What to Do When Your Brisket is Done Too Early

Brisket, a flavorful cut of meat from the chest area of a cow, is a beloved dish in the world of barbecue and slow cooking. However, cooking brisket can pose a challenge, and one common pitfall is when it finishes cooking before you’re ready to serve it. This article will explore the actions to take when your brisket completes its cooking prematurely.


Brisket is a versatile cut of meat that can be used in various dishes, such as sandwiches, tacos, and even as a standalone main course. When cooked properly, it becomes tender, juicy, and packed with smoky flavor, making it a favorite at BBQ joints and home gatherings alike.

What to Do When Brisket is Done Too Early:

  1. Wrap it in Foil and Towels: If your brisket finishes cooking well ahead of mealtime, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. Then, wrap it in clean towels or place it in a cooler to keep it warm. This method, known as “holding” the brisket, can help it stay hot for several hours without losing moisture.
  2. Lower the Oven Temperature: If you’re cooking the brisket in an oven and it’s done early, you can reduce the oven temperature to around 150-170°F (65-75°C). This will keep the brisket warm without overcooking it.
  3. Double-Check Doneness: Before resorting to holding the brisket, double-check its doneness. Sometimes, it may appear done on the outside but still needs more time to become tender. Use a meat thermometer to ensure it has reached the desired internal temperature, typically around 195-205°F (90-96°C).
  4. Reheat Carefully: If the brisket does cool down, reheat it slowly to avoid drying it out. Place it back in a warm oven or smoker, and monitor the temperature until it’s heated through without losing its tenderness.

Expert Tips:

  1. Plan Ahead: To avoid the dilemma of a brisket finishing too early, plan your cooking time carefully. Brisket is known for its long cooking process, often taking 10-12 hours or more, depending on the size and cooking method.
  2. Use a Meat Thermometer: Investing in a reliable meat thermometer is crucial for ensuring your brisket is cooked to perfection. The internal temperature is a better indicator of doneness than time alone.
  3. Rest the Brisket: Once the brisket is done cooking, let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier final product.
  4. Practice Makes Perfect: Cooking brisket is a skill that improves with practice. Don’t be discouraged by early finishes; each experience helps you become a better pitmaster.
  5. Consider a Faux Cambro: If you often find yourself with brisket finishing early, consider investing in a faux Cambro. This is a DIY version of a professional holding cabinet, using a cooler to maintain temperature and moisture levels.

Additional Tips and Considerations:

  1. Use the Texas Crutch Sparingly: The Texas Crutch is a technique where you wrap the brisket in foil partway through the cooking process to speed up the cooking and keep it moist. While this can be a helpful method, be cautious not to overuse it, as it can cause the brisket to finish too early. Reserve it for situations where you need to speed up the cook.
  2. Slice Just Before Serving: To keep your brisket as moist as possible, slice it just before serving rather than in advance. This prevents the meat from drying out and allows your guests to enjoy the juiciest, most flavorful slices.
  3. Practice Temperature Control: Maintaining a consistent cooking temperature is essential when smoking brisket. Fluctuations in temperature can affect the cooking time and lead to early finishes. Invest in a good smoker or grill with precise temperature control features.
  4. Use a Water Pan: Placing a water pan in your smoker or grill can help regulate temperature and humidity, which can be particularly useful when cooking brisket for long hours. This can help prevent the meat from drying out and finishing too early.
  5. Consider a Brisket Stall: The “stall” is a phenomenon where the internal temperature of the brisket plateaus for a while during cooking. This is normal and can sometimes extend the cooking time. Be patient and avoid raising the temperature too much in an attempt to push through the stall, as it can result in an early finish.
  6. Resting is Essential: After the brisket is done cooking, let it rest in an insulated container or wrapped in towels for at least 30 minutes. This allows the meat to reabsorb its juices, ensuring a moist and tender result.
  7. Learn from Experience: Each brisket cook provides an opportunity to learn and improve. Keep a cooking journal to track your methods, times, and temperatures. Over time, you’ll develop a better understanding of your equipment and cooking process.
  8. Brisket Storage: If the brisket finishes too early and you’re not ready to serve it, you can cool it down and store it in the refrigerator. When reheating, use a method that retains moisture, such as steaming or reheating in the oven with a bit of broth or juice.

Advanced Techniques and Creative Solutions:

  1. Utilize the “Faux Cambro” Technique: A Faux Cambro is a makeshift method to keep your brisket warm for an extended period. After wrapping your brisket in foil, towels, and placing it in a cooler, consider adding warm, clean bricks or heated oven-safe stones in the cooler alongside the brisket. This extra thermal mass helps maintain the temperature even longer.
  2. Inject Moisture if Necessary: If you’re concerned about your brisket drying out due to an early finish, you can use a meat injection. Create a flavorful injection solution with beef broth, melted butter, and seasonings. Inject this mixture into the brisket before cooking to help it retain moisture.
  3. Try the “Hot and Fast” Method: While traditional low and slow cooking is the most popular way to prepare brisket, some pitmasters prefer the “Hot and Fast” method, which cooks the brisket at higher temperatures. This method can reduce cooking time but requires careful monitoring to avoid overcooking.
  4. Experiment with Different Wood Types: The choice of wood for smoking can affect the cooking time and flavor of your brisket. Hardwoods like oak and hickory impart a rich, smoky flavor, while fruitwoods like apple or cherry can add a sweeter note. Experimenting with different wood combinations can help you achieve your desired outcome.
  5. Practice the “Texas Crutch” Wisely: The Texas Crutch can be a lifesaver when you need to speed up cooking or prevent early finishing. To use it effectively, wrap the brisket in foil, add a bit of liquid (such as apple juice or beef broth), and return it to the smoker. Be cautious not to overdo it, as too much time in foil can lead to a texture that’s too soft.
  6. Experiment with Rubs and Marinades: Enhance the flavor of your brisket by experimenting with different rubs and marinades. A well-seasoned brisket can be incredibly flavorful, even if it finishes cooking early. Try various spice blends, including ones with chili powder, brown sugar, paprika, and garlic, to create a signature taste.
  7. Consider Slicing Styles: If your brisket has finished early and you want to maintain its tenderness, consider slicing it differently. Opt for thicker slices to minimize exposure to the air and prevent drying out. Alternatively, serve it in larger chunks or as pulled brisket.


“Brisket Done Too Early.” These tables provide information on various aspects of cooking brisket when it’s done too early:

Table 1: Effects of Cooking Brisket Too Early

EffectDescriptionSolutionTips for Avoiding
Dry BrisketBrisket can become dry and tough when cooked too early.Use a meat thermometer.Monitor internal temperature.
Loss of FlavorThe flavor may not develop fully.Wrap in foil and rest.Plan cooking time better.
Texture IssuesTexture might be uneven and unappetizing.Use a cooler for insulation.Adjust cooking schedule.
Cold MeatBrisket might be served too cold.Preheat oven before serving.Coordinate serving time.
Extended WaitGuests might have to wait for too long.Have appetizers ready.Estimate cooking time accurately.

Table 2: Brisket Cooking Times

Brisket Weight (lbs)Recommended Cooking Time (hours)

Table 3: Brisket Resting Times

Brisket Weight (lbs)Recommended Resting Time (minutes)

Table 4: Common Mistakes When Cooking Brisket Early

Not Using a Meat ThermometerNot monitoring the internal temperature.Invest in a reliable meat thermometer.
Starting Too LateNot accounting for cooking time.Plan ahead and start early.
Inadequate RestingSkipping the resting phase.Allow brisket to rest before slicing.
Not Using FoilFailing to wrap brisket during resting.Wrap brisket in foil for moisture.
Inconsistent TemperatureFluctuating cooking temperature.Maintain consistent heat in the smoker.

Table 5: Tips for Avoiding Brisket Done Too Early

Use a Meat ThermometerEnsure proper internal temperature.
Plan Cooking Time AccuratelyCalculate cooking time based on brisket weight.
Allow Sufficient Resting TimeLet brisket rest to retain moisture.
Wrap in Foil During RestingKeep brisket moist during the resting phase.
Maintain Consistent TemperatureControl the smoker temperature for even cooking.


Brisket done too early can be a cooking challenge, but with the right techniques and a bit of practice, you can still serve a delicious, tender, and flavorful dish. Proper planning, temperature monitoring, and use of holding methods are key to mastering the art of cooking brisket to perfection.



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