How to Rest Brisket: A Guide to Achieving Tender and Moist Meat

When it comes to smoking brisket, we often focus on the type of wood, smoking temperature, and cooking time. However, there is another crucial step in the process that shouldn’t be overlooked – resting the brisket. Have you ever wondered why resting brisket is necessary? In this article, we’ll answer all your questions and guide you through the best practices for resting brisket to achieve that tender and moist meat you desire.

Do I Need to Let Brisket Rest and Why?

Resting brisket is crucial for achieving the best end product. Brisket is a tough cut of meat with plenty of connective tissue that needs time to break down during the cooking process. The muscle fibers contract, expelling moisture and juices. Resting allows these juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat, resulting in tender and moist brisket. So, yes, you definitely need to let your brisket rest!

How Long to Let Brisket Rest?

The general rule of thumb for resting smoked meats is a minimum of 30 minutes up to around two hours. The rest time will vary depending on the size of the meat. For brisket, you want to let it rest for at least one to two hours, but you can go longer. Some top BBQ joints in Texas even rest their briskets substantially longer to allow the natural juices to redistribute fully. However, make sure to maintain an internal temperature of at least 140°F for food safety.

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Resting Brisket
Image: Resting Brisket

Resting Brisket Properly for Food Safety

Food safety is paramount when it comes to resting brisket. To ensure proper temperature control, consider using a wireless meat thermometer to monitor the brisket’s temperature during the resting period. There are several methods you can use to rest brisket properly:

1. Restaurant-Grade Storage Container Like A Cambro

Investing in a restaurant-grade storage container like a Cambro is an excellent option for holding your brisket. These containers, known for their insulation properties, keep the meat at a consistent temperature. Some top Texas BBQ joints hold their briskets for more than four hours using this method.

2. A Cooler (Sometimes Referred to as the Faux Cambro Method)

If you’re not operating a business but still need to rest a brisket, a large cooler will do the trick. Choose a cooler with a well-sealing lid, and consider wrapping the brisket in a towel before placing it inside. This method helps maintain the temperature and prevent heat loss.

3. In A Warm Oven

If you don’t have a cooler or a Cambro, using a warm oven is a viable option. Set the oven to a low temperature (between 150-170°F), ensuring it stays above 140°F but below 200°F. Wrap the brisket in aluminum foil or butcher paper before placing it in the oven.

4. At Room Temperature

Resting brisket at room temperature is a controversial method but can be done safely. However, it requires strict attention to the meat’s internal temperature to prevent it from falling into the danger zone. Some people rest their brisket unwrapped to let steam escape, which helps the bark dry. Be cautious and make sure your resting area is well-protected from any drippings.

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Should I Rest My Brisket Wrapped or Unwrapped?

Resting brisket wrapped or unwrapped is another point of contention among pitmasters. Many prefer to keep the brisket wrapped during the resting process to maintain warmth. Wrapping also helps retain the moisture within the meat. However, some pitmasters argue that opening the wrap can help the bark set up better. The choice ultimately depends on personal preference. Experiment with different methods to find what works best for you.


Resting brisket is a critical step in the cooking process to achieve tender and moist meat. Aim to let your brisket rest for at least one to two hours, allowing the natural juices to redistribute. Choose a resting method that suits your needs, taking into account temperature control and food safety. Remember, experimenting and finding what works best for you is part of the joy of smoking barbecue.


Question: Can You Rest a Brisket Too Long?

Answer: Yes, you can let a brisket rest too long in a non-temperature-controlled environment. To ensure food safety, do not let your brisket sit within the danger zone of 40°-140°F for an extended period. If you’re not serving the brisket within two hours, either refrigerate it for later or store it in a temperature-controlled environment like a restaurant-grade heated food storage unit.

Question: Can I Rest My Brisket Overnight?

Answer: Resting brisket overnight is possible, but it must be done in a temperature-controlled setting. Whether in the fridge, a warm oven, or a restaurant-grade heated food storage unit, ensure the meat’s temperature remains above 140°F to prevent spoilage and foodborne bacteria growth.

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