Brisket is a cut of meat taken from the breast of an animal, usually a cow, pig, or deer. Beef brisket is the most popular and has long been a staple in Southern and Texas barbecue. The meat goes through a long, slow cooking process to maximize its seasoning and tenderness before serving.
Smoking brisket can be done on a grill with flavored wood chips, on the stovetop, in the oven, with a slow cooker or Instant Pot. After it’s finished cooking, brisket needs to be kept warm, moist, and at a safe temperature for consumption. Put it in the oven at a low temperature wrapped in foil or butcher paper. This wrapped brisket can be served slightly later - soft, ripe, and safe to eat.
I have done some extensive research into making the most tender and perfect brisket. The key is to use dynamic aromatic flavors with your meat, whether it's a spice rub, a liquid smoke marinade, or beef broth. It’s also crucial to purchase quality cuts of meat, ideally USDA Choice or Prime beef brisket.
Once your brisket has finished cooking, hold it in the oven wrapped in aluminum foil so that none of the warmth and steam can escape from the meat. Done right, you can warm your beef brisket for 3-4 hours in the oven before serving without risking foodborne illnesses or tough, dry beef.
In this guide, we will answer the following questions:
After cooking brisket, you must keep it at a safe internal temperature if you aren’t serving it immediately. While brisket is safe to eat at 165°F, the meat will only start to get succulent and juicy when it reaches an internal temp of about 190°F-210°F.
Perfectly cooked Texas style BBQ beef brisket
To prevent food poisoning and keep brisket warm after cooking, most people hold their brisket in the oven. You can hold slow-cooked, stovetop baked, and smoked brisket in the oven. It's a safe way to keep your brisket moist and ready to eat while you're preparing the rest of the meal.
Unfortunately, holding a brisket at too high or too low of a temperature can make the meat inedible. Too high, and your brisket will come out tough and chewy too low, and your brisket won’t be safe from any bacteria, which can spoil the meat and cause rapid gastronomic illness.
You can hold brisket in the oven for several hours at the right temperature and using the proper insulation. While the perfect temperature for your meat depends on your stove, it's safest to rest your brisket at no higher than 200°F and no lower than 145°F.
At 200°F, a brisket will cook at about 1.5-2 hours per pound. A normal-sized brisket can range from between a light 10 pounds to 20 pounds, meaning a brisket will take about 5-10 hours to cook in the oven at 200°F. After cooking, you can warm your brisket in the same oven before serving.
All brisket must be kept above 145°F, and a quality cut of brisket will be tender and cooked at about 195°F, so resting your brisket at 200°F shouldn’t be a problem. However, 200°F is on the higher end of holding temperatures for brisket, so it’s easier to dry out your meat accidentally.
At 200°F you should be able to hold your brisket in the oven for about one to two hours without drying out the meat. Routinely check the brisket with a meat thermometer to double-check the internal temperature is high enough and ensure that the brisket doesn’t become tough and chewy.
You can hold a brisket in the oven at 180°F. Most cuts of brisket will cook and tenderize between 190°F and 215°F based on the cooking method. Resting your insulated brisket at 180°F should keep it warm and moist, and there's a lower risk of drying out your meat in the oven.
At 180°F, you shouldn’t rest your brisket for more than one to three hours. Otherwise, you risk the juices in your meat drying up and your cut becoming tough and chewy. Always keep your brisket insulated with butcher paper or foil, and check it regularly with a meat thermometer.
Remember that the time you cook and warm your brisket will depend on the size of the cut of meat. A smaller cut will require less time cooking, and therefore will dry out faster while warming. Spooning juices or sauce on your brisket while it warms can help prevent this.
Making a brisket takes hours, whether you smoke it, grill it, bake it, or cook it on the stovetop. At some low temperatures, brisket can even take 24 hours to cook fully and become the tender, juicy meat that's so popular in barbeque. Whether it’s your first or your fifth time cooking one, brisket is a complicated cooking endeavor.
Since a brisket can take all of your focus in the kitchen, it’s common to cook the meat a day before the rest of the meal, or to let it cook overnight before you take it to an event or potluck. If you’re serving the brisket at home, you may be unable to cook the brisket and the meal simultaneously.
This means you’ll need to keep the brisket warm or reheat it before cutting and serving it.
There are multiple ways to keep your brisket warm, but the key point is making sure you don’t dry out your meat before you serve it. Dried brisket is tough, leatherlike, and gamey, and tastes more like beef jerky than anything else. To avoid this, keep your brisket insulated while warming.
The most common methods to keep your brisket warm without drying it out are holding it in the oven, or an insulated cooler. Both methods require soaking the brisket in its juices and should be able to keep your meat warm for hours on end without making it dry and inedible.
Warming your brisket in the oven is also a common method to reheat brisket. The oven will hold your brisket at a safe internal temperature, and if you insulate it properly your meat should not dry out. The trick is keeping your oven at a low enough temperature to prevent evaporation.
Since your brisket needs to stay at 145°F or above to be safe to eat, warm your brisket in the oven at somewhere between 150° and 200°F. If you plan to warm it for multiple hours, keep the oven temperature lower, but if you need the brisket ready to eat fast, you can turn up the heat.
To prevent the juices in your meat from evaporating, wrap the roasting pan your brisket is in with aluminum foil, butcher paper, or another oven-safe insulation. Every once in a while, use a meat thermometer to test the internal temp of the meat, and a fork to test its tenderness.
An unwrapped beef brisket - it is time for dinner
If you’re warming your brisket as a whole cut of meat, it will take more time to warm than if the meat is pre-sliced. Pre-sliced brisket will have a higher risk of drying out in the oven, so make sure to regularly spoon juices, sauce, or marinade on the meat to keep it from becoming tough.
You can also keep your brisket warm by keeping it in a cooler made to withstand high temperatures. Use aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or other insulation to wrap your cooked brisket, including as much juice, sauce, or marinade as you can to keep the meat moist.
Make sure you have a cooler made to insulate hot items and place your brisket inside. Using cooking towels or cloths, wrap the insulated brisket again to prevent any steam or warmth from escaping. Finally, pour hot or boiling water into the bottom of your cooler around the meat.
Time to eat: slicing and serving beef brisket
As an additional precaution, pour some boiling water on your brisket's towels. The hot towels will keep the heat and water as close to the meat as possible, keeping it damp and tender. Then, close the cooler and keep it somewhere warm and reachable in your kitchen.
Technically, a brisket can stay warm in a cooler for up to ten hours. However, by that time, the quality of the meat may start to lessen. To be safe, I wouldn’t recommend warming your brisket in the cooler for more than five hours without checking the temperature and status of the meat.