How to Rest a Brisket (And Why It’s Important)

After several hours in the smoker, I know resting a brisket is the last thing you want to do. 

But it’s an important step you don’t want to skip!

In this guide, we’ll show you:

  • Why you should rest your brisket
  • How to do it
  • And much more!

What Does “Resting” a Brisket Mean?

Resting simply means letting the meat sit before cutting into it.

It may sound easy at first, but the tricky part is the waiting process — especially when you can’t wait to have a taste of your freshly smoked brisket.

If you don’t let your meat rest the proper way, it could turn what should be a fantastic meal into an unsavory one.

That’s why it’s crucial to wait and let the meat do its magic!

More on why it’s important in the next section.

Why Resting Is Important

Before learning how to rest a brisket properly, you must first understand why it’s so important.

First of all, resting plays a great role in giving your meat the right consistency and taste. A slight mistake can result in tough, dry meat.

Resting is important because it gives the juices the chance to redistribute inside the meat.

Slicing directly through your brisket right after smoking it will let the juice pour out instead of letting it stay inside to do its magic. 

Another crucial reason why resting is important is that it can continuously cook the inside of your meat, so it gains the tender texture you want to achieve.

When the meat is resting, its temperature will continue to rise between five to 10 degrees — which is why it can continuously cook its interior.

For the best results, we highly recommend beginners to pull your brisket out of the smoker once it reaches 210ºF


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How Resting Brisket Actually Works

Now that we have established why resting is important, it’s time to get nerdy and look at how resting works.

Raw brisket contains 71-73% water. Smoking the brisket in high heat will let this water content rise to the surface from within the meat’s fibers. That’s also why it’s recommended to take the meat off once it starts releasing moisture.

After taking it off from the heat and letting it rest, the moisture doesn’t evaporate; instead, it seeps back into the fibers of the meat, softening it.

When you are smoking your meat, you will also dissolve the proteins present in it. Resting will let these dissolved proteins mix with the juice, which will then begin to thicken all over the brisket.

The thickened liquid will help contain the natural juice and taste in your meat and help it slowly release once it’s sliced.

To put it simply, resting your brisket helps lock in the juice and savory taste of your meat.

Not letting your brisket rest will make the juice run out immediately when sliced. This will waste the moisture and flavor of your meat, leaving you with a dry and stale brisket.

However, you can salvage this by scraping the juice that poured out and pouring it back into your brisket. However, the steam that has also escaped will be gone.

That’s why it’s very important to let your brisket cool before digging in.

Now, if you’re wondering just how much moisture you’ll waste if you don’t let your brisket rest, you will be surprised with the answer.

According to experiments, cutting a large roast of meat immediately right after cooking will lose you 10 tablespoons of juice.

If you only wait for about 10 minutes before cutting it open, you will lose 4 tablespoons. Waiting for at least 40 minutes will only allow 1 tablespoon to escape, keeping that flavor locked in.

And that is why you need to rest it.

a picture of meat with a quote on top stating "to put it simply, resting your brisket helps lock in the juice and savory taste of your meat."

How To Rest a Brisket the Right Way

I wanted to stress why it’s so important not to skip this step, but you’ve made it to the section you were looking for. 

If you’ve wrapped your brisket with pink butcher paper or foil while smoking, keep it wrapped (no reason to take a peak yet) and then follow these steps:

  1. Remove the brisket from your smoker
  2. Let it sit at room temp to lower the temp down to 180ºF
  3. Once it’s there, use a towel (sorry honey!) and tightly wrap it around your meat
  4. Put it into a cooler or in the oven at a temp of around 150ºF (if it can go that low).

If you smoked it without wrapping, follow those steps above, but cover it with foil or butcher paper before the towel.

Related >> Chopped or Sliced Brisket: Which is Best for Your BBQ?

How Long Should You Rest Your Brisket?

If you’re dealing with small cuts of meat like pork chops, you will only need to let them rest for a few minutes. However, larger chunks of meat like a brisket need time for the au jus (fancy term for “meat juice”) to redistribute.

The ideal rest time for brisket is one hour, but if you need it, 2 hours won’t hurt your texture.

Even if you’re in a real hurry, you should not let it rest for less than 45 minutes. This will waste a couple of tablespoons of juice and steam — which can affect the overall taste and texture of your brisket.

The longer your meat rests the juicier it gets — but that doesn’t mean that you have to rest for longer than 1-2 hours.

Editor’s Note >> Remember not to let the internal heat of your meat drop down as low as 140ºF since that would put it in the danger zone and make you or your guests sick.

However, you should avoid resting it longer than two hours because this will make that great-looking bark start turning into mush.


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Resting Brisket vs Holding Brisket – Know the Difference

If you’re new to grilling and smoking and have also stumbled upon the word “holding,” then perhaps you’re wondering what the difference is between holding and resting.

What does holding meat mean, and how is it different from resting?

Holding is a technique used by many pitmasters to hold off the temperature of the meat. In fact, many pitmasters use a Cambro to hold their brisket.

A Cambro is an insulated box that is designed to hold the temperature of the meat, so you can serve it while it’s still warm. If you don’t want to buy one, you can use the faux Cambro technique, which involves creating your own.

If you want to learn how to make a faux Cambro, here’s what you can do.

All you need to do is:

  • Pour a few gallons of hot water into a cooler
  • Close the lid and let it settle for about half an hour
  • Wrap your brisket in thin aluminum foil and set it in a pan
  • Drain the hot water from the cooler and place the wrapped brisket inside where it will maintain its temperature without cooling off — even if hours pass

According to some other chefs we interviewed, brisket is best served after sitting in a Cambro.

However, others say that a faux Cambro technique can take away the crispiness of the brisket’s bark.

Still, if you don’t have any option but to cook the meat ahead of time, this is the best way to keep it warm and fresh.

As you can see, the main difference between resting and holding is the time duration between when the brisket is done and when it’s going to be served.

Quick Tips for Buying and Smoking Brisket

There are two types of brisket: the flat and the point.

The point is the fattier side which has a stronger beef flavor. Now, if you want thin meat slices, it’s best to choose the flat side.

We also recommend purchasing a whole packer brisket for the smoker. They can weigh up to 20+ pounds, which is a great choice if you’re cooking for a large number of people.

If you’re cooking for a smaller crowd, you can still save up the leftovers for other recipes like barbeque beef sandwiches!

Related >> How To Reheat Brisket

Always keep an eye on your thermometer when smoking your brisket. If you happen to buy just one-half of the brisket, adjust the cooking time to avoid overcooking the meat.

When you are selecting your meat, make sure to choose options that are graded as USDA Choice or higher. Meats that are graded “USDA Prime” means they are high quality and have plenty of room for flavor improvement. It’s worth the extra money. 

Final Thoughts on Resting Your Brisket

Barbecuing does not only require knowledge about how to cook meat properly; it also requires lots of patience and understanding for better, tastier results.

If you rest your brisket correctly, you and your family will be able to enjoy the juiciest and most delicious meat ever!

If you have more questions, drop a comment below or send us a private message on any social media platform.

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Shawn Hill

Hey, I'm Shawn and I love this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family. I'm here to help you learn more about grilling, smoking, and backyard BBQ! With almost a decade of manning the grill and helping over 25,000 aspiring grill masters, you're in great hands! I've tried just about every type of grill, accessory, and gadget you can imagine. Because of that, I am here to help guide you to the best of the best and help you save time and money by avoiding the junk.

2 thoughts on “How to Rest a Brisket (And Why It’s Important)”

    • Good catch! Should have said “Choice or higher” (now updated). But we still recommend Prime for brisket because the marbling renders down nicely.


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