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How long will brisket stay hot in a cooler? (Explained)

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We know what you’re thinking: Why would you keep meat warm in a cooler? Doesn’t it sound strange? In fact, this is an excellent strategy for storing and resting meat for extended periods of time.

The majority of meats, including pork, beef, and chicken, should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. A cooler can come in handy in this situation.

Coolers, when properly prepared, can retain smoked brisket for 4 to 6 hours, keeping it fresh, juicy, and safe.

In this article, we’ll go over how to properly store smoked brisket in a cooler, as well as a few additional storage tactics and strategies.

Why Would You Keep Smoked Brisket in A cooler?

Holding The Brisket (Done too Early)

Brisket can be unpredictable when smoking, no matter how much preparation is done ahead of time. Whether it stalls for an extended period of time or finishes considerably faster than expected.

When this happens, you’ll need to know how to preserve the brisket fresh, juicy, and ready to serve to any hungry guests (or just yourself).

You could always refrigerate it, but it would reduce the meat’s “freshness” and demand re-heating. However, you can avoid all of that by keeping it warm in a cooler.


Most meats, whether braised, grilled, or smoked, require “resting” time after cooking. This is especially crucial for meats strong in fatty and connective fibers, such as brisket or pork shoulder. 

All of those fatty structures disintegrate and render into the meat while the brisket smokes. It’s what gives smoked brisket its luscious texture and substantial rich flavors.

After the meat has been properly smoked, the rendered juices must be redistributed back into the meat, which occurs while the meat rests away from the heat source.

Brisket should typically sit for 30 to 45 minutes before cooking. However, the greater the brisket, the longer it may need to rest.

Some smokers will leave their brisket to rest for up to 6 hours! Which, at that time, necessitates the use of either a holding oven or a cooler.

Note: using a cooler to rest meat is ideal for the on-the-go smoker who does not have access to an oven. For example, whether you’re camping or grilling delicious food at a tailgate party, a cooler will keep your brisket fresh, juicy, and, most importantly, safe to eat.

How To Hold Smoked Brisket in A Cooler

Unfortunately, cooler holding is more complex than simply putting a brisket in a cooler and letting it to rest. The temperature within the cooler must be kept above 140 degrees(F).

To accomplish this, you must first generate a warm atmosphere inside the cooler, which involves some minor preparation. Fortunately, this can be done prior to removing the brisket from the smoker.

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it into the cooler a few minutes before removing the brisket.
  • Drain and dry it thoroughly before lining the cooler with dry cloth towels. Close the lid quickly to keep the heat in.
  • Remove the brisket from the smoker and immediately wrap it in another dry cloth towel. (If you haven’t previously done so, wrap the brisket in tin foil or butcher paper before wrapping it in a towel.)
  • Every 30 minutes, pour and dry additional hot water through the cooler to keep the inside temperature stable and heated for as long as feasible.

Keep a close eye on the brisket’s temperature to avoid it falling into the danger zone. 

If you have remote probes (temperature probes that stay in the brisket and send temperature readings to a wireless device), you can leave them in to keep an eye on the brisket and ensure that it stays far above 140 degrees(F).

Reviewing The Danger Zone

Because we’re talking about securely preserving brisket for more than 2 hours, it’s a good idea to wrap up this article with a review of the danger zone.

The danger zone is a range of temperatures in which raw or cooked brisket should be deemed hazardous to eat and should be discarded.

Throwing out a whole brisket can be unpleasant, so pay attention to the danger zone. This temperature range is 40 to 140 degrees(F).

Raw brisket should never be allowed to get above 40 degrees at room temperature, while cooked brisket should never be left to cool down to 140 degrees at room temperature. 

Once in the danger zone, the rate at which bacteria and other microbes multiply doubles, potentially causing illnesses in those who ingest it.