Resting a Brisket After Smoking It

Smoking a brisket isn’t for everyone. This work of cooking art requires technique, quality ingredients, and most importantly, patience. It’s the Rolls Royce of barbecue and takes hours to prepare, and the beautiful slab of meat will tempt you to dig in right away when it comes to the grill. If you can’t control yourself, stick with a burger or steak because resting a brisket after smoking it is essential for perfection.

In this guide, we’ll share the importance of resting a brisket after smoking it and how to do it the right way.

Let’s get started!

How to Rest a Brisket After Smoking It

What “Resting a Brisket” Means

The term “resting” simply refers to allowing cooked meat to sit for a while at room temperature after taking it off the heat. As simple and unnecessary as this sounds, resting could mean the difference between a good meal and a great meal. Resting is the final step in cooking meat, and it’s what makes large cuts like briskets more tender, juicy, and flavorful.

How Resting Meat Works

Resting is quite an interesting phenomenon. Raw meat contains a lot of moisture since water makes up nearly 75 percent of a raw brisket. When you cook it, the muscle fibers contract and force moisture toward the center and surface of the beef. This is what makes lean cuts dry and tough when cooked to higher temperatures.

Resting solves this problem. Brisket contains collagen, a protein that initially dissolves during the cooking process but firms up during cooling. While firming up, it acts as a thickening agent for the meat’s natural juices. The general rule is, the longer you allow the meat to rest, the thicker the liquid will be, meaning the juices won’t escape easily.

Sure, you could dig into a brisket when it’s piping hot, but you’ll lose a lot of steam, and the meat will become unpleasantly chewy as it cools down.

The Importance of Resting a Brisket After Smoking It

Now that you know what resting, you should have an idea regarding the importance of resting a brisket after smoking it. While no one will say no to a piping hot brisket, you want to make sure that your effort pays off with the best flavor profile and texture.

Here are four reasons why you should rest a brisket after smoking it:

1. Redistribution of Juices

First and foremost, resting the brisket gives the juices a chance to redistribute to all parts of the meat. By slicing right away, you allow all the amazing juices to run all over the board instead of staying in the meat. As a consequence, the meat becomes dry and tough as it cools down.

2. Carry-Over Cooking

Just like cooking an egg, when you take the meat off the heat, the temperature will continue to rise 5-10 degrees. This will make the brisket more tender from the inside and help you get the result you worked so hard for. The optimal temperature of the brisket is 202 degrees with carry-over cooking.

This means that you must take it out of your grill when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees, so you don’t overcook the meat.

3. Thickened Juices

Another reason for resting a brisket after smoking it is to allow the meat juices to thicken. If you remember science class, the more viscous the fluid, the slower it flows. This means that thickened juices don’t pour out of the meat too easily when you first cut into it. Moreover, the thickened juices also help keep some of the steam in the meat to ensure it remains warm even after resting.

4. Moisture Retention

You don’t want to spend 12-16 hours smoking a brisket only to end up with dry meat. The thickened juices also help in moisture retention, especially when you’re smoking a lean brisket. Resting means that you’re keeping in most of the steam, which adds to the thickened juices as it cools down, thereby retaining maximum texture and flavor.

How to Rest a Brisket After Smoking It

Whether it’s chicken, steak, or brisket, the concept of smoking remains the same: Allowing a big piece of meat to rest to improve its texture and retain maximum flavor and texture. However, if it’s your first time at the grill, you’re probably wondering how to rest a brisket after smoking it. Fortunately, there’s not too much science to it, but different techniques can bring different results.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. Pull the brisket from the grill when it’s at 195 degrees. Let carry-over cooking do the rest of the work.
  2. Wrap the brisket in foil if you like your meat soft. If you prefer a crusty exterior, use butcher paper to allow airflow.
  3. Now leave the meat alone for at least a couple of hours, depending on size.
  4. When you’re ready to serve after resting, slice the brisket across the grain for maximum tenderness.

How Long Should You Rest a Smoked Brisket?

Small meat cuts, such as chicken breasts and steak, only need a few minutes of rest. However, when you’re dealing with a brisket, you’ll need more time. The reason for this is to allow the collagen to firm up again. However, you shouldn’t rest the meat for more than a couple of hours; otherwise, you’ll need to reheat it, which may lead to dryness.

Our Final Thoughts

Smoking brisket demands patience. Understanding the importance of resting a brisket after smoking it will take you one step closer to giving you the most amazing, moist, and tender meat. Sure, you can enjoy it piping hot with gravy, but what’s the point of spending 12-16 hours and still not going all the way?

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