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How long can I leave my brisket in the cooler? (Explained)

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Understanding Brisket Resting Times in a Cooler

If you’re curious about the ideal time to rest your brisket in a cooler, you’ve come to the right place. Pitmasters typically rest their brisket in a cooler anywhere between 3 to 12 hours, depending on their goals and serving schedule.

A brisket with an internal temperature of around 200°F should rest in a cooler for at least 3 hours in most scenarios. Let’s explore why resting a brisket in a cooler is essential and what it does to the meat.

Before we get started, you may be wondering who I am? I’m Robert McCall (BBQ Dropout), and bring over a decade of first-hand experience in cooking all kinds of meats, from juicy cuts of steak to authentic, slow-smoked barbecue. I pride myself on my extensive knowledge of virtually every grill and smoker on the market, enabling me to create mouth-watering dishes that leave my family and friends speechless. 

My passion for barbecue extends to my online presence, where I own and operate a YouTube channel with over 135 subscribers. I am dedicated to sharing my expertise, ensuring that my content is always authoritative and trustworthy, so that fellow barbecue enthusiasts can elevate their grilling game. Feel free to also follow my BBQ journey on Pinterest and instagram as well!

The Benefits of Resting Brisket in a Cooler

When brisket is left in a cooler for 3 to 12 hours, its internal temperature gradually decreases to approximately 165°F. During this time, the meat’s juices and moisture are reabsorbed, resulting in a juicy, tender brisket.

Resting the brisket at this temperature range ensures that the moisture won’t evaporate when the meat is sliced. This step is crucial, as many people lack the patience to rest their brisket properly, leading to a dry result.

Why Rest Your Brisket in a Cooler?

As mentioned earlier, resting the brisket allows the internal temperature to stabilize and the juices to be reabsorbed into the meat. These factors are critical to achieving a moist and flavorful brisket.

Regardless of whether you cook your brisket hot and fast or low and slow, it’s essential to rest it for an extended period. The resting process should begin as soon as the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 200°F and is removed from the smoker.

How Long is Too Long for Resting Brisket?

Resting a brisket for over 12 hours is generally not recommended. Beyond this point, the internal temperature may drop significantly, causing the meat to lose its warmth and appeal.

If you need to rest your brisket for an extended time, it’s better to rewrap it and place it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to reheat and serve.

How Long Should You Rest Brisket Before Refrigerating?

If you plan to refrigerate your brisket after resting, let it rest for about 3 hours before transferring it to the fridge. The ideal resting time will depend on your specific needs and preferences.

Maintaining Brisket Warmth in a Cooler

Brisket can maintain its warmth in a cooler for 3 to 12 hours, depending on how well it’s wrapped and insulated. Anything beyond 12 hours may risk compromising the meat’s quality.

In Conclusion

Always ensure you rest your brisket after smoking. Once the brisket reaches an internal temperature of around 200°F, remove it from the smoker and place it in a warming oven or cooler for at least 3 hours.

Depending on your specific needs, you can extend the resting time up to 12 hours. However, if you need to rest your brisket for longer than 12 hours, consider refrigerating it to preserve its quality.