How Long to Let Brisket Rest in Cooler? (OVERNIGHT)

How Long to Let Brisket Rest in Cooler? (OVERNIGHT)

Brisket is prepared in several essential steps. It starts from prepping and goes on to being cooked in a smoker, where we face the “brisket stall” dilemma which we have shared earlier.

How long to let brisket rest in cooler

Once you are past that, you have to keep e keen check on “smoked brisket internal temp” to check its doneness.

Here, we reach the part where a high temp smoked brisket needs rest for its juices to redistribute and for the internal temp to come down to 145 F in a safe and proper way so that the brisket doesn’t become too tough or too cold for serving.

So “How long to let brisket rest in cooler?” This is the part that we will focus on today.

How Long to Let Brisket Rest in Cooler?

Resting brisket is a crucial step before we move on to slicing and serving this masterpiece. Resting brisket in cooler is a common practice for pitmasters who like cooking their meat early.

Many pitmasters swear that resting brisket for 12 hours is the best practice for the juiciest brisket. Resting brisket in butcher paper is also common, but many people finish it in the oven to retain the crispy bark of this delicious meat.

Why rest brisket in a cooler?

               Although brisket can be rested on the countertop for half an hour, however, resting brisket in cooler for a longer time is crucial for its juiciness as well as for time management if you plan to serve this meat later.

It allows for the high smoked brisket to cool down and redistribute the moisture evenly in the meat. A process known as ‘carryover cooking.’ The former process is called ‘holding’ the meat till the time it is ready to be sliced and served to your guests.

The latter is the process involving resting the brisket so the high temperature meat can continue to cook and break down the collagen fibers of meat to make it moist and chewable.

Rest vs. Hold:

Remember Step 1 is to let the brisket rest on counter top within a foil or paper and then when the internal temp goes down to 150-170, hold it in a cooler for several hours for carryover cooking depending on the size of the meat, your serving time and the internal temperature you started holding at.

If you put the meat for holding right away in the cooler, the temp will not come down and it will keep cooking and drying up more.

So resting on the countertop with foil or paper is an extremely important step after pulling it off the smoker at 205 F.

The downside of holding Brisket:

The only downside of holding brisket in a cooler is that it loses the crispiness of its bark due to the insulation within the cooler as well as the use of butcher paper.

How to preserve the bark’s crispiness?

You can crisp up the bark before serving by placing the meat back on a smoker for less than 30 minutes. It will help in getting rid of the sweat on the meat, re-heating it, and getting it crisp, all the while not letting it overcook.

Using the oven to hold the brisket

The oven can be used as a holding place as well for the hot brisket. It’s like a hot box that pitmasters around the globe use, especially in big restaurants.

Famous chefs pull a large number of briskets at 6 pm and hold them at 170 F for 17 hours till serving time the next day at 11 am.

It is recommended to use butcher paper, and a tray lined with baking paper for holding brisket at 170 F for four hours, which kept it nice and moist at 150 F internal temp.

Reasons for resting brisket in cooler:

  • Smoking brings moisture to the bark of brisket; whereas, with resting, this moisture is redistributed to retain its tenderness and allows the taste to develop fully.
  • Slicing brisket at 200 F makes it lose all its juices. Hence, it is very important to rest it for several hours according to the size of brisket.

Resting in butcher paper vs. foil:

Where foil is a complete insulator, trapping the heat completely inside.

Butcher paper is somewhat porous and allows some moisture to escape to not render brisket’s bark to be completely moist and wet.

Many bloggers swear by resting brisket in butcher paper after pulling it.

Another reason for that is that foil does not allow the brisket meat’s internal temp to come down very easily, even within 4 to 6 hours.

Resting brisket in cooler with butcher paper is good for overnight holding within a cooler. Using butcher paper within a well-insulated cooler will also work if you want to hold for less than 12 hours, i.e. 6 hours.

How long to let brisket rest in cooler?

It can depend on a number of factors, but BBQ Dropout’s channel on YouTube (I know…the name is too funny!) recommends resting brisket in cooler for at least 8 to 12 hours.

The meat comes off the smoker piping hot at 200 F approximately and all the moisture, collagens, and connective tissue needs resting at that point.

Pulling it off the smoker and just slicing it right there and then will lose all that juiciness. He recommends resting till temperature comes down to 165 F and all moisture is distributed and ready to slice through.

What if you don’t have an insulated cooler or oven?

If you do not own an oven, you can use the Faux Cambro method for resting brisket in a cooler.

It’s basically meat wrapped in a towel within a food carrier. The temperature comes down slowly to 140 F if you insulate with a towel properly.

Or you can use butcher paper or foil instead for proper insulation. Preheat the cooler by pouring a tub of boiling water and closing the lid for a while.

Dump the water out and place the brisket wrapped in foil and towel and pulled at 200-205 F, within the cooler.

You allow the brisket to rest overnight wherein it reaches 140 F. The boiling water puts moisture into the carrier instead of taking it away from the brisket while keeping the latter moist.

Within an insulated cooler, you could skip the pre-heating step. As always, use a good probe and standard thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.

The danger zone:

As we know, a cooler is used for carryover cooking or holding when the time between pulling and serving is very long. 

Now to answer the question of how much time for brisket to rest in a cooler, we should be aware of the danger zone.

‘Danger zone’ is the internal temperature of 140 F or below when bacteria start growing within the meat.

When you pull brisket at 205 F, remember to wrap it in foil and place it in a well-insulated cooler to make sure the temp does not fall down rapidly.

This is essential if the serving time is more than 8 hours away. For fewer pulling and serving times gap, you can rest it first in foil before placing it in the cooler for 4 to 6 hours.

Remember to use an accurate thermometer to monitor the internal temp.

Can brisket rest too long?

Yes, it is possible! Knowing all we know about resting, holding, slicing, and serving times.

It is essential that we rest the brisket before we hold it in a cooler even if it is for 12 hours to make sure the piping hot brisket does not keep on cooking and becoming dry in a cooler.

You can follow BBQ dropout’s method for quicker serving and for resting brisket for 12 hours for a brisket done too early. Follow the below-mentioned method.

Brisket done too early!

               We talked about brisket doneness in “Guide to Smoked Brisket Internal Temp” previously. Now, what if the brisket is ready to pull but there is still half a day before it can be served?

Let’s talk about resting brisket in cooler overnight.

  • How to hold brisket overnight:

Resting brisket for 12 hours is no easy feat. Monitoring the internal temp is your only saving grace in such a condition. Here is a step by step for that:

  • Use a well-insulated cooler and place hot water in it about 30 minutes before the brisket is done.
    • After resting it in foil and bringing the temp down to 170-180 F.
    • Drain the cooler and place your wrapped brisket in foil within.
    • Put a probe inside the meat with the wire out and close the cooler lid.
    • Some bloggers swear by wrapping a moist towel around the wrapped brisket as well to make sure it keeps its moisture.
    • Lastly, if you find the brisket is too soft. You can finish it on a smoker half an hour before you serve to make the bark crisp again.
    • Remember, internal temp should always remain above 140 F.

More Brisket Tips


What Temp Does Brisket Stall? (STALL AT 125, 150, 175, 180,190)

Smoked Brisket Internal Temp (210°F or 225°F)

Cooler rested Brisket