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How Long to Let Brisket Rest in Cooler? Grill Master Tips

cooked sliced brisket on top of a cutting board to show how long to let brisket rest in cooler

The brisket is arguably one of the most intimidating chunks of meat to prepare. The quality of your cook will be determined by how long you let brisket rest. Using a cooler is recommended, but how long to let brisket rest in cooler?

From the incredibly long preparation and cooking time to the down-to-detail resting technique, preparing the perfect brisket isn't simple. Furthermore, a chunk of meat this large is often prepared with an audience in mind. There’s undeniable pressure to deliver your best work unless you want to serve up the world’s driest meat. In this article, we help you nail the resting stage of your brisket in order to get pro results.

What is Brisket?

Before you learn how long to let brisket rest in cooler, you'll need to learn what brisket is.

man holding an 8lb brisket

With all the rave around briskets, one can’t help but wonder whether they’ve been completely missing this part of the cow for years. A brisket is a cut of meat from the lower breast of a cow. This cut is usually very tough as it contains connective tissues with moderate fat.

Furthermore, it can weigh anywhere from 14 to 20 lbs. Consequently, you must cook it slowly over a long period of time until it is well-done and soft.

When purchasing brisket, you can choose between the following cuts;

Flat Cut- this cut of brisket is large and uniformly shaped with a thin layer of fat on one side. It comprises mainly of meat and connective tissue. Therefore, it's perfect for cooking in the oven, over a stovetop, or in your slow cooker.

Deckle Point- this cut is usually thicker and denser. It has a thick layer of fat that makes it the best option for smoking.

To learn more about briskets check our article on briskets and find out how to calculate how much brisket you would need to serve your friends.

cow cuts chart showing what part of cow is brisket

What is Resting Meat?

Resting is a pretty popular term amongst pit masters. When you rest your meat, you simply allow it to sit at room temperature for a while before you cut into it. The amount of time your meat needs to sit is dependent on its size. Smaller pieces like pork chops and chicken breasts would need no more than 10 minutes. However, larger chunks like the briskets would need at least an hour of rest time.

Before you cut into your brisket, you need to let it rest. But you also need to ensure you have the right cutting board. For brisket, we recommend a large walnut wood cutting board.

Why Let Brisket Rest in a Cooler? 

Raw meats generally contain a lot of moisture that is drawn out during the cooking process. Briskets in particular contain over 70% water. Due to the long cooking time, the muscles in the meat contract. This draws the moisture into the center of the meat and out to the surface. This leaves most of the middle cuts dry. When you allow your brisket to rest, these natural juices to redistribute evenly within the entire cut. The result is a moist and flavor-filled end product. 

closeup view of raw brisket showing fat marbling throughout

Preserving Brisket Moisture in a Cooler

We know what you're thinking: Wouldn't the juices just seep out once you cut the brisket?

When you cook brisket, the collagen protein within it dissolves. Then, when you rest your brisket, the collagen will firm up and thicken the natural juices in your meat. How long to let brisket rest in cooler is all about preserving the juices by thickening the collagen. Cutting your brisket after an hour of proper resting ensures you lose no moisture. In comparison, you will lose 10 tablespoons of yummy goodness if you choose not to wait!

Losing Steam?

Alright, so why can't you simply baste the juices back onto the meat?

Technically, you could do this. However, one valuable thing you cannot get back is the steam you’ll lose when you cut into your brisket right out of the grill. Normally, brisket is removed from the grill or smoker at around 190-195F and allowed to reach an internal temperature of 200-203 through carry-over cooking. Losing this steam could result in a slightly undercooked brisket which might be a little worse than a dry and chewy texture.

How Long to Let Brisket Rest in Cooler?

Preparing brisket may take anywhere from 12 to 13 hours. Most people prefer to make their briskets ahead of time to avoid keeping their guests waiting. Leaving your meat on the countertop until you’re ready to serve is often not an option, so pit masters have found a budget-friendly way to ensure you can serve up your cuts at a perfect temperature hours later. Resting your brisket in a cooler, also known as holding, borrows from the Cambro’s ideas of keeping a temperature above 140F.

The technique involves heating a cooler and placing your wrapped brisket inside the cooler with towels above and below it to help maintain the temperature. Resting your meat like this will add up to 4 hours of hot meat. 

cross-section view of cut, cooked brisket

How to Let Brisket Rest in a Cooler

Although it is a simple method, here are a few things you should consider when determining how long you can keep your meat in the cooler:

Initial Temperature of Brisket

How hot your brisket was when it left the smoker or grill is important as you can estimate how long it could keep warm in the cooler. The hotter your meet was the longer you can keep it in the cooler

Insulation of Cooler

As much as we would like to believe that your old beat-up cooler is perfect for the job, you have to take into consideration how reliable the cooler is in terms of maintaining insulation. If the cooler loses heat fast then you cannot keep it in for a long time.

To Wrap or Not to Wrap?

There’s a constant debate on whether you should wrap your brisket while resting however one certain thing is that a wrapped brisket will last longer in the cooler than an unwrapped one as it retains more heat.

Wrapping brisket is an effective method of preserving the integrity of the meat until it is ready to be served. However, bark-lovers have complained that the method ruins the bark as it is left in a moist environment for a prolonged time. To salvage your bark you can preheat your grill and place the brisket on for a few minutes just before you cut into it.

Another important thing to consider when using the cooler method is ‘’The Danger Zone.” Always make sure your meat does not fall below 140F as it could become unsafe to eat. You don't want to be feeding your guests unsafe meat!

Final Thoughts

Now that we have got the basics out for you, we believe you are ready to make the best brisket of your life. And this time you’ll be serving it hot!


View our entire collection of dark wood walnut reversible boards - there are many shapes and sizes to choose from. Find your perfect board for your next steak, bbq, stew, or smoked meat!

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