Brisket: Holding vs Resting Discussion and Advice

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Original poster
Nov 7, 2022
Scattered across numerous forums, I have seen people equate/use interchangeably the terms resting and holding when referring to allowing the internal temperature of a brisket to drop post-cook. These terms are not the same as resting refers to the period where you allow the temperature to drop and holding is holding (duh) the temperature of a brisket consistent when you get to the desired temp, as far as I can tell. So my questions to you are the following:

1) Most guidance calls for at least a 1 hr rest. Is it better to drop the brisket internal temp (IT) to 140 by resting at room temperature (which will cool the brisket faster than resting it in a warm cooler with towels), or is the cooler method better because it will rest for longer/drop in temp more slowly by comparison? If doing it at room temperature, is it better to leave a brisket wrapped or unwrapped (or some combination thereof) during the cooling/rest phase?

2) Is putting a brisket in a cooler only necessary for brisket that needs carryover cooking or does any cooked brisket benefit from the slower reduction in temperature, even if taken off the smoker at the proper tenderness? I have seen some people recommend dropping any brisket down to 170-180 IT to stop carryover cooking, then placing it in a cooler. I cannot tell if they are doing this as part of an extended rest or simply advocating it as a means of holding for a later eating time (or some combination thereof).

I am cooking a brisket this weekend and can't find clear answers, so any help would be appreciated.

Displaced Texan

Smoking Fanatic
SMF Premier Member
Nov 11, 2020
Burr Ridge, IL
What I have been doing, and it is working great for me, is finishing my briskets in the oven after 6ish hours of smoke and a bark I am happy with. Pull from the oven when tender and REST at room temp for about an hour. I have no idea the IT at that point. My rule of thumb, if I can hold the wrapped brisket, it is cool enough. If you slice and steam and juices come pouring out, you didn't rest it enough.

Then, I go to the warming oven. This is what I bought, and I realize most people won't do this, but then again, a really good cooler or Cambro, or the like, will cost this much.

And, I think what you will find is that the longer you hold after resting to bring the IT down, the better the brisket will be. I am holding for anywhere from 6-12 hours prior to slicing, and it is fantastic.
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Dustin Dorsey

SMF Premier Member
Sep 25, 2016
140 is great temperature to slice brisket because the muscle fibers have had a chance to relax so more juice is retained. I think this is probably the most critical. This is what I'd call the "rest".

The holding part is just holding it at a certain temp like you said. Active holding at 140 in an oven (I use a turkey roaster) has the added benefit of continuing to render fat and collagen. I typically will let a brisket rest down to 170, before holding it at 140. The brisket will slowly cool down to 140 during that span.

Will a cooler hold I'll still let the brisket rest down to 170 (or 180 at least). This stops the carryover cooking. You don't get as much benefit as you would from the active hold but you will get some.

I think the idea is to time everything so that you are serving the brisket at 140 either way. You can pull a brisket out of a cooler still steaming and too hot to slice.