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How long to thaw a whole brisket? (Explained)

It’s time to fire up the grill because it’s BBQ season! 

This also means it’s time to defrost that brisket you bought during the winter and have been eagerly waiting to serve to family and friends.

Or maybe you come across a full brisket on sale for a price you can’t pass up but aren’t quite ready to smoke it right now. There’s nothing wrong with stocking up, but you’ll need to know how to properly defrost the brisket.

Although thawing a brisket is not a difficult task, it does necessitate understanding of proper food handling methods and procedures.

This article discusses how long it takes to defrost frozen briskets and how to do so properly.

How Quickly Does Brisket Thaw?

This is mostly determined by how you choose to defrost it.

It is strongly advised to defrost the brisket in the refrigerator whenever possible. Brisket will defrost in the fridge in around 24 hours for every 5 pounds of meat.

That means a 10-pound brisket will require roughly 48 hours to fully thaw.

This means that larger briskets, weighing up to 15 pounds, could take up to 3-5 days to fully thaw. As a result, larger briskets are often portioned into smaller cuts to reduce defrosting time.

If time is of the essence, however, the cold-water approach can be utilized to greatly minimize the time required for defrosting.

Using a cold-water bath cuts the time down to around 30 minutes per pound of beef. This means that the same 10-pound brisket would defrost in about 5 hours!

Both of these defrosting methods will be further elaborated later in the article. 

How To Defrost Brisket

Defrosting In the Refrigerator

This is the most safe and recommended method for thawing a brisket. The reason for this is that it ensures that the meat never enters the “danger zone.”

  • The danger zone is the temperature range at which meat is no longer deemed safe to consume. This temperature range is between 40 and 140 degrees(F). Once cooked or raw meat enters these temperatures, bacteria that could harbour foodborne illnesses begin to multiply exponentially.

As a result, ensure that the temperature inside the refrigerator is adjusted to less than 40 degrees(F).

After removing the brisket from the freezer, line a big bowl or baking dish with paper towels and place the brisket inside. Any container can be used as long as it fits the brisket and has raised edges to catch any moisture leaked during the thawing process.

Cover the top of the bowl or dish with either saran wrap or aluminium foil and set it in the refrigerator as far back as possible on the lowest shelf. If some of the juices leak from the container, this will help to avoid any potential cross contamination.

Every couple of hours, check on the brisket. When it has thawed, inspect it for frost damage or ice crystals. You can also use a skewer to probe the densest section of the brisket to ensure that the centre has completely thawed.

Cold-Water Bath

While utilizing cold water is a safe and effective defrosting approach, it should be reserved for the worst-case scenario.

To begin, place the brisket in an airtight container or wrapping. Cross-contamination may occur if brisket juices spill. Furthermore, if water seeps into the packing, the meat will get soggy.

Fill a big bowl or container with cold water and submerge the brisket (still in its airtight wrapping) in it. Check that the container is deep enough to entirely submerge the brisket.

Allow it to thaw for 30 minutes before emptying and refilling the bowl with fresh cold water. The idea is to always keep the water temperature below 40 degrees(F).

This method will thaw your brisket in 30 minutes per pound of meat. As a result, a 14-pound brisket will only take around 7 hours to thaw this way.

You must keep the bowl refreshed with cold water. If you neglect and allow the water to warm above 40 degrees(F), your brisket may no longer be safe to eat.

Keep in mind: you should never thaw any type of meat in warm or hot water. It will quickly turn the brisket into a bacterial breeding ground.

Can Microwaves Be Used to Thaw Brisket?

Yes, technically, you can use a microwave. It is, however, not advised and should only be used as a last option.

Microwaves can cause meat to thaw unevenly, causing one area to enter the danger zone while other sections remain partially frozen.

Any meat that has been thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately and cannot be refrozen unless it has been cooked first.

Final Thoughts

Although thawing a brisket is not a difficult task, some requirements must be followed to ensure that the beef remains within acceptable levels for food safety.

While defrosting in the refrigerator is the safest method, it can be time-consuming. Water baths are quite beneficial, but they must be closely monitored.

Remember that you should never use hot or warm water for this.