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. I’ll explain how to rest your BBQ beef brisket in a cooler. This works much better than letting it sit on the counter under aluminum foil. Using this method will ensure you end up with 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. Over 2- 4 hours, you want to reduce the brisket temperature from 200°F to 140°F. Below, I have broken down the method in more detail.

Preheat the Cooler

  1. Fill the cooler with hot tap or boiling water and close the lid for 30 minutes.
  2. This helps keep the brisket warm longer.

Prepare the Cooler

  1. Drain the water.
  2. Place a towel at the bottom, then add the pan with the wrapped brisket.
  3. Insert a meat probe into the thickest part of the brisket.
  4. Put another towel on top of the brisket and close the lid.

Rest and Monitor

  1. Keep an eye on the temperature.
  2. Serve when ready or when the brisket’s temperature nears 140°F. A 2-hour rest usually works well.

How Long to Rest Brisket in Cooler

Rest the brisket in the cooler for two-four hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F. Then, you can remove it, slice it, and serve.

How to Wrap a Brisket in Towel in Cooler

Leave the brisket wrapped in foil or butcher’s paper, place it at the short end of the towel, fold it on the sides, and roll it up.

What Will You Need?

Here are the things you will need to rest your brisket in a cooler correctly.

A Well Insulated Cooler

You’ll need a well-insulated cooler to keep the heat for several hours. The brisket’s temperature will drop too quickly if the cooler isn’t properly insulated.

Make sure your cooler’s lid seals tightly. Consider borrowing one from a neighbor or friend if your cooler isn’t good enough.

Ensure the cooler is big enough to hold your whole, unsliced brisket and some towels.

Coolers with drains are the best. You’ll need to drain the hot water, and it’s safer if you don’t have to lift and tip the cooler to empty it.

Wrapping Material

You can use either aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or butcher paper to wrap your brisket.


Don’t use your regular towels to rest your brisket. Buy thick, fluffy ones, or set aside old, clean bath towels. Wash them with unscented detergent and avoid fabric softener. If the towels are new, wash them first.

Meat Thermometer

Finally, you need a meat probe to ensure the brisket’s internal temperature stays above 140°F. A wireless thermometer with an app is best, as it allows you to monitor the temperature without opening the cooler and letting heat escape.

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 the continuation of carryover cooking. Plus, it gives the juices within the meat time to redistribute.

The second reason is time management. A cooler keeps the meat warm until you’re ready to serve it. The last thing you want to do is spend 13 hours cooking your brisket to have it cold and dry.

The coolers are insulated, giving 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, 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 cool and dry out while sitting on the counter. 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. There are many reasons why you won’t be able to serve it immediately sometimes.

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

What About a Hot Box?

Some barbeque enthusiasts alternatively use a hot box for their brisket’s resting period instead. However, these relatively expensive appliances aren’t ideal for transporting your meat.

So, if you want to smoke that flavorful brisket of yours before bringing it over to your friend’s house to serve, we highly recommend the cooler box option.

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

Keeping The Brisket Out of The Danger Zone

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

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

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

A good solution for this is to wrap the brisket with foil and then cover it in a towel. 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 it when it reaches 140 ℉. If you’ve wrapped the meat tightly, we’ve noticed that the brisket stays hot for a solid four hours. So, that should leave you with plenty of time.

How Long Can I Rest a Brisket in a Cooler?

When resting a brisket in a cooler, aim for 2 hours ideally, but don’t exceed 4 hours as texture may suffer. Resting time depends on initial brisket temperature, cooler quality, and thermometer use for accurate tracking.

Is It Bad for the Bark?

 Wrapping your meat in any way will soften the bark. However, it’s a small price to pay to keep 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 eliminate some moisture that’s collected on the surface of the meat without further cooking it.

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, wrap it in a few layers of heavy-duty foil and place it in the oven heated to 170 ℉. 

This option is typically fine if you 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 several hours.

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

The standard time frame for letting your beef brisket rest in a cooler is two to four hours. However, this greatly depends on your cooler’s insulation and how tightly you’ve wrapped the meat. 

Overall, you should just ensure that you serve it 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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