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I will be smoking a brisket on Christmas Eve for 6 to 8 hours, and then completing the cooking of in the oven on Christmas day. I want to keep it moist, avoiding the risk of congealing from overnight refrigeration (releasing liquid then not reabsorbing it).

A friend of mine who is a gourmet cook recommended that it simply be doubled wrapped in foil and left at room temperature overnight, instead of refrigerating. While it would sure solve the problem of keeping the brisket moist, I have concerns about the safety in doing this.

Would that be safe? If not, how can I keep the brisket how I want it?

  • 1
    That's not safe: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/34670/…. Perhaps given that, you'd be interested in asking how to keep the brisket how you want it without a safety issue? – Cascabel Dec 21 '16 at 19:18
  • Okay, tell me, Jefromi, How do I keep the brisket how I want it without a safety issue? – Ellen Henneke Dec 21 '16 at 20:29
  • I was suggesting editing your question, not saying I know the answer :) I went ahead and edited for you. – Cascabel Dec 21 '16 at 20:35
  • What exactly do you mean by congealing? Are you worried that the smoked brisket will exude liquid when it's chilled, which won't be re-absorbed? – John Feltz Dec 21 '16 at 20:39
  • If you wake up early, you could smoke it on xmas itself. But, try amazingribs.com/tips_and_technique/…. – Batman Dec 23 '16 at 6:50
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Smoking a brisket until it hits around 160F and then finishing it in the oven is a common way to cook brisket. Meat doesn't benefit much from further smoking after it hits 160F or so, and the oven is much less finicky than a grill or meat smoker. For reference, here is a good description of smoking brisket in a charcoal smoker and then finishing in the oven.

When it's time to take the meat out of the smoker, normal practice is to wrap it thoroughly in foil and then move it to the oven right away. Once the meat hits the final temperature (205F or so), you can hold it for hours before serving it, as long as you keep it warm. So, what you want to do is to stretch out the oven portion of the process so that you can go to sleep.

I'd do something like this:

  1. Smoke the brisket to an internal temperature of 160F or so.
  2. Wrap it thoroughly in heavy-duty foil. You want to prevent any liquid from being able to leak out.
  3. Transfer the roast to an oven set to 225F or even 210F-215F if the oven will go that low.
  4. Go to sleep.

With the oven set so low, the meat will take a long time to reach its final temperature. This is a good thing because brisket benefits from being cooked low & slow. And in the worst case, the meat won't be able to get any hotter than the oven temperature.

The next morning, you can check the meat temperature and make any final adjustments. If the meat isn't cooking fast enough, you can turn up the oven. Once the meat reaches temperature, you have a couple of options:

  • Remove the roast from the oven, and (leaving it in foil) wrap it in towels and put it into a small insulated cooler. It will lose very little heat this way, and it'll have even more time for collagen to melt.
  • Turn the oven down to its "keep warm setting" (hopefully 170F-180F) and hold the meat that way.

However you keep it warm, pull it out at some point to let the meat get proper resting period. When you finally open that foil, you'll probably find the meat is resting in a pool of wonderful smokey beefy smelling liquid. You can pour that back over the sliced meat, or incorporate it into a finishing sauce of some kind.

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Don't keep it. Set your alarm clock and start smoking in time to finish for dinner time. Once you get the firebox going you can go back to bed and set an alarm for 2 hours later. Unless you have done this a few times then keeping the firebox going properly is not an automatic. You can finish most brisket in 6-8 hours. The brisket should already be double wrapped in tin foil.

  • That's pretty much what I started to say. If the OP starts smoking the brisket 9 hours before they want to put it in the oven, they'll have a bit of breathing room. – Jolenealaska Dec 21 '16 at 22:12
  • @Jolenealaska My positions is why do you need to put it in the oven at all. You just slow down the firebox. You have 2-3 safe hours after the firebox goes out. – paparazzo Dec 21 '16 at 22:23
  • I don't know, I've never smoked a brisket. I just know that it was the OP's plan to finish it in the oven. If they want to do that, then it's a good idea to start smoking it 9 or 10 hours before they plan to put it in the oven (assuming a planned smoke time of 6-8 hours). – Jolenealaska Dec 21 '16 at 22:33
  • I guess I'm the OP. The reason for finishing it in the oven is that Christmas dinner is to be served by 2:00 pm (not enough time to smoke for 10-12 hours as the recipe says). That's why I thought I could smoke it for 6-8 hours on Saturday and finish it in the oven on Sunday. But I'm beginning to think I came to the wrong place to find an answer to my dilemma. – Ellen Henneke Dec 21 '16 at 23:12
  • @EllenHenneke Sorry about that - OP is short for "original poster". As for this answer, I think Paparazzi is saying that there's no good way to do what you want, and you have to instead get up at 2-4am to start it, to have it ready at 2pm. Maybe someone else will have a more appealing answer, though. – Cascabel Dec 21 '16 at 23:17
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If you're already committed to smoking, you're 90% of the way to another option entirely, and that's to make a cured, smoked meat product, which has sufficient salt and smoke to act as a barrier to bacterial growth. Do follow a recipe, for example: http://amazingribs.com/recipes/beef/close_to_katzs_home_made_pastrami.html

At that point, there's no food safety concern about leaving the meat at room temperature.

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