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How do you let brisket rest after smoking?

Properly resting your brisket after smoking is one of the most important steps to ensure moist, tender meat. Here’s a complete guide to resting brisket, when to rest it, for how long, and how to keep it as hot and moist as when it first came off the smoker.

Why Do You Need to Rest Brisket After Smoking?

When brisket is cooking at low temperatures over several hours, the collagen in the meat breaks down into gelatin which keeps the brisket moist and tender. But during the cooking process, the meat tightens and contracts. If you were to slice into the brisket immediately after taking it off the smoker, the juices would run out of the meat, leaving it dry.

Resting the brisket allows time for the proteins to relax and reabsorb the moisture and juices. As the meat rests, the temperature evens out from the outer edges to the center. This prevents a steep temperature gradient, where the edges are cooler than the center, which would lead to uneven cooking.

Benefits of Resting Brisket

  • Allows juices to redistribute evenly throughout the brisket
  • Prevents moisture loss so meat stays tender and juicy
  • Allows proteins to relax so meat slices cleanly without shredding
  • Helps even out cooking so meat is evenly heated

How Long Should You Rest Brisket After Smoking?

For optimal results, brisket should be rested for 1-2 hours after smoking before slicing or serving. The larger the piece of meat, the longer the rest time needed. A good rule of thumb is to rest brisket for 5-10 minutes per pound.

So for a 10 lb brisket, rest it for 1-2 hours. For a 15 lb brisket, rest it for 1.5-2.5 hours. You want the internal temperature to lower to around 150°F before slicing into it.

Recommended Brisket Rest Times

Brisket Weight Minimum Rest Time Ideal Rest Time
5 lbs 45 minutes 1 hour
10 lbs 1 hour 2 hours
15 lbs 1.5 hours 2.5 hours

How to Rest Brisket After Smoking

Here is a step-by-step process for properly resting brisket after smoking:

  1. Take brisket off smoker and wrap in butcher paper: As soon as brisket hits 203°F, take it off the smoker. Wrap it in butcher paper to help retain moisture and heat.
  2. Place in empty cooler and close lid: Put wrapped brisket in an empty cooler and close the lid. This insulates it so it rests slowly.
  3. Let rest for 1-2 hours: Leave brisket wrapped in the cooler for at least 1 hour, up to 2 hours for larger briskets. This gives the meat time to reabsorb juices.
  4. Check temperature after resting: Unwrap the brisket and check temperature in thickest part using a meat thermometer. It should read around 150°F before slicing.
  5. Slice against the grain: Using a sharp carving knife, carefully slice brisket across the grain in thin slices. Cut perpendicular to muscle fibers.
  6. Serve and enjoy! Brisket can be served immediately after slicing, or kept warm in the cooler wrapped in foil until ready to serve.

The key is having an insulated cooler that will keep the brisket as hot as possible during the resting period. Preheat cooler with hot water then empty out before adding wrapped brisket. Place probes in meat to monitor the temperature.

Resting Brisket in an Oven

If you don’t have a large cooler, an oven set to 175°F can work to rest brisket. Place wrapped brisket in oven and let rest for 1-2 hours until temperature drops to 150°F. Monitor temperature periodically. The oven will keep it warmer than a countertop.

Tips for Oven Resting Brisket

  • Make sure oven is preheated before putting brisket in
  • Use a meat thermometer to track temperature
  • Keep oven closed as much as possible
  • Wrap brisket in foil then a towel for insulation
  • Let brisket rest for full recommended time

How to Keep Brisket Warm After Slicing

Once brisket is rested and sliced, you’ll want to keep it warm until serving time. Here are some tips:

  • Place sliced brisket in a foil pan and cover pan tightly with foil.
  • Put foil pan back in oven set to lowest temp (170-200°F).
  • You can also keep brisket warm in a slow cooker set to Warm.
  • Serve sliced brisket within 1-2 hours for best texture and moisture.

Avoid These Mistakes

  • Don’t slice brisket immediately after taking off smoker.
  • Don’t let brisket rest on the counter uncovered.
  • Don’t tightly wrap brisket in foil – use butcher paper.
  • Don’t rest brisket for shorter than the recommended time.

How to Save Leftover Brisket

Brisket leftovers can last 4-5 days stored properly. Here are some storage tips:

  • Let brisket cool completely then store in airtight container.
  • Cover brisket in broth or au jus before refrigerating to keep moist.
  • Freeze leftover sliced brisket for 2-3 months.
  • Refrigerate leftover whole unsliced brisket for 5 days.
  • Reheat brisket slices in broth or au jus to prevent drying out.

Storage Times for Leftover Brisket

Type Fridge Freezer
Cooked whole brisket 5 days 6 months
Sliced brisket 3-4 days 2-3 months
Brisket broth/au jus 5 days 6 months

FAQs About Resting Brisket

Should brisket be rested fat side up or down?

Rest brisket fat side up to help protect the meat and prevent drying out. The fat cap will soak up some of the juices.

Can I rest brisket in a cooler without wrapping it?

It’s best to wrap brisket to retain moisture and heat during resting. Unwrapped brisket will cool faster and dry out in a cooler.

Should I wrap brisket in foil or butcher paper to rest?

Butcher paper is the best wrapping material as it allows steam to escape but keeps brisket moist. Foil traps moisture and may make the crust soggy.

Can brisket rest too long?

You generally don’t want to rest brisket much longer than 2 hours maximum. The meat may start to cool too much or dry out if left wrapped longer than needed.


Letting your brisket rest after smoking is a crucial step for tender, juicy meat. Allow 1-2 hours rest time based on size, wrapped in butcher paper in a preheated cooler. Monitor temperature until it drops to around 150°F before slicing. Serve immediately for the best texture and moisture.