After reading this article, you will know all about resting a brisket and why it is important.
If you are on this page, you deserve respect, for it is most likely you are a committed pitmaster, for that's one of the only justifications there is for cooking brisket, giving how long you could spend monitoring such an operation.
Despite the fact that cooking a brisket could take more than half a day into your time, you still wouldn't be right to simply dig in without allowing the brisket to rest, and to be on the safe side, and you'd need to know how long to let the brisket rest.
Knowledge of how long the brisket should rest is one thing, though; some of you might still be wondering why it even needs to rest in the first place and what it means. We are going to be covering all of these in this article, and by the end (if you make it there), you should be knowledgeable in the why and how of resting briskets as needed.
What does it mean to rest a brisket?
In simplified terms, resting a brisket means allowing a grilled or smoked brisket to cool sufficiently before slicing it to prevent additional moisture loss when the meat is sliced open. There are still many discussions about just how important this process is and whether simply pouring spilled juices back over the brisket could achieve the supposed benefits of resting; one thing is certain, though, the process is popular even among pitmasters.
The loss of moisture should not be a big deal, given that the brisket consists of about 70% water. However, the optimal cooking temperature is about 202°F, and a lot of the moisture would have been lost by the time is well cooked.
That, coupled with the fact that briskets undergo a little something called carryover cooking, makes it necessary for the more technical approach to grilling or smoking a brisket. Despite the popularity of resting, this isn't the only moisture retention practice used on meats after grilling, but this is more straightforward than the alternative.
Why is it so important
Any recipe that includes a brisket should consist of a reasonable amount of time for the brisket to rest as well. This is due to a couple of reasons, the first of which is the fact that they undergo a process called carryover cooking. What this means is that after removing your cooked brisket from the smoker or grill, chances are the internal temperature of the meat would continue to rise. Still not believe us; use your meat thermometer to monitor it one of these days. If you don't have a meat thermometer yet, this widely recommended waterproof Meat Thermometer from TEMOLA could be purchased to give instant readings when needed.
The temperature rise in the carryover cooking is usually between 5 - 10°F in brisket and many recipes and meet purveyors would advise that the brisket should be removed from the grill about 10° before it reaches optimum cooking temperature. Not doing this could lead the brisket to surpass optimal cooking temperature resulting in an overcooked brisket.
Another reason for the resting period included in a brisket recipe is to facilitate the retention of juices and moisture that improve both the flavor and texture of meats. Naturally, cooking brisket at temperatures higher than 170°F would lead to dryness, and considering that the ideal cooking temperature is 202°F, dryness is almost guaranteed. However, by figuring out how long the brisket should rest before slicing, you could retain more moisture.
This is especially important as slicing too early could allow the escape of more moisture from within the brisket. This article about the importance of resting meat gives a more detailed analysis on the phenomena leading to the need for resting a brisket and its alternatives.
How does it work?
When cooking, the heat that facilitates cooking also leads to the evaporation of most of the moisture in the brisket. If the brisket is allowed to overcook, the moisture escapes; if the brisket is removed from the grill before reaching the optimal cooking temperature, some of the moisture that would have been lost would be retained.
If the brisket were to be sliced after this premature (and necessary) removal, the retained moisture would leak out. However, if the brisket were left to rest for a while, dissolved collagens in the meat would mix with this moisture, forming a thicker fluid that is less likely to run out after slicing.
This is the true principle behind resting a brisket after smoking or grilling; the liquid within the meat gets to become thick enough to be easily retained before the meat is cut.
The difference between resting and holding
Resting and holding are similar in some ways yet different. Resting for one, involves allowing the meat that has been removed from the grill or smoker at about 170°F or less to cool down and reduce the amount of moisture that would have been lost to evaporation had it been allowed to keep cooking.
On the other hand, resting also helps moisture retention, but rather than just allowing the meat to cool, the meat is wrapped in foil (and maybe covered by a towel as well). This method is used for dried and overcooked meats. It would allow most of the remaining moisture trapped in the center of the meat to drain outwards into the drier surface areas without the risk of moisture loss.
However, holding the lead to the meat becoming too soft; a problem that cannot be encountered if the meat is rested instead. Holding could also affect the texture of the brisket exterior (as a result of the seared exterior losing some of its crispiness), which wouldn't be so if the meat were rested.
How long you should rest a brisket
The amount of time required for a brisket to rest after smoking would largely depend on personal preference. One thing is certain, though; the brisket should be removed from the grill or smoker when the internal temperature of the meat is between 180 - 190°F. Within this temperature range, carryover cooking might occur over 10 - 15°F, and as such, by the time the optimal temperature has been reached, there should be no more increase in the temperature of the meat.
Once out, any foil or paper used in wrapping the meat while cooking should be removed, and the meat should be placed on a platter or cutting board to rest for at least an hour but no more than two hours.
Buying a brisket: Tips
Resting a brisket is a process that's carried out after the brisket has been grilled. Before grilling, though, you'd have first to purchase a brisket, and like many meat recipes, the quality of the meat determines the quality of the food. The following could be taking into consideration when purchasing a brisket.
There are two parts to the brisket that is obtained from a butcher; there's the point (which contains fatter and it produces more flavorful meat) and there's the flat (which is not as fatty but is more suitable if you're going to be carving your meet up into slices). A high-quality brisket should contain both components and should be graded USDA prime.
If you're specific about those kinds of things, you should also look out for whether or not the brisket you are buying contains other chemicals such as antibiotics.
Cooking a brisket: Tips
A high-quality brisket is simply the first step to having a high-quality end-product. The following cooking tips could help ensure that the latter isn't just a pipe dream:
Before you start cooking, the first thing to note is that the brisket should be uniformly thick to ensure that all parts are cooked equally. This would mean separating out thinner pieces from thicker pieces as they would cook at different temperatures (and times), and some pieces would either be undercooked or overcooked if they are done together.
The grill should be preheated before you start cooking. Preheating for thirty minutes would help heat circulation within the grill and promote uniform, thorough cooking. The type of grill used here might also be a factor as a good grill should provide an accurate reading of the internal grill temperature. Propane gas grills and charcoal grills might require the use of an external thermometer to monitor the grill temperature accurately. Still, electric grills such as the Masterbuilt Analog Electric Smoker better assure this accuracy and come with three smoking racks.
The fatty side of the brisket should be facing upwards and should not be in direct contact with the grill. This ensures that the fat drips into the meat as it is rendered.
During the cooking, open the grill's lid as little as possible to prevent heat loss and increase the cooking time. Every time the lid is opened, heat is lost, and the time taken to build back up to a high enough temperature is added to the overall cooking time.
For each pound that the brisket weighs, cook for 75 minutes. This would mean that two-pound briskets would need to be cooked for 2 hours, 30 minutes, and a three-pound brisket, 3 hours and 45 minutes.
The brisket's internal temperature should be measured all through the cooking process, and once it approaches 190°F, the brisket should be removed and allowed to rest for at least an hour on a platter or cutting board. Alternatively, the holding method can be used.
When it comes to the amount of time that brisket should ideally be allowed to rest for, only expertise and experience could genuinely say. However, many beginners to grilling and smoking of briskets lack this, so the safer option of one hour is recommended.
Moving forward, it is expected that people get better at assessing the texture and moisture distribution between the meats they have and the meat they would like to have. These increased observation skills and knowledge would inform how long one should let a brisket rest.
It should be noted, though, that resting briskets (and meat in general) is not a completely convincing process. There's still a lot of debate concerning its relevance, but until the evidence against its usefulness is rock solid, there is no reason not to do it.