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How long will brisket stay warm in cooler? (Explained)

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It’s essential to keep the meat fresh and juicy while it’s resting. A cooler isn’t necessary for brief resting, but if you need to keep it for an extended amount of time, it’s going to do the trick.

While it may be not as simple as tossing a brisket into a cooler and closing the lid, only a few simple steps are required for you to use coolers to effectively keep your brisket warm and above the danger zone.

Danger Zone Review

Before moving forward, it is necessary to review and recognize the danger zone.

The danger zone is the temperature range at which certain meats are considered dangerous to consume. Brisket falls into this zone at temperatures ranging from 40 to 140 degrees(F).

  • Raw brisket should not be exposed to temperatures of 40 degrees(F) or higher.
  • Brisket that has been fully cooked should not be allowed to cool below 140 degrees(F)

How Long Can Brisket Sit Out at Room Temperature

Brisket, like most other meats, should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Following that, the surface temperature of the meat begins to rise above 40 degrees(F), creating a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria.

Leaving the brisket in its wrap might occasionally help, but the safest way to keep it longer than 2 hours is to use an oven, cooler, or crockpot.

How Are Coolers Helpful?

For Resting 

Meat that has been smoked needs to rest for at least 45 to an hour, on average. This is normally done at room temperature because brisket may be left out for up to two hours 2 hours at room temperature.

But larger cuts of brisket may benefit for longer resting periods, which can sometimes go over that 2-hour limit. This is where the coolers come in…

You can hold brisket for up to 4 hours or more with the cooler method. 

Resting a brisket allows all of those beautifully rendered fatty and connective tissues to redistribute themselves throughout the meat. This is how brisket achieves its lusciously delicate texture and satisfyingly rich flavors.

Larger cuts of brisket, however, will have significantly more fat to render, which may necessitate a longer resting period to allow it to fully redistribute. 

For The Smoker on The Go

Coolers are an excellent tool for smokers on the go, whether tailgating in the parking lot or camping in the woods.

While it is typical to hold/rest brisket in an oven or warmer, this may not always be possible. Coolers are inexpensive, lightweight, and simple to pack away. 

Holding (Brisket Is Done Too Early)

No matter how much planning is done ahead of time, smoking meats is guaranteed to occasionally bring up a few surprises. One of them may be that it finishes too quickly. In a cooler, it will keep warm, moist, and remain ready for serving.

How Prep A Cooler to Hold Brisket

Begin by heating a large pot of water and pouring it into the cooler you wish to use. Allow 10 minutes for the water to settle before dumping it. Close the cooler lid immediately after rinsing it. 

If you plan on storing the meat in the cooler for more than an hour, line it with dry towels for increased insulation.

If you haven’t already covered the pork shoulder in tin foil, do it now. Then, quickly wrap it in a dry cloth towel and place it in the cooler, firmly sealing the lid. If you apply this correctly, you should buy yourself roughly 4 hours of added holding time. 

Use a meat thermometer after removing it from the cooler to check it is still at a safe temperature. 

Another strategy is to re-filter boiling water through the cooler every 45 minutes to an hour. This will keep the brisket warm and allow you to potentially keep it warm over 4 hours.

Final Thoughts

Coolers are an excellent method to store your freshly smoked brisket. It will not only keep it warm and juicy before serving, but it will also keep it safe and above the danger zone for extended periods of time.

While you could just use an oven, one may not always be available, thus this information should be added to your arsenal of smoking knowledge.

Happy smoking!