Resting Brisket In Cooler (Why Do it + How Long For)

We’ve all heard how crucial it is to ‘rest’ your brisket before serving it. But does this step really do anything? And if so, what?

We’ll also be exploring whether they are other ways to rest your brisket. That’s right, letting it sit on the counter for half an hour under aluminum foil isn’t the only way to rest your BBQ beef brisket! you should be using a cooler!

Let us show you exactly how to do it! So you can pitmaster worthy brisket !

How to Rest Your Brisket in A Cooler

Once your brisket has been pulled from the smoker, wrap it in butcher’s paper and then in a towel. Place the brisket in a cooler. You want to bring the temperature down from 200°F to 140°F over a 4-hour period.

Why Are We Resting Brisket In A Cooler?

There are two reasons to rest a brisket in a cooler. Time management and carryover cooking.

The recommended internal temperature for finishing brisket is 203°F. Once you remove the brisket from the smoker it will continue to cook. Placing the brisket in the cooler will allow continuing with carryover cooking. Plus it gives the juices within the meat time to redistribute.

The second reason is time management. The reason a cooler is used is that it can keep the meat hot until you’re ready to serve it. The last thing you want to do is spend 13 hours cooking your brisket for it end up cool and dry.

The coolers are insulated so this gives you more flexibility over when you can serve your brisket.

Resting or Holding a Brisket in a Faux Cambro

You have also heard of a faux cambro, that is just another word for using a cooler to rest your brisket.

While the foil tent method does work, sometimes the rest of the meal may not be ready to serve yet. In that case, your cooked brisket may simply cool and dry out while sitting on the counter. And nothing ruins the brisket experience like serving everyone dry brisket that’s just too tough and unpleasant to eat.

Thankfully, there are other ways to rest your delicious brisket so that it remains hot for hours. And there are many reason why you won’t be able to serve it up immediately sometimes.

For example, you might be left waiting on your guests to arrive. Or you could just be waiting for the rest of the food to cook.

All you’ll need is a cooler. Holding cooked meat in an faux cambro is one of the most popular resting methods used by pitmasters.At first thought, it may appear to be counterproductive to avoid being stuck with a cold brisket. However, packing the cooler tight with towels rather than ice will increase its insulation capacity. And this will help keep the brisket at a consistent temperature.

This way of resting your meat is excellent for carry-over cooking, in which the goal is to ensure that the meat retains all that carry over heat.

Do You Have to Use a Cooler?

The answer is ‘no.’ This type of carryover cooking or resting does not necessarily require the use of a cooler. However, it is most likely the cheapest and most convenient way to achieve a 2-4 hour rest for your cooked packer brisket

Some barbeque enthusiasts alternatively opt for using a hot box for their brisket’s resting period instead. These are, however, relatively expensive appliances that aren’t ideal for transporting your meat.

So if you’re looking to smoke that flavorful brisket of yours before bringing it over to your friend’s house to serve, then we’d highly recommend going for the cooler box option instead.

After all, who doesn’t already own a cooler?

What Is the Danger Zone?

In order to work out how long you can realistically leave a brisket to rest in a cooler, we’d first need to talk about the ‘danger zone’. The danger zone refers to the temperature at which bacteria will most likely begin to start growing on your piece of beef.

The ‘danger zone’ temperature range is said to be at 140°F and below. So, once you’ve completed the cooking process, your piece of meat should have an internal temperature of around 203 °F. 

Of course, even if you wrap your brisket in foil, the retained heat won’t be nearly as hot as the cooking temperature. Hence, the internal temp will begin to drop quickly.

Wrapping the brisket with foil and then covering it in a towel is a good solution for this. After that, you should also pack your cooler with towels to assist with the heat retention of your foil-wrapped brisket. However, that’s not the end of it. You should also keep a meat thermometer in your brisket so that you can accurately monitor its drop in temperature.

The goal is to serve the it reaches a temperature of 140 ℉.With that being said, if you’ve wrapped the meat up tightly, we’ve noticed that the brisket stays hot for a solid four hours. So, that should leave you with plenty of time.

Is It Bad for the Bark?

 Wrapping your meat up in any way will soften the bark. However, we would say that it’s a small price to pay for keeping your brisket moist. If you’re looking for a way to crisp up the bark once more before serving it, we have a suggestion! 

You should place the whole brisket back onto the grill or smoker for no more than 30 minutes. This should help get rid of some of that moisture that’s collected on the surface of the meat, without further cooking the whole thing.

Is There Any Other Way I Can Rest the Meat?

Yes, there is! You can finish the brisket in an oven instead. Instead of putting it in the cooler, just wrap the brisket in a few layers of heavy-duty foil and then place it in the oven that’s heated to 170 ℉. 

This option is typically fine if you just want to rest the meat for no longer than an hour. However, we highly recommend the cambro method if you intend to leave it for a couple of hours.

For one, it doesn’t consume any electricity. And secondly, you won’t really have to keep a constant eye on it. Allowing your brisket to rest before serving can make or break the final result.

So, no matter which method you choose, make sure you don’t skip this step or you’ll end up with meat that’s tough and dry.

In terms of how long you can leave your beef brisket to rest in a cooler, we’d say that the standard time frame would be around two to four hours. However, this greatly depends on your cooler’s insulation as well as how tightly you’ve wrapped the meat. 

All in all, you just have to ensure that you serve it up when the brisket’s internal temperature drops to 140°F.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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