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What if my brisket gets done too early? (Explained)

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Smoking meats is a time-consuming process that requires strategic patience. A brisket might take up to 20 hours to thoroughly smoke, depending on the size of the cut!

That being said, if your brisket cooks faster than expected, you may have a lot of time to kill until it’s ready to serve.

So, what are your options?

This article that follows outlines all of your alternatives for a brisket that finishes early, as well as what causes it to finish early in the first place.

What To do If Your Brisket Finishes Early

You may always rest it for a longer amount of time! Brisket, like most other meats, should always be rested for at least 30 minutes after cooking.

Resting is absolutely necessary. It allows the rendered tissues to re-firm and redistribute themselves into the meat, resulting in a beautiful texture and rich flavor.

However, at room temperature, the brisket may only be rested for 2 hours. Following that, potentially hazardous bacteria begin to accumulate on the meats surface.

If you need to store it for more than 2 hours, you’ll need to take extra precautions to keep it warm, juicy, and above the “danger zone,” which we’ll go over later.

You can also refrigerate the brisket and reheat it later. Brisket can be stored in the refrigerator and kept fresh for up to 3 to 5 days.

If you prefer to refrigerate, ensure sure it is properly sealed. Wrap it firmly, removing as much air as possible from its container or wrap to avoid oxidation.

For optimal results, place it on the lowest shelf as far back as possible.

What Causes Brisket to Cook Too Quickly?

Too Much Heat

The most common and seemingly obvious explanation for this is that the smoker is creating too much heat.

Brisket is typically smoked at temperatures ranging from 225 to 250 degrees(F). At these temperatures, it will take between 1 ½ to 2 hours per pound to fully cook.

However, increasing the temperature to between 275 and 300 degrees(F) greatly reduces the cooking time. 300 will cook a brisket at a staggering pace of about 30-45 minutes per pound of meat.

Even if you have your smoker set to the proper temperature, environmental factors might impact the heat of the smoker.

Particularly hot weather, for example, can raise the smoker’s overall temperature. To mitigate this, reduce the smoke heat to compensate for the increased temperature.

Smoking Over Trimmed Brisket

A brisket with a low-fat percentage will cook significantly faster.

Brisket takes so long to cook because the fatty tissues must be completely broken down and rendered into the meat. So, if too much of the fat cap has been removed, it will take considerably less time to fully smoke.

What Happens If Brisket Smokes Too Quickly

Low and slow temperatures are essential when smoking meats. It takes time to properly dissolve all of its tissues.

Some folks will smoke brisket at high temperatures, up to 300 degrees(F), in order to prevent temperature stalls and smoke the brisket faster.

While this can sometimes work, the odds of overcooking the brisket and drying it out increase dramatically increasing the heat to higher temp.

How To Keep Brisket Warm and Juicy

Using A Slow Cooker

Slow cookers are fantastic for holding brisket and keeping it succulent.

Set it on the lowest setting and add the brisket, being sure to remove its wrap, if it had one. The fluids from the wrap can then be added to the cooker. You can also add the rendered drippings from the smoker.

The additional moisture will aid in keeping it hydrated and ready to serve.

The disadvantage of using a slow cooker is that it may degrade crackling skin or crispy bark. It tends to make the texture more “mushy,” but the brisket will still maintain excellent quality.

The Cooler Method

Coolers are perfect for keeping cooked brisket juicy and fresh! They are extremely insulative, making them ideal for heat retention.

A brisket can be kept in a cooler for up to 4 hours! It does, however, it does require some preparation. The prep can be completed prior to removing the brisket from the smoker.

  • Bring water to a boil and then pour it into the cooler. Wait for a few minutes before draining, drying, and lining the cooler with cloth towels for extra insulation.
  • After that, remove the brisket from the smoker and immediately wrap it in another cloth towel. If the brisket was not previously wrapped in foil, do so before covering it in a towel.
  • Pile extra towels or blankets on top of the brisket in the cooler. The idea is to remove as much open air as possible from inside the cooler.

Refilter boiling water through the cooler every 45 minutes for optimum results. This will keep the environment warm. Keep an eye on its internal temperature to ensure it does not go below 140 degrees (F).