Homemade Smoked Barbecue Beef Brisket with Sauce
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How To Keep Brisket Warm

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People love brisket, whether it is smoked or barbecued, cured then cooked as corned beef, or smoked and turned into pastrami. It’s a delightful cut of meat that has so many uses and can take on so many flavors!

However, cooking any brisket will require significant preparation and forethought, especially because high-quality briskets can be expensive and are most often served for special occasions.

It can be hard to get the timing right in order to clean your cook space, prepare side dishes, and ensure that the entire meal is served to guests without a huge delay. Thus, your brisket must be prepared in advance and kept warm!

So, how do you keep brisket warm? How you will keep your brisket warm will depend on your preparation method and the resources you have on hand. We recommend trying out the Cooler Method, the Oven Method, and the Liquid Bath Method to see what works best for your needs.

No matter your needs, there is a brisket warming solution that fits them. Read on to find out how to select your brisket, cooking tools to help you time it right, and how to keep your brisket warm until you’re ready to serve it!

Brisket Breakdown

Once considered a “throw-away” cut, brisket has become a symbol of status and mastery of craft in America, especially in the barbecue world.

No matter how you cook your brisket, it is sure to be the centerpiece of your meal!

A famously large, tough cut that requires care and attention, brisket is a pretty big investment — it can cost upwards of $50 and often requires well over 12 hours to cook.

With that in mind, buying a brisket can be intimidating! Here are some things to consider when you’re in the market for this cut of meat.


Brisket is available both trimmed and untrimmed.

A trimmed brisket is usually referred to as a “flat,” while an untrimmed brisket is often referred to as a “packer.” Packer briskets are the most common for barbecue.


Check to see that your brisket has a thick cap of fat on top. This will help keep the meat from drying out when cooking, as well as imbue some extra flavor.

Briskets are available as Prime, Choice, and Select Cuts. Prime is the most expensive and has the best marbling. Select is the least expensive and, as you may have guessed, does not have as much fat or marbling.


Do not be tempted to buy the largest brisket possible, even if it works out to be the best bang for your buck.

Consider the size of your grill, how many guests you are serving, and your desired cooking time. If you’re just starting on your brisket-cooking journey, it can be easy to overcommit yourself.

Tools For Cooking The Best Brisket

Using the right kitchen tools can be just as important as choosing the best cut of meat when it comes to cooking brisket!

Due to its large size, and the inherently variable nature of slow cooking, it can be fairly difficult to accurately gauge the cooking time of brisket.

Here are some essential items you’ll want to keep on hand when you’re cooking brisket.

1. Leave-In Probe Thermometer

If you are cooking brisket, not only do you need a leave-in probe thermometer, you deserve one!

Monitoring temperature accurately and continuously can be the difference between good barbecue and great barbecue. It can also be the difference between a great meal and disaster!

You can use a simple probe thermometer, but that requires periodically removing your brisket from a temperature-controlled environment, which will disturb your heat control. It is also inconvenient for you personally!

If you’re splurging on a brisket, stocking up on charcoal, and dedicating 18 hours of your life to this endeavor, you should invest in a simple, rugged, leave-in probe thermometer.

2. Pink Butcher Paper

Pink butcher paper, which comes unwaxed and unbleached, is the secret weapon of the barbecue world!

Its texture and untreated nature make it ideal for wrapping not just brisket, but also ribs, pork butts, fish, and anything else you want to wrap while cooking.

If you cannot find pink butcher paper, parchment paper or even aluminum foil can be substituted with great results. But as we’ll discuss further down, pink butcher paper is the superior choice!

3. Serving Dish

Using the right size and type of serving tray or dish is important for any cooking project, but it is especially crucial for those attempting the Liquid Bath Method (more on this below).

You will want to make sure you use a dish that is both large and deep enough to hold the brisket and cooking liquid, as well as one that can withstand high temperatures.

Here is a quick rundown of some common materials for pans or dishes, and which ones might be best for keeping your brisket warm.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is affordable, durable, and optimal for heat retention as it is able to withstand temperatures up to around 900-1,000°F.

While your brisket does not need to get even remotely near that hot for the Liquid Bath Method, cast iron dishes would do the trick for simply keeping it warm.

These are a great investment for your kitchen in general, but make sure you follow instructions on seasoning, maintaining, and cleaning your cast iron products. 


Copper pans heat quickly and evenly, with the ability to handle temperatures of 450-600°F (depending on the brand).

They are usually on the more expensive side, require polishing, and can be reactive to acidic foods.

Fully Clad Stainless Steel

Fully clad stainless steel cookware can circulate heat evenly and is both durable and incredibly versatile, with the ability to handle temperatures of up to 500°F in an oven.

However, it will likely be more expensive than other options and may also be harder to clean as food is more likely to stick to the surface.

Regular Stainless Steel

Regular or “bonded” stainless steel cookware is much cheaper than the fully clad versions and can safely be used in the oven, broiler, or on the stovetop. It is great for more moderate temperatures between 200-500°F.

It still transmits heat effectively, but usually more toward the bottom and less evenly on the sides. This makes it unsuitable for cooking liquid or sauces.


Aluminum cookware is affordable, lightweight, and can conduct heat quickly and evenly.

On the other hand, aluminum is not very durable in high temperatures and can warp easily, especially if the ingredients are acidic. You may end up with a metallic taste.

Ways To Keep Brisket Warm

Once you have the right materials for the job, you can get cooking!

The keys to keeping a brisket warm are maintaining a safe holding temperature (above 140°F), preserving moisture, and allowing the meat to rest.

A brisket can benefit from a long rest. Whether you use a cooler, the oven, or a liquid bath to keep the meat warm after cooking — any of these methods will ensure a juicy and tender brisket that your guests will love.

Give these methods a try and let us know which one worked best for you!

1. The Cooler Method

Barbecued brisket is an art, a science, and for many, a competition. That isn’t a metaphor — competition barbecue is big business; a crucible where brisket techniques are tested and developed!

Every stage of preparing a barbecued brisket has been debated to death for decades, from seasoning to slicing — keeping a brisket warm is no exception.

The most lauded method of keeping a barbecued brisket warm is the cooler method. This method will require the following items:

  • A standard beverage cooler large enough to fit your brisket (pick one you don’t mind smelling like meat and smoke, or one that’s easy to clean)
  • 2-3 large towels (from dishrags to beach towels, any will do — pick some you don’t mind smelling like meat or smoke and be sure to wash them on your washing machine’s hottest setting beforehand, ideally a sanitizing setting)
  • Pink butcher paper or aluminum foil
  • A leave-in probe thermometer

Here’s what to do:

  1. First, barbecue your brisket. As your cook-time finishes and your brisket reaches its desired temperature, prepare your cooler, towels, pink butcher paper, and meat thermometer.
  2. Remove your brisket from the heat. Feel free to admire your handiwork for a few seconds, then wrap your brisket in pink butcher paper.
    • The butcher paper will help retain enough moisture to keep your meat juicy while allowing enough moisture to escape to help preserve the prized bark (the crunchy, smoky layer that forms on a piece of slow-cooked meat, like barbecue ought to be).
    • This is why pink butcher paper is superior to aluminum foil! Aluminum foil will do the job of retaining moisture too well. Sealed tight, with no permeability, the bark will soak in the meat’s juices and soften.
  3. When you have wrapped your brisket in the pink butcher paper, plunge your leave-in probe thermometer through the paper and into the middle of the thickest part of the brisket.
  4. Wrap the brisket in towels and place in the cooler. If you have extra towels, you can pad out the cooler for better insulation. Then close the lid. That’s it!
    • Your brisket will stay warm for 2-4 hours. Even better, the resting process will make the meat more tender and juicier, as the brisket continues to cook while staying warm.
  5. Use your leave-in probe thermometer to monitor the temperature.
    • As long as the temperature of the brisket stays above 140°F, the meat is resting safely.
    • Should the temperature drop below 140°F, you can transition to another method. 40-140°F is what the USDA calls the “Danger Zone” where bacteria grow most rapidly.

2. The Oven Method

Easy and convenient, the oven method is available to pretty much everyone! For this method, you will need the following materials:

  • An oven big enough to put the brisket in
  • Pink butcher paper or aluminum foil
  • Leave-in probe thermometer

Here’s what to do:

  1. First, barbecue your brisket. As your cook-time finishes and your brisket reaches its desired temperature, prepare your pink butcher paper and thermometer.
  2. Preheat the oven to 165°F, or the oven’s otherwise lowest setting. If you had been cooking your brisket in the oven, remove it while the oven cools to the correct heat.
  3. Wrap the brisket with pink butcher paper, insert the thermometer through the paper into the middle of the thickest part of the brisket, and place the brisket in the oven.
  4. Monitor the temperature with your thermometer and leave the brisket in the oven until ready to serve.
    • Bear in mind that the oven will eventually dry out the brisket at 165°F. It may be best to limit this method to two hours of warming.

3. The Liquid Bath Method

Like we’ve said before, brisket is a very versatile cut of meat. Different preparations of brisket may require different methods of warming to stay moist, so sometimes a liquid bath might be the most appropriate for your brisket!

For this method, you will need the following materials:

  • Serving tray/dish
  • Aluminum foil or lid for dish
  • A leave-in probe thermometer

Corned beef is the simplest example:

  1. After slicing your corned beef, place the meat in a serving tray and partially cover it with the cooking liquid.
  2. Put a lid or aluminum foil over the tray and keep the tray temperature above 140°F using an oven, a cooler or hot/cold bag, or a chafing dish.

This technique can also be used for serving hot pastrami:

  1. Arrange your pastrami slices in the dish and partially cover the meat with beef stock or au jus.
  2. Put a lid or aluminum foil over the tray and keep the tray temperature above 140°F using an oven, a cooler or hot/cold bag, or a chafing dish.

Of course, this method can be used with barbecued brisket:

  1. Arrange your sliced or chopped brisket in the dish and partially cover it with barbecue sauce.
  2. Put a lid or aluminum foil over the tray and keep the tray temperature above 140°F using an oven, a cooler or hot/cold bag, or a chafing dish.

While barbecue purists may look down upon serving a pre-sauced brisket, your guests usually won’t. Furthermore, this method can be used to rehabilitate a slightly overcooked brisket.

Chopped brisket tossed in barbecue sauce is a popular option at barbecue restaurants and is always a crowd pleaser!

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