Brisket is one of the most popular cuts of meat for barbecue. When cooking brisket low and slow, resting it after cooking is a crucial step to ensure it turns out juicy and tender. So at what temperature should you rest your smoked brisket? Here is a detailed look at brisket resting temperatures and times.
Why Do You Need to Rest Brisket After Cooking?
Resting brisket after cooking serves a few important purposes:
- It allows the meat to reabsorb some of the juices that were forced out during the cooking process. This helps keep the brisket nice and moist.
- It gives the meat time to finish cooking. The inner muscle fibers will continue gently heating and breaking down collagen while wrapped in foil or a towel, helping make the brisket even more tender.
- It evens out the internal temperature. The outer layers of the brisket cool down slightly while the very center has a chance to cook through.
Skipping the resting stage means you’ll likely end up with a drier, tougher slice of brisket. So resting is a required step after smoking or baking a brisket.
How Long Should You Rest Brisket?
Most experts recommend resting brisket for 30 minutes up to about 2 hours after cooking before slicing into it. The larger the piece of meat, the longer the rest time you’ll need. Here are some general brisket rest time guidelines:
- 5-8 lb brisket: Rest for 30-45 minutes
- 10-15 lb brisket: Rest for 1-2 hours
- Over 15 lbs: Rest at least 2 hours
You want the meat to cool down enough so it firms up and can be sliced properly. But not so long that it cools too much and you lose that delicious warmth. Shooting for a rest time of about 1 hour is a good target for most briskets.
What Temperature Should You Rest Brisket At?
To keep the brisket piping hot and allow it to continue cooking gently, you want to rest it at as close to its cooking temperature as possible. Here are the ideal brisket rest temperatures based on the doneness level:
- Rare brisket (125-135°F): Rest at 115°F
- Medium brisket (135-145°F): Rest at 125°F
- Well done brisket (165°F+): Rest at 145°F
So for a typical medium-well smoked brisket pulled at about 203°F, aim to keep it wrapped and resting at a temperature of around 125-140°F. This allows the brisket to gently coast down from its peak cooking temp.
How To Keep Brisket Hot While Resting
Maintaining the ideal resting temperature can take a little work. Here are some effective ways to keep your brisket piping hot as it rests:
- Double wrap in foil, then place in a dry cooler, Cambro container, or insulated bag. The foil and insulation will trap heat.
- Wrap in a towel and place inside a small insulated cooler.
- Keep wrapped and place brisket in a 200°F oven.
- Use a foil pan and cardboard to make a closed “hot box.
- Wrap in foil then towels and place in a warm ice chest.
You don’t want to continue actively cooking the brisket during the rest time. The goal is just to maintain its optimal serving temperature as it relaxes. An insulated cooler, foil, and towels are your best tools for this.
Should You Rest Brisket Fat Side Up or Down?
Whether to rest fatty brisket with the fat cap facing up or down is debated. Here are the pros and cons of each method:
Fat Side Up
- Allows fat to continue basting the meat.
- Prevents the bottom from drying out.
- May lead to a softer fat cap.
Fat Side Down
- Allows fat to firm up a bit.
- Keeps top surface from losing moisture.
- Can lead to a pool of grease under meat.
There’s no perfect answer here. Going fat side down may be best if you want to firm up the fat cap. But fat side up will continue basting the brisket. As long as you maintain the right temperature, either way will work.
Should You Add Liquid When Resting Brisket?
Resting brisket in its own juices is ideal. But some pitmasters also add extra liquid before tightly wrapping for the rest period. The benefits of adding moisture include:
- Keeps the meat very moist and juicy.
- Adds back some moisture that was lost.
- Can impart extra flavor.
If you want to include a liquid, options include:
- Beef broth or stock
- Finishing sauce
- Beer or cola
- Fruit juice
About 1/2 – 1 cup of liquid in the wrap can work well. But brisket alone often has enough moisture. Adding liquid is optional.
Common Brisket Resting Mistakes
To get the most out of brisket resting time, avoid these pitfalls:
- Resting at the wrong temperature. You want it as close to the cooking temp as possible.
- Resting for too short or too long. Shoot for 30-120 minutes depending on size.
- Letting it cool off because the rest wrapping opened up.
- Not letting the carryover cooking finish before slicing.
- Cutting with the grain instead of against it when slicing.
Be patient, maintain an ideal hot rest, and slice properly for best results.
Resting Tips for Brisket Burnt Ends
Smoked brisket burnt ends are cooked a bit differently than full briskets. Follow these tips when resting burnt ends:
- No need to rest as long – 10-20 minutes is ideal.
- Rest at a slightly lower temp of about 115°F.
- Mix gently rather than letting sit.
- Add extra sauce/glaze when mixing.
The smaller pieces of point brisket don’t need as much rest time. But a short rest while sauced will take them to the next level.
How to Tell if Brisket is Done Resting
Checking a few signs will let you know your brisket is ready to carve and serve after its rest time:
- Temperature falls to about 145-160°F throughout.
- The meat has firmed up slightly and isn’t too jiggly.
- Juices run mostly clear when pierced in a few spots.
- A toothpick or probe slides through quite smoothly.
If the meat still seems very loose and jiggly or the juices are very red, it likely needs more resting time. But if it passes these tests, it’s go time for slicing!
Resting brisket properly after smoking is one of the most important steps for finger-burning hot, tender, juicy slices. Target a rest of about 1 hour at 125-145°F wrapped in foil and towels. This lets the meat relax while staying as close to the cooking temperature as possible. Rest burned ends less. And avoid common pitfalls like cutting too soon. Follow these guidelines for phenomenal brisket every time.