How to Reheat Brisket – Keeping it Moist, and None of That ‘M’ Word!

Usually, when there’s a backyard party, there’s food leftover, especially if the headcount was less than you expected.

Leftover meat such as chicken, ribs, steak or brisket can last a good long while if stored correctly, but the way you wrap, freeze and reheat them matters.

If not done correctly they can be dry, tasteless and hard to chew. You will have wasted your time trying to save them.

This article focuses on how to reheat brisket.

Brisket being reheated with the use of a sous vide wand

Because brisket comes from the breast or lower chest of a cow, a seriously hard-working muscle, it can be tough. People usually spend hours and hours slow cooking to tenderize the meat in their smokers or grills.

When done right, the brisket is tender and juicy and well worth the effort. But now you have leftovers and don’t want to waste a single precious morsel because it took you the best part of a whole day to cook it to perfection.

Rule of thumb, cooked brisket can be refrigerated up to 4 days or frozen for 3 months. The quality will diminish significantly after that time. (Who can wait that long?)

Ever wonder how you preserve brisket until you’re ready to savor the flavor again? And how to reheat it without drying it out and losing flavor? Then read on.

Steps to Freezing Your Brisket

How you wrap and store it matters because it directly affects the quality of the meat and its flavor.

Your two biggest enemies are oxygen and dehydration, and your best defense against them is a food vacuum sealer. A vacuum sealer will remove the oxygen from around the meat, and the thick plastic wrap will prevent evaporation, keep the moisture in AND prevent freezer burn.

How about the rest of us who don’t have a vacuum sealer at home? No problem. You should have everything you need right in your kitchen.

Start by wrapping the beef as tightly as you can by using clingfilm. Next, wrap it with aluminum foil to hold the plastic wrap in place. Then put the brisket in a sealable freezer bag because the aluminum foil will prevent freezer burn while the plastic bag will prevent odors from penetrating.

Is your beef brisket sliced or whole? Preferably you’d freeze it whole but if it’s already sliced make sure they are in the bag and don’t forget to pour in some au jus, pan drippings and leave the jelly that stuck on the meat. They will keep the slices moist and tender when you thaw them again, and you will use the juice to reheat the meat.

Use a plastic resealable bag If you would like to add the gravy or stock. Spoon in the sauce and squeeze out the air. Some people go so far as to create a vacuum by inserting a straw into a bag, inhaling the air and quickly closing the bag.

Be sure to use a marker to write the date and contents on the bag, or you could end up with a “UFO” (Unidentified Frozen Object).

Proper Thawing Preserves Flavor and Your Health

For most of us reheating food means shoving it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and voila!… you have a meal. However, it’s a terrible idea when it comes to reheating your brisket. You may end up with overcooked, dry, smoked shoe leather.

Some people say just to leave it on the countertop for hours or even overnight to thaw it out. That is a recipe for food poisoning so don’t use that method either.

The preferred method of thawing is to put your meat in the refrigerator. It will take a day or two, but it’s safer. However, if you are in a hurry, you can put it in a bowl under cold running water so long as the bag doesn’t leak.

Of course, you can thaw it in the microwave, but you might as well save a step and just throw it away. Let’s not use the “M” word around our delicate brisket, shall we?

Here is what the USDA has to say about thawing:

“Even though the center of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the “Danger Zone,” between 40 and 140 °F – temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly.”

Hopefully, you kept the juice from the brisket that you cooked. It makes reheating easier, and it’s also packed with flavor. Of course, you can use other liquids as well.

This Livestrong article recommends slicing the chilled brisket before reheating. It won’t take as long to heat, and it’s easier to slice. However, the other school of thought is to reheat your meat whole then slice it. It’s a matter of preference.

Best Ways to Bring Your Brisket Back to Life

Reheat it in the Oven.

Start by preheating your oven to 300°F (148°C). Trim off any excess fat with a knife (Note: it’s best to trim brisket properly before cooking). If you want to slice it, go against the grain or just leave it whole.

Place the meat in a baking pan along with any pan juices you saved from when you originally cooked the meat.

Now, cover the pan tightly with foil and put it in the oven. Reheat for approximately 20 minutes if it’s sliced or about an hour if it’s whole. Check it with a meat thermometer, and once it reaches 160°F or higher, it’s ready to serve.

Reserving the juices when you cook will make reheating easier, but if you didn’t save them, you could use other liquids.

One idea you can try is boiling 2 cups of apple cider or juice until reduced by half. Stir in 2 tablespoons of your favorite barbecue sauce then add it to your brisket before you reheat it. It will make a nice sauce when you’re done and keep the meat moist while it reheats.

How to Reheat Brisket Using Sous Vide Technique

The sous vide method is an excellent way to reheat brisket if you have the equipment.

If you aren’t familiar with it, sous-vide slowly brings your meat up to temperature in a preheated water bath. The meat stays tightly wrapped in a sealed plastic bag and heats until the internal temperature reaches the same temperature as the water.

It is virtually impossible to overcook or dry out the meat using this method.

Here is a handy chart showing how long to reheat different thicknesses of brisket in a sosu vide bath:

Brisket Heating Time
Assuming that the water’s temperature is between 110°F-175°F (45°C-80°C)
Sliced Brisket

  • 0.5 in (10 mm) thick: 11 min
  • 1 in (25 mm) thick: 40 min
  • 2 in (50 mm) thick: 2 hr.
  • 2.5 in (60 mm) thick: 2½ hr.
  • 3 in (75 mm) thick: 3¾ hr.
  • 3.5 in (85 mm) thick: 4¾ hr.
Whole

  • 0.5 in (10 mm) thick: 8 min.
  • 1 in (25 mm) thick: 25 min.
  • 2 in (50 mm) thick: 1½ hr.
  • 2.5 in (60 mm) thick: 2 hr.
  • 3 in (75 mm) thick: 2¾ hr.
  • 3.5 in (85 mm) thick: 3½ hr.
  • 4 in (105 mm) mm thick: 5 hr.
  • 4.5 in (115 mm) mm thick: 6 hr.

(Temperatures courtesy of ChefStep)

Here is a quick video comparing reheating in a pan to sous vide. They also show a smoked brisket reheated sous-vide style at the end.

Microwave Pros & Cons

Remember? We said we aren’t going to use the “M” word around our precious brisket. There are no “pros” only “cons” when it comes to reheating the meat in a microwave.

Microwaves heat by turning water molecules into steam. Not only will steaming your meat leave it incredibly dry but it makes it tough too. It would be a tragic waste of good brisket to destroy it in a microwave.

So if you really want to know how to reheat one in the microwave, the answer is: You don’t!

Side Dishes

Hey, your brisket is good, but you’re not serving it alone, are you?

While its heating don’t forget to make some side dishes like potato salad, mac and cheese, coleslaw, pickles and biscuits to make a delicious meal.

Too lazy to cook? Grab some of those at your local grocery store. They’re probably not as good as home cooked, but they’re convenient and not too bad (at least around my area).

Final Thoughts…

How about trying these little techniques and let me know how it turns out?

The main thing is if you freeze, defrost and reheat your smoked brisket properly, you’ll get to enjoy its amazing flavor almost as good as it was the day you took it out of the smoker. And yes, you can store and reheat your food more than once!

Happy grilling!

Mark Jenner

Hi. I'm Mark Jenner, owner and creator of FoodFireFriends.com.I grill and smoke food outdoors at least three days a week on a wide range of equipment, have done so for years, and love nothing more than cooking good food, over live fire, enjoying it with friends. The aim of this site is to educate and help others to do the same.

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