.
Along the lines of the last tip, it’s important to practice patience when smoking a brisket. Not only shoud you leave it alone when it’s smoking, you need to make sure to rest it for an ample amount of time. That way, all your hard work and effort pays off and you and the family can eat a tasty and juicy smoked brisket!
Brisket is a great meat to smoke. It offers a distinct flavor and has a lot of applications. However, it can take up to 20 hours for you to smoke a brisket until it’s cooked, and that depends on the smoking temperature you choose.
If you want to get the most out of your brisket, we recommend resting it for at least an hour after cooking. That way, the texture and flavor of the brisket remains consistent and all that hard work won’t go to waste!