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How To Smoke Brisket Ahead Of Time (And Why)

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How to smoke brisket ahead of time

If you find yourself having to smoke A Brisket ahead of time, all you will need to do is ensure you cook it to roughly 200°F internal, make sure the meat is probe tender all throughout, and let it rest for at least 5 to 6 hours.

Also consider whether or not you have to transport the brisket, or have it be refrigerated for a period of time before you actually plan to serve it.

Why you would want to smoke a brisket ahead of time

One of the reasons why you would want to smoke a brisket ahead of time is due to the fact that it could be very hard to estimate when a brisket may be ready to serve.

Each brisket tends to have a different cook time which is a result of differing weights, grade, cut of brisket, and overall marbling of the brisket.

Coupling all of that, a lot of the times when smoking a brisket for a large crowd of people, you want to ensure that there are no hiccups along the way. 

What I mean by that is you want to make sure that the brisket is ready when you need it to be.

That is not always the case when you are just smoking a brisket and not planning ahead appropriately.

When you don’t plan ahead, you run the risk of not having the brisket ready in time.

This has happened to me plenty of times and often results in lackluster results.

You get very impatient, and might even pull the brisket off the grate way too early causing an under cooked brisket.

That is something you do not want!

Planning ahead

To appropriately plan ahead when you are smoking a brisket, consider when you actually are anticipating you have to serve the meat.

This will help guide you along the journey in finding the optimal time to start prepping your brisket as well as actually smoking and resting it.

To get more specific regarding planning ahead and appropriately budgeting your time, take note of how much your brisket actually weighs.

The weight of the brisket is one of the most important aspects and determining the length of your cook.

The second most important aspect of cooking your brisket will be the temperature at which you cook it at.

Taking into account those two data points alone will increase the odds of you successfully cooking a brisket in time, if you are planning to serve at a large gathering.

A brisket is on average, 15 to 20 pounds for an entire packer style.

When you decide to smoke a brisket of that size, it is safe to assume that it will take around one hour per pound of cooked time.

That essentially means that a 15 to 20 pound brisket would take about 15 to 20 hours to fully cook through.

One of the most common misconceptions however, is that the cooking time is the only thing you need to pay attention to.

The cooking time of the brisket is really only half the battle.

What truly matters when cooking a brisket is not only the length of time it takes and when you pull it, but how long you let it rest.

You will generally want to let a brisket rest no shorter than 5 to 6 hours.

Especially when you were cooking a large 20 pound piece of meat, you do not want to cut into it too early, as you will run the risk of drying it out.

In summation, a 15 to 20 pound brisket will take anywhere from 20 to 24 hours to fully cook through and rest properly.

Just be aware though, that these are purely estimattions, and the most important thing you can have inside of your mind when cooking and resting a brisket is to only pull it off the smoker when it probes tender, and letting it rest and come down to an internal temperature around 165°F.

Gathering the right supplies

When you’re planning ahead to cook a brisket for a large gathering or social event, you are going to absolutely want to have the right supplies at hand and avoid any further time delays.

The types of supplies that the average pitmaster will need when cooking a brisket are as follows:

  • You will want to have a smoker of course
  • A brisket
  • Your preferred seasoning – my favorite is kosher salt and black pepper
  • Some type of wrapping mechanism such as foil or butcher paper
  • A fuel source such as charcoal and chunks of wood
  • A storage mechanism such as an ice chest or warming oven

These are all, for the most part, the most common cooking supplies that you will need when smoking a brisket ahead of time.

Preparing your brisket ahead of time

Preparing the brisket ahead of time will also include pulling it out of the refrigerator, and seasoning adequately.

You will always want to make sure that you season your meat well enough in advance to further reduce any time delays.

Seasoning well in advance

To season a brisket properly and when planning ahead, just make sure to have your shaker bottles at hand and begin liberally applying the seasoning to the meat.

Don’t be afraid of ever seizing a brisket as it is one of the hardest cuts of barbecue to actually over season.

In fact, most of the time I have seen people greatly under season their brisket.

Trimming the brisket

Trimming your brisket is entirely up to the individual.

I have not seen any significant impact on the amount of cook time between a trimmed brisket and an untrimmed brisket.

In my opinion, a trimmed brisket is more a matter of preference than anything else.

Therefore, don’t feel the need to plan why nothing advance to actually try and the brisket.

A lot of that fat will render off anyways.

Giving the brisket plenty of attention

Like any other type of barbecue, brisket requires a lot of attention.

That entails seasoning it properly, perhaps trimming it, actually placing it on the smoker, spritzing it with some kind of spray to keep it nice and moist, and also probing it to make sure it is tender throughout before finally resting it.

Brisket can be a finicky piece of meat to get right, but when you finally master it the after product is quite simply amazing.

How do you smoke a brisket the day before?

When you need to smoke a brisket the day before all you need to do is consider how much it weighs and how hot of temperature you plan to smoke at.

A general estimation is around 12 hours of cook time and another six hours of rest time for a total of 18 hours of cook and rest for the brisket itself.

Depending on when you actually need to serve the brisket, that can influence when you actually begin to smoke the brisket and place it on the smoker.

From that point on, once you place the brisket on the smoker and probe the brisket all around to make sure it goes in like butter, just let it rest for a long enough time and you are ready to serve.

That is all it takes.

How far in advance can I smoke brisket?

Like I have mentioned multiple times above, you will generally have to prep the brisket, cook it, and let it rest for a total amount of time that takes up around 24 hours.

How do you reheat a brisket without drying it out?

If you happen to plan too far in advance when smoking a brisket, you may have to actually reheat the piece of meat.  

When you happen to need to reheat the meat, try wrapping it tightly in foil and perhaps even pouring some kind of bone broth all over the meat to ensure that it will stay moist.

Set the ambient temperature of a warming oven or smoker and let it stay at around 225°F.

Keep the brisket in the warming chamber until the internal temperature reaches around 165°F.

That will ensure that the brisket is adequately reheated and will not at all dry it out.

Can you partially cook a brisket and finish later?

Sometimes if you are in a severe time crunch, you may have to pull the brisket off the smoker and promptly just put it directly into the refrigerator.

There is nothing wrong with that, but just be sure to place it back into a cooking chamber of some kind and let it reheat all the way up until 200° internal once you are ready to finish it off.

Letting it Rest over night

Since there is a lot of time that you will need to dedicate resting the brisket, it is common practice to actually let it rest overnight so you don’t have to sit all day wondering how good it will taste once you eat it.

To let a brisket rest overnight, go ahead and wrap it tightly in either a towel or put your paper/foil and place it in either a warming oven or an ice chest.

This will keep the brisket warm for several hours even overnight.