Is Resting a Brisket Unwrapped OK? Yes, But it Depends!

Smoking a brisket is a complete science of breaking down the proteins and fats of a large beef cut at low temperatures and distributing all the flavors into the brisket by resting it. 

The slightest mistake can cause a “brisket gone wrong!”

Nightmare…! Who can wish for it to happen?

This can be most unfortunate if you’ve spent hours slowly smoking the meat and only made the biggest mistake when resting it the wrong way.

Not all briskets are the same, and it’s the first thing to understand. Then comes a smoking time, followed by resting time, which requires extra care. 

And, nobody gives you a definite answer whether you should rest the brisket unwrapped or wrapped–if someone answers you with “yes,” or “no.” they can be wrong. 

In this regard, you need to understand the whole purpose of resting on a brisket. Therefore, in this detailed article, I have clarified a few essential things:

  • When can you rest the brisket without wrapping it?
  • Why or when should you rest the brisket wrapped?
  • Is there any exception not to wrap a brisket?
  • Why does this type of brisket need wrapping?
  • What type of brisket can be rested without wrapping, and for how long.

Sounding like a lab test?

Yes, briskets are always that way. Let’s discuss this in detail.

Wait, please–you’re required to stick to this article so that you may enjoy the tastiest brisket on your dinner table!

Why do you Rest the Brisket, and What Type of Brisket Needs more Resting Time?

Slow smoking the toughest beef cut for several hours gets you the juiciest meat. However, it needs to be rested so that the extracted juices are evenly distributed in the entire meat cut before serving it. 

What can happen if you don’t rest your brisket at all and crave it immediately?

It can cause a spill of juices from your brisket slices, resulting in your brisket being dry and less tasty.

So how long should you rest a brisket?

Depending on the type of brisket, you need to rest the brisket for 2-12 hours until the brisket juices are fully distributed in all grains.

A prime, wagyu, certified Angus brisket, or choice-grade brisket with optimum marbling should rest up to 12 hours. 

Yet, resting a low-grade brisket, e.g., a USDA select-grade brisket (with more lean meat and less fat) will get you only the driest protein bites–enough to regret. So, rest a low-grade brisket for not more than 6 hours.

Then comes the exception: you can even rest your brisket only for half an hour if the guests are waiting at the dinner table–you should avoid it utmost.

No matter how long the resting period you choose, your brisket’s internal temperature should not drop below 145 +/- degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, it won’t be safe to eat.

Do you Unwrap Brisket Before the Resting Stage?

Yes, before resting your brisket and after removing it from the smoker, you must unwrap it. Exposing it to air will help it cool down and stop the carry-over cooking process to save it from overcooking.

But not always….

Though uncommonly, it can happen.

Your brisket can be left undercooked accidentally, despite following all guidelines. In such a situation, the carry-over cooking will save you. To benefit your brisket from carry-over heat, wrap your brisket as soon as possible and set it for rest.

Why do you Need to Wrap a Brisket While Resting it?

Now comes your main concern: why is wrapping a brisket necessary during rest?

It’s complex–three things matter here:

  • First, when the rest period is prolonged (over 4 hours), chances are the brisket moisture will evaporate. Resultant your brisket has hard bark and dried meat.
  • Second, if you don’t wrap your brisket, it’ll cool faster, and resting it for longer might be impossible. For example, if you rest your brisket on a couch or a cooler, you must wrap it in manifolds (use butcher paper and a towel). Yet, for resting a brisket in an oven or electric smoker, wrap it in butcher paper only. Or you can also place it in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil. 
  • Third, if you rest your brisket unwrapped, the rapid temperature drop will no more serve you a warm brisket for dinner–nobody will love it!

Hence, you must unwrap your brisket after the cooking is finished and wrap it again (depending on. your rest time duration).

When can you Skip Wrapping a Brisket while Resting it?

Just as resting a brisket involves several time windows, the resting methods and environment temperature also have got a lot to do with wrapping or unwrapping it. 

For instance, you can also rest your brisket at room temperature for at least 30 minutes if it’s an emergency. Even if you rest it for a minimum of 1 hour, you don’t need to wrap the brisket if your room isn’t too cold. 

Similarly, if you rest it in an oven, cooler, or electric smoker for up to 2 hours, you can skip wrapping it in butcher paper. But, in case of extended resting using above mentioned methods, you still need to wrap it in tallow greased butcher paper to get it rendered.

How Quickly can you Send your Brisket for Rest? 

As soon as your brisket comes out from the smoker, the carry-over cooking process keeps cooking it by raising your brisket’s internal temperature by 10 degrees. However, since the brisket is slow-cooked, the carry-over cooking stops only in 1-20 minutes after you remove it from the smoker.

If you wrap your brisket immediately without cooling it at room temperature, it can turn dry and overcooked. 

It’s also another reason that many pit masters advise you to remove the brisket from the smoker as soon as it hits an internal temperature of 195-203 degrees Fahrenheit. And, before wrapping your brisket for rest (if you’re planning to rest it for over 1 hour), you must rest it unwrapped at room temperature for up to 15-20 minutes.

Can you Skip Wrapping a Brisket while Resting it?

Yes, you can overlook wrapping your brisket when putting it to rest for a short period.

For example, if you decide to serve your brisket immediately, you can rest it at room temperature for up to 1 hour without wrapping it in butcher paper. To keep it warm, you can use an aluminum foil tent instead.

What type of Brisket can be Rested without Wrapping, and for How Long.

As discussed earlier, all briskets differ depending on size and protein-to-fat ratio, which you call “marbling.”

If you don’t want to wrap your brisket during a short rest period of 1-4 hours, you must make sure that the brisket has enough juices that don’t evaporate when cooling down slowly. For resting a Prime or Choice grade brisket without wrapping it:

  • After removing the brisket from the smoker, remove all packaging of butcher paper or aluminum foil so that the carryover cooking is stopped.
  • Rest the brisket in a sustained heating environment like an electric or holding oven or electric smoker unwrapped for up to 4 hours.
  • If you’ve smoked your brisket following the foil boat method.

Yet, if you have a leaner brisket e.g., of select grade, you must rest it warped if the resting period exceeds 1 hour. The reason is that it already has few juices which can evaporate sooner. Yet the process will be step by step: 

  • First, unpack the smoked brisket and rest it at room temperature for 20 minutes to stop carry-over cooking
  • Then, wrap the brisket in butcher paper and place it in a warm environment for the rest of the period.

How should you Wrap your Brisket according to your Chosen Resting Method?

Not all briskets need to be wrapped the same way. But for wrapping, butcher paper is a must.

Additionally, you can use some other stuff like a towel to maintain brisket temperature for a longer period when you’re not providing it with additional consistent heat from the oven or electric smoker. Below I’ve explained how you should wrap your brisket.

  • For resting a brisket in a cooler or couch. Wrap your brisket in butcher paper. It’ll be a great idea to use the brisket drips and beef tallow to grease the butcher paper. 

Then wrap the brisket in a towel and put it in hot water, bathed cooler, or on a couch. Since you’re unsure how long your brisket will hold a temperature of 145 +/- degrees, use a digital meat probe thermometer.

  • For resting a brisket in an oven or electric smoker, only wrap the brisket in beef-tallow-greased and moist butcher paper after finishing cooking and 20 minutes of naked resting.
  • For rendering your brisket in sous vide, seal the brisket in a vacuumed plastic bag. Yeah, my dear, please ignore packaging your expensive beef cut in butcher paper here–it’s not requisite. 

How should you Wrap the Brisket in Butcher Paper? 

No rocket science is involved here. Simply overlap two butcher papers horizontally. Use water or beef tallow to season the butcher paper. 

Then place the brisket in a way that, at the end, the fat cap is downward. To do so, as soon as you reach the securing end, wrap it under the brisket with the fat cap down. Isn’t that easy?

Do you Wrap a No-Wrap Smoked Brisket?

Yes, a no-wrap smoked brisket will also follow similar criteria for resting. To rest it for a minimum of up to 1 hour, you can skip wrapping it. 

Yet, for a longer rest, wrap your brisket in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil, optionally) or wrap it in butcher paper and rest it according to your chosen method.

What is The Best Way to Rest a Brisket?

The best method to rest a brisket is using a sous vide machine. It might sound expensive, yet the result can surprise you. 

Should you have it then? 

No, my friend, you can also use your ordinary electric oven or a cooler. 

Only ensure that your brisket has got an environment where its internal temperature doesn’t drop 140 degrees. Otherwise, it won’t be safe to eat–who will dare to ruin their hard-earned brisket?

And the surest way to monitor the rested brisket is using a digital meat thermometer—Bluetooth is the best. 

Conclusion

Brisket resting is the most important post-brisket smoking. You must unwrap your brisket when the cooking is over and rest it a room temperature for 15 minutes. Then re-wrap it in butcher paper and rest it. Yet, this resting is flexible according to your brisket type and rest period duration. Whatever you choose to do, do it correctly and confidently. You’ll be happy with your brisket, ultimately.

Good luck!

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