Bless your heart, it can happen to any pitmaster. You spent hours tending to that brisket, smoking it low and slow, keeping a watchful eye on the temperature. You’re eagerly anticipating that mouthwatering, tender, smoky flavor that’s about to come out of the smoker and leave your guests in awe.
Hold on to your hat, folks! It’s a common tale among pitmasters — you’ve been tending to that brisket all day, maintaining the perfect temperature, and eagerly awaiting the moment when that rich, smoky aroma will permeate the air, and your leaving your guests in awe with that tender, juicy, mouthwatering, fall-apart tender meat.
And then, it happens: your brisket is done *way* too early. Well, y’all, there’s no need to throw in the towel just yet. In this article, I’m going to show you how to turn that early-done brisket into a mouth-watering, finger-licking meal that will have the folks at the table begging for more.
Yep, you heard that right, we ain’t giving up on that brisket just yet.
Why a Brisket Done Too Early Is a Problem
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, y’all, but a brisket done too early is more than just an inconvenience. It is a downright food safety challenge.
According to the USDA, meat can only stay out for a maximum of 1-2 hours if its internal temperature drops below 140°F. That’s because disease-causing bacteria, like E. coli and C. perfringens, can grow to dangerous levels inside the meat after that time, rendering it unsafe to eat.
So, if you find yourself with a brisket done way too early and need to hold onto it for longer than 1-2 hours, you’re faced with a trade-off. You either need to cool it down and refrigerate it or keep it warm enough for hours on end so it stays edible.
I don’t need to tell you that neither of these options are ideal. Cooling and refrigerating a brisket can make it tough, and reheating it later can cause it to dry out. And keeping it warm for hours on end can dry it out just as much.
Alas, these are the options you have if you want to avoid your mother-in-law or a neighbor falling ill with food poisoning from attending your cookout. And we don’t want that, now, do we?
What to Do If Your Brisket’s Done Too Early
If you find that your brisket is done too early, you may feel like you’re in a bind. But don’t worry! There are several steps you can take to ensure that your brisket stays delicious, juicy, and safe to eat.
The first step is to wrap the brisket tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper. This will help keep the brisket warm and moist, and prevent it from drying out. Once you’ve wrapped the brisket, double-wrap it with a thick blanket or towels to provide extra insulation.
Next, you’ll need to find a cooler — soft, hard, any cooler you’d use for camping will do just fine — that’s large enough to hold the brisket. Place the brisket inside the cooler, and close the lid tightly. The cooler will help to keep the brisket warm for several hours, so it will be ready to serve when you’re ready to eat.
When it comes to how long a brisket can remain warm enough to stay safe, it depends on several factors. The size of the brisket, the thickness of the blanket, and the insulation of the cooler all play a role. With that said, as a general rule, aim to keep the brisket in the cooler for no longer than 3 to 6 hours, with fewer being better.
It’s mission-critical to check the internal temperature of the brisket every 2-3 hours to make sure it stays above the danger zone of 140°F. If it drops below this temperature, you risk the growth of harmful bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. If it drops, you can reheat it in a preheated, 200°F oven and keep it there till the guests arrive.
How to Crispen the Bark After Holding
When we’re talking about a brisket that’s been held for hours, the bark might not be as crispy as you want it to be. But don’t you worry, there’s a way to fix that. Preheat your oven to 450°F for about 15-20 minutes until it’s piping hot. Then, carefully place the brisket in there for around 10 minutes.
The high temperature will help to evaporate the moisture on the surface of the brisket, which should help to crisp up the bark once more. Keep an eye on it, though. You don’t want to overdo it and end up with a burnt brisket.
Remember that this trick is only for crisping up the bark. The brisket itself is already well cooked, and you don’t want to dry it out by leaving it in the oven for too long. Keep a close eye on the brisket, and pull it out as soon as the bark is nice and crispy once more.
Bottom Line: All Your Options
- If you only need to hold the brisket for a short while, rest it as you’d normally do and monitor its internal temperature. Once it drops below 140°F, you have 1-2 hours to eat it.
- If you need to hold the brisket for several hours, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or butcher paper and put it in a cooler, where it should stay safe to eat for 3 to 6 hours.
- The only other option from a food safety point of view is to rest the brisket, carve it up, cool it down, then store it in the fridge, where it will stay good for 3 to 4 days.