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

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Brisket can take a long time to smoke, sometimes up to 20 hours! So, it finishing early is a concern you wouldn’t think of.

The truth is that there are numerous circumstances that can cause it to finish considerably sooner than expected.

This may not seem like a big deal, but if it finishes far before your dinner guests are set to arrive, you’ll have to figure out how to preserve it not just fresh, but also safe to consume.

This article will discuss the best methods for holding your brisket!

How Long Does Brisket Take to Cook?

A brisket would typically take 1 ½ to 2 hours per pound of meat to thoroughly cook in a smoker at 225 degrees(F). 

However, this is never an exact duration because numerous factors such as size and fat content can either lengthen or shorten this time.

How Long Will Brisket Stay Warm?

Danger Zone Review

Before continuing, it is important to know the danger zone.

This term refers to a temperature range at which certain meats are no longer considered safe to consume. These temperatures for brisket (and most meats) range between 40 and 140 degrees (F).

  • Never allow raw brisket to reach temperatures of 40 degrees(F) or higher.
  • Fully cooked brisket should not be able to cool to 140(F) or below.

How Long Can Brisket Sit at Room Temperature? 

Brisket, or any other cooked meat, can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours. After that, it must be refrigerated or consumed. 

After 2 hours, the surface of the meat becomes a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria.

Keep in mind: If a brisket is left out for more than 2 hours, it cannot be re-refrigerated and should be discarded.

How To Keep Brisket Warm

Using An Oven

If you’re going to use an oven, make sure it’s set at a very low temperature. Most ovens offer a “warm” setting that is ideal in this case.

If your oven does not have this setting, set it to 150 to 170 degrees(F), depending on the size of the brisket.

If you do opt to use an oven, keep in mind that the foil (or butcher paper) wrap should not be removed beforehand. It will stay moist and soft if you leave the wrap on.

It should be warned that utilizing an oven increases the likelihood of overcooking and drying out. 


Using a crockpot or slow cooker can keep brisket warm while keeping it succulent and tender for longer periods of time. Set the crockpot to a low temperature and stir in any rendered juices from the smoker. 

However, choosing a slow cooker may jeopardize the quality of the bark and crackling skin obtained from the smoker. However, if you’re already planned on shredding the brisket, it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

The Cooler Method

Using a cooler to keep a brisket warm may appear contradictory. Yet, coolers are exceptionally insulative, making them perfect for heat retention.

With just a little bit of simple preparation, you can keep a brisket hot and juicy for up to 4 hours!

  • Boil water and pour it into the cooler before pulling the brisket from the smoker, then drain and dry with a towel.
  • Then, for further insulation, line the cooler with dry cloth towels and tightly close the lid.
  • Remove the brisket from the smoker and, if not already done, wrap it in foil or butcher paper. Wrap the brisket in a cotton towel and place it in the cooler right away.

Brisket Came Out Tough, Can It Be Saved? 

Using Crockpot

It might be heart-breaking to see your brisket turn out tough and chewy after smoking it for 10 hours. But don’t be alarmed! It isn’t too late.

You can put the brisket on a low heat to help it regain tenderness, and the best way to do so is in a crockpot. You can add extra liquids to a crockpot, like stock, Worcestershire sauce, or any rendered drippings from the smoker.

Serve It in Slices

Unfortunately, returning a brisket to low heat may not always be a salvageable solution. However, you still have options!

  • Wrap the brisket in plastic wrap, making sure to keep all of the juices within, and refrigerate it overnight.
  • The next day, slice it thinly and arrange it in a baking dish.
  • Pour the gathered fluids from the wrap into the baking dish with the slices and bake for about an hour in a preheated oven (350 degrees(F)).

Although it may not have the same texture or quality, it will be moist and delicious enough to serve on its own or as a sandwich.

Final Thoughts 

A brisket that finishes early is not something you would expect to encounter, yet it happens more often than you might think! Fortunately, there are numerous ways to keep it warm and ready to serve.

Using an oven can be useful, but it increases the chance of the brisket drying out or overcooking. A crockpot is preferable, but a cooler can be the most effective solution. 

If it’s too late and the brisket has toughened, you have a few choices for reviving it, even if it means serving it in slices rather than shredding.