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What to do if your brisket is done early? (Explained)

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Brisket smoking can be a time-consuming operation. Brisket can take up to 20 hours to fully smoke depending on the size of the cut!

So, a problem you would not anticipate to experience is that your brisket cooks significantly faster than expected.

While this may not appear to be an issue. However, if you are still waiting for your dinner guests to arrive, you will need to know how to safely keep the brisket hot and juicy until it is time to serve.

The article that follows explains all of the ways to store your brisket and keep it fresh until serving time, as well as various reasons why your brisket finished early in the first place.

What To Do If Your Brisket Finishes Early

You can always give your brisket a longer resting period depending on how long you need to hold it for.

Brisket (and most other meats) should always be rested before cooking. Generally, you should give at least 30 to 45 minutes for resting.

Brisket should never be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Following that, it enters the “danger zone” and begins quickly producing potentially dangerous bacteria.

Special measures must be taken for rest durations longer than 2 hours, which we will explain later in the article.

Furthermore, you can always refrigerate your brisket and reheat it later.

Brisket can be securely stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days, depending on how it was packaged and how fresh it was before to refrigeration.

How To Keep Brisket Moist and Warm

The Cooler Method

The cooler method is perhaps the most popular and practical approach to keep brisket for longer periods of time without sacrificing its quality.

Using this strategy, you may safely keep your brisket fresh for up to 4 hours! Sometimes even longer than that.

This takes just minor preparation, which may be completed before removing the brisket from the smoker.

  • Bring the water to a boil before pouring it into the cooler. Wait a few moments before draining, drying, and lining the cooler with cotton towels for more insulation. 
  • After that, take the brisket off of the smoker and wrap it in another cotton towel. If the brisket hasn’t already been covered in foil, do so before wrapping it in a towel.
  • Extra towels or blankets should be piled on top of the brisket in the cooler. The goal is to remove as much open air from inside the cooler as feasible.

Repeat the basic steps every 45 minutes by filtering additional hot water through the cooler. The environment will be kept warm as a result of this.

Throughout the process, keep an eye on the internal temperature and make sure it does not fall below 140 degrees(F).

Using A Slow Cooker 

You can keep a brisket warm for hours by setting your slow cooker to the lowest setting.

You can pour sauces, stock, or even the rendered drippings from the smoker into the slow cooker with the brisket to help it keep hydrated.

However, utilizing this method may reduce the quality of the brisket slightly. It might occasionally cause the brisket to become mushy or damage a beautifully executed bark.

If you value high-quality bark or crackling skin, you should generally avoid using this approach.

Why Would Brisket Finish Early?

Not Enough Fat

Briskets take so long to smoke because all of its fatty and connective tissues need adequate time to fully break down and emulsify into the meat. It’s what makes it so rich in flavor, and succulent in texture. 

Too much fat on a brisket result in longer cooking times and, in certain situations, a temporary drop in internal temperature.

This is why brisket is normally trimmed of at least half of its fat cap.

However, if too much fat is removed, there are fewer tissues to breakdown, which can cause a brisket to smoke much too quickly. 

Too Much Heat

This may sound apparent, but you’d be surprised at how many easy mistakes people can make.

Typically, the ambient smoke heat should be set between 225 and 250 degrees(F). This will take from 1½ to 2 hours per pound of meat to cook.

This implies a 10-pound brisket might take up to 20 hours to cook!

However, higher heat might drastically shorten this time. For example, at temperatures ranging from 275 to 300 degrees(F), your brisket can cook in as little as 30 to 45 minutes per pound of meat.

That same 10-pound brisket would take only roughly 5 hours to fully cook.

Final Thoughts

Brisket smoking can be an unpredictable endeavor at times. Fortunately, the pros have seen it all and are eager to share their knowledge with the rest of the smoking community.

While a brisket finishing early isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be inconvenient. Fortunately, you have a variety of alternatives for not just safely storing your brisket but also keeping it fresh and juicy until dinner.

Happy smoking!