Resting VS. Holding a Brisket: Difference and Pros & Cons?

Resting and holding brisket are pretty confusing terms. Sometimes, you see pit masters holding a brisket and otherwise advising you to rest a brisket. And, you might wonder:

  • What’s the big difference between resting and holding a brisket, or are they the same? 
  • How do both techniques alter the results; 
  • Which should you opt for?

Are you a beginner in mastering the art of smoking a brisket (which is actually a science)? This well-researched article will introduce you to the primary difference between two interchangeably (wrongly) used terms and their pros and cons. 

Ultimately, you’ll be able to hold or rest your brisket according to your setting and convenience and get the best results.

Why not get into the details?

Here we come!

What’s the Difference Between “Resting Vs. Holding a Brisket?” 

“Resting a brisket” refers to letting the brisket’s internal temperature drop gradually to 145 degrees F. The brisket rest time may range from 1-10 or even 14 hours, depending on how you rest your brisket. It’s usually done by keeping the brisket in some warm place in the kitchen, on a couch, or in a cooler.

“Holding a brisket” refers to holding your brisket at 170-150 degrees Fahrenheit as long as you serve it. To hold a brisket temperature, holding ovens are used.

Remember, if you wrap your brisket and put it in a cooler, it’s “resting” it, not holding, technically speaking, no matter how slowly the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. And, if you’re particularly placing your brisket in an oven set at 150-170 degrees F, it’s holding it, not resting.

Always remember that holding or resting for over 14 hours isn’t advisable.

What is “Resting a Brisket,” and What are its Pros and Cons?

How to prepare cooler for brisket

Resting means resting a brisket to let its temperature drop gradually after finishing the cooking process. The primary purpose of resting a brisket is to redistribute the meat juices into the grains. If you slice your brisket without resting it, it won’t be able to hold the juice. The result will be a pool around the dried brisket but dry bites–enough to hate it!

The resting period depends on how slowly you want to drop the brisket’s internal temperature. This period can range between 2-14 hours, depending on how you rest your brisket. The longer it takes, the more evenly the rendered juices will be distributed.

The key is to rest your brisket for at least 2 hours before slicing it. Yet you can extend the period as long as it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit internal temperature–no matter if it takes 12-14 hours. 

For instance, on a kitchen counter, a brisket will reach 145F temperature within 1-2 hours. However, if placed in a well-insulated cooler, it might take 4-8 hours to reach the temperature of 145 degrees. Yet, you can remove it at any time to serve it. 

Once your brisket is done in the smoker, you need to rest it unwrapped for for about ½ to 1 hour. It’ll stop carry-over cooking by rapidly dropping the brisket’s internal temperature to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you can rest it in a cooler, couch some other warm place with good insulation.

During extended rest time, it’s essential not to let brisket temperature drop below 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, the meat will be contaminated (unsafe to eat). 

So, the resting process also needs careful execution. Resting the brisket without cooling it at room temperature will result in an overcooked and dry brisket. Be careful!

What are the pros of resting a brisket?

  • Resting allows the muscle fibers to relax and reabsorb the juices released during cooking. It results in more tender brisket.
  • Resting helps to prevent the brisket from drying out by allowing the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
  • Resting brisket can also help you to cook your undercooked brisket by taking advantage of carryover cooking. For this purpose, don’t rest your undercooked brisket on the counter to drop its temperature to 170F. Instead, wrap it directly and put it in the cooler for resting. When you remove it from the cooler, the undertaking will be fixed after a few hours of resting. 

What are the cons of resting a brisket?

  • Resting a brisket can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. It may cool down the brisket if the internal temperature is not monitored. And when you reheat it, the brisket might dry out. 

What is “Holding a Brisket, and What are its Pros and Cons?”

Resting VS Holding a Brisket: Difference and Pros & Cons?

“Holding a brisket” refers to keeping it warm after it has been cooked. Expert pit masters and restaurants use the technique to serve the brisket warm, tender, and moist to the eaters. 

This is typically done by placing the brisket in a low oven (or a cooler at home). The temperature of the oven or cooler should be set to 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the brisket is done, it’s removed from the smoker. And it’s unwrapped to rest on the counter so that the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the brisket is re-wrapped to avoid drying and placed in a holding oven at 170-150 degrees Fahrenheit temperature. 

The main purpose of holding is to keep the brisket at a safe temperature above the food danger zone (145°F). It keeps brisket warm for serving and prevents bacterial growth while maintaining its quality and flavor. Holding can be done using a holding oven. 

The brisket can be kept in the oven for several hours. Holding is a safer technique than resting, especially if you’re a beginner. It’s because resting a brisket in a cooler or a couch requires some mastery and more care.

Though the technique is excellent for better time management, it’s important to note that holding should not be done indefinitely. It can affect the quality of the brisket. It is best to hold the brisket for a few hours at most before serving to maintain optimal flavor and tenderness.

But “holding” can also benefit you, just like resting.

What are the pros of holding a brisket?

  • Holding brisket saves time. It aids in multitasking and improves organization in busy environments. Thus, you can do worry-free, smoother event operations and preparations.
  • Holding brisket enhances flavor through juice redistribution and flavor melding. This creates a uniform, well-developed taste for your guests to enjoy.
  • Holding maintains a consistent temperature. It ensures the brisket stays warm and juicy until serving without overcooking it. 
  • Holding extends the serving window, providing flexibility and ensuring hot, delicious brisket is available for all guests to enjoy.

What are the cons of holding a brisket?

  • Extended holding of brisket can lead to undesirable texture changes, making it softer or mushy, despite following recommended guidelines. So, don’t hold your brisket too long.
  • While holding initially enhances flavor development, prolonged holding may diminish flavor. So, avoiding holding a brisket for more than 14 hours is important to maintain quality.
  • Holding a brisket requires careful attention to food safety practices. So, it’s essential to monitor the temperature of the held brisket to ensure it stays above the food danger zone (140°F/60°C) and prevent bacterial growth. 

Resting vs. Holding a Brisket, which Method Should You Choose for Your Brisket?

The decision between resting and holding a brisket depends on your specific circumstances and goals. Experimentation and experience will guide you toward the best method for your desired outcome. You can try both and share, which resulted in the most tender and delicious brisket.

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