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What’s the best way to let a brisket rest?

Properly resting a brisket after cooking is one of the most important steps to ensure moist, tender meat. There are a few key things to keep in mind when letting your brisket rest before slicing and serving.

Why Should You Let Brisket Rest?

When you cook meat to high temperatures, the muscle fibers contract and squeeze out moisture. If you immediately start slicing into the brisket as soon as it comes off the grill or smoker, you end up losing a lot of those juices. Letting the brisket rest gives time for the proteins to relax and reabsorb some of that moisture.

Resting also allows the temperature to even out from the hotter exterior to the cooler center. This prevents overcooking and drying out the inner portions when you eventually slice and serve the brisket.

How Long Should You Let Brisket Rest?

The general recommendation is to let brisket rest for at least 1 hour after cooking before slicing into it. Some pitmasters even go as long as 4 hours for extra large cuts of meat! The longer rest allows more time for those proteins to reabsorb moisture.

For a typical full packer brisket in the 10-15 pound range, aim for about 1-2 hours of resting time. Smaller flat cuts may only need 45 minutes. The most important thing is keeping the brisket undisturbed during this rest period.

Should You Wrap Brisket While Resting?

Wrapping the brisket in butcher paper, aluminum foil, or even towels helps lock in heat and moisture during the resting period. It creates a warm, steamy environment that promotes the reabsorption of juices.

If you plan to wrap the brisket, do it as soon as it comes off the smoker or grill before the initial cooling sets in. Make sure the wrap is loose and does not press down on the meat which could squeeze out moisture.

Wrap Material Pros Cons
Butcher Paper Allows some breathing, prevents sogginess Less moisture retention than foil
Aluminum Foil Excellent moisture retention Can create soggy bark
Towels Low cost, absorbent Hard to get tight seal, may lint

Should You Put Brisket in a Cooler to Rest?

A cooler is a great way to let a brisket rest for a long period of time. The insulation helps regulate the temperature and keep the brisket warm for hours without overcooking.

Place the wrapped brisket in the empty cooler and wrap it with towels or additional blankets to maintain heat. Avoid putting anything directly on top of the meat. Close the lid to trap in the warmth.

One tip is to preheat the cooler by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for 15-20 minutes before emptying and adding the wrapped brisket. This helps ensure an ideal hot and steamy environment.

Should You Drain or Slice the Brisket While Hot?

It can be tempting to drain or slice into that piping hot brisket immediately after unwrapping. Avoid doing this! Piercing or cutting the meat too early interrupts the resting process and squeezes out moisture and juices.

The brisket does need to be still warm when sliced for service. But allow it to complete the full resting timeline until the temperature has dropped and proteins relaxed. Then unwrap, drain any excess fat or juices, and slice against the grain.

How Do You Keep Brisket Warm After Slicing?

If the brisket will not be served immediately after slicing, you’ll need to keep it warm without drying it out. Here are some good options:

  • Hold in a 170°F oven or warmer
  • Place in a slow cooker or instant pot on warm setting
  • Wrap slices in foil and keep in a dry cooler
  • Place drained slices in au jus or beef broth

Avoid just leaving sliced brisket sitting out on the counter. The surface will cool quickly while the inside remains hot, resulting in drying.

Can You Rest Brisket Too Long?

There comes a point where the brisket can rest for too long. After 4-6 hours, even a well wrapped brisket can start to cool down significantly. The meat will be fine safety-wise, but may end up colder than ideal for serving.

Rather than an overly long rest, just hold the brisket wrapped for 1-2 hours as planned. Then if needed, you can keep it warm after slicing using the methods above until ready to serve.

Should You Save Resting Juices for Serving?

As the brisket rests, juices will leak out and collect in the wrapping. These meat juices are full of flavor! If you plan to make au jus, gravy or a sauce, reserve these brisket drippings to use as a base.

Strain the juices through a fat separator to remove excess fat. The defatted drippings can then be simmered into a delicious brisket sauce.

Just remember when saving juices, be very sanitary. Refrigerate promptly and use within 3-4 days.

Tips for Using Resting Juices

  • Refrigerate promptly after rest period
  • Use within 3-4 days
  • Defat juices by straining through fat separator
  • Simmer to reduce and thicken into sauce or au jus
  • Whisk in additional seasonings, vinegar, Worcestershire, etc.

Troubleshooting Resting Brisket Problems

Even when you follow proper technique, there can sometimes be issues with the finished brisket after resting. Here are some common problems and causes:

Problem Potential Causes
Dry, tough meat
  • Did not rest long enough
  • Brisket cooled too much during rest
  • Wrapped too tightly
Mushy bark
  • Foil created steam and sogginess
  • Kept wrapped too long
Unevenly cooked
  • Too short of a rest period
  • Sliced before temperatures fully evened out

Make sure to allow at least an hour rest time, maintain heat in the wrap and cooler, and avoid premature slicing. This gives the brisket time to properly relax and reabsorb juices.

Key Takeaways for Letting Brisket Rest

Here are the key takeaways for ensuring perfect brisket every time by letting it rest properly after cooking:

  • Allow 1-2 hours rest time for a full packer brisket
  • Wrap in butcher paper or foil to retain moisture
  • Place wrapped brisket in a cooler or warmer to maintain heat
  • Do not slice or drain until fully rested
  • Slice across the grain when brisket is still warm
  • Save resting juices for au jus or sauce

With the proper resting, your brisket will come out moist and tender when you finally slice into it. Just be patient and let it relax undisturbed before digging in!

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I rest brisket fat side up or down?

It doesn’t make a major difference whether the brisket rests fat side up or down. The main keys are keeping the meat undisturbed in a warm, moist environment. Some recommend fat side up so rendered fat can more easily pool away from meat.

Can you over-rest brisket?

It is possible to over-rest brisket if left for too many hours. After 4-6 hours, the temperature can drop too low even in a well-insulated cooler. Stick with 1-2 hours rest for best results.

Should I put brisket back on smoker to rest?

avoid putting wrapped brisket back into a hot smoker just to rest. This can lead to overcooking. Instead, let it rest wrapped in a cooler or oven set at a lower holding temp of ~170°F.

Is brisket safe at room temp for 8 hours?

Food safety experts recommend against leaving brisket out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. To hold for longer periods after cooking, keep brisket wrapped and place in a cooler, oven, or slow cooker set to maintain

Can you rest brisket in a microwave?

It’s not recommended to rest brisket in a microwave, as they do not maintain a constant low temperature. Use a cooler, oven or insulated bag to allow the meat to relax evenly for 1-2 hours after cooking.


A proper resting period is essential for ensuring tender, juicy brisket. Allow at least 1 hour for the proteins to relax and reabsorb moisture. Keep the brisket wrapped in a warm environment and avoid premature slicing or draining. With a little patience, your brisket will come out perfectly cooked with mouthwatering flavors in every slice.