With a bit of preparation and the right cooking utensils, even the toughest piece of meat becomes tender, rich, and delicious. Since brisket comes from the breast of the cow, it’s rough and one of the least tender cuts of beef. But when cooked low and slow, the meat becomes juicy, drips with flavor, and well worth the time and effort.
Because brisket is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, you’ll likely have leftovers after the barbecue is over. And turning your leftovers into another tasty meal is tricky if not done properly. The key is to give the cut plenty of time to cook at low temperatures, even during the reheat process.
Learn how to wrap, freeze, and ways to reheat brisket in this guide. If you’re tempted to scroll down until you get to the reheating techniques, don’t do it. Storing and preparing are important steps for getting delicious beef.
Storing Cooked Brisket
We love leftovers in our house. I get excited about freezing cooked meals for a future date. If you think you’ll use your cooked brisket in a few days, opt for the refrigerator. If you think it will be a few weeks until you’re ready to take a fork to your meat, make room in the freezer for it.
Brisket cooked in a liquid or with gravy is best stored with some of the juice with it. Brisket with gravy only lasts in the refrigerator up to two days but freezes up to three months. Dry briskets last longer in the fridge (three to four days) but less time in the freezer (up to two months).
You can freeze almost any food but the way you package and prepare your brisket for the freezer matters. Proper preparation maintains quality, prevents freezer burn, and ultimately the taste.
If you have a lot of cooked brisket leftovers, you may slice it before you freeze it. Whenever you want to enjoy brisket, you can thaw and reheat just what you need.
Key Steps for Freezing Cooked Brisket
- If you can, refrigerate the whole brisket overnight.
- Then slice it cold against the grain. Try not to slice it when it’s hot, as it will probably just shred. Plus, its sleepover in the refrigerator makes removing the congealed fat layer super easy.
- Lay the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until slices are solid, about three to four hours.
- Label your bag or container. Once frozen, place the brisket in a freezer bag or container. Press excess air from the bag. Finally, label it with what it is and the current date.
Food Safety Tips for the Storing Process
Freezing foods at 0°F keeps foods safe because it prevents the growth of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause food-borne diseases. Once your brisket is properly wrapped and bagged, the freezer does the rest to keep it safe to reheat.
If you need to thaw your brisket before reheating it, the safest way is in the refrigerator. Plan ahead and thaw small briskets in six to eight hours and larger briskets in a day or two.
When you’re short on time, you can thaw the brisket in a leakproof plastic bag immersed in cold water. If the bag leaks, throw it out, as bacteria from the environment can make it unsafe to eat. Check the water to be sure it’s cold, around 30 to 35°F, and you may need to change the water every 30 minutes. Keep in mind it takes about 30 minutes for every pound of meat to thaw and you need to be ready to cook the meat right away.
How can you tell if your cooked brisket is no longer safe to eat? The best ways are the smell and look test. A bad brisket will have a sour smell, slimy texture, and/or ice frozen to it.
Can you thaw and reheat brisket in the microwave?
It may be tempting to use the microwave’s “thaw” feature, but we advise against using it to thaw beef brisket. The microwave doesn’t thaw meat evenly, so some areas may get slightly cooked, while other areas are still frozen. Not only does this lead to dry, rubbery meat, there’s a higher risk for bacteria and food-borne illnesses.
Temperatures to Remember
An essential tool in the kitchen is a food thermometer, especially when cooking brisket. Make note of the temperature danger zone, which is between 40°F and 140 °F. This is when food is most at risk for developing harmful bacteria. When you’re thawing your beef brisket, it’s good practice to keep it out of the temperature danger zone.
Similarly, when reheating brisket, it’s not safe to eat until the meat has reached an internal temperature of at least 140°F.
Reheating Brisket in the Oven
Even though food often tastes the best when it is reheated the same way it was originally cooked, you likely won’t have time for the smoker to come out. So the next best way to reheat your brisket is to cook it in the oven.
Start by preheating your oven to 325°F. While your oven heats, allow your brisket to come back to room temperature. Place your brisket on a baking sheet. If you have any leftover cooking juices or gravy, drizzle it over the brisket. Or use beef broth if you don’t have any leftover liquids.
Cover the brisket in a double layer of foil so there are no holes and crimp the foil around the edges of the pan. Cook until the inside is up to temperature, 20 minutes for sliced meat and 45 to 60 minutes for a whole brisket. The total time may vary depending on the size and cut of your brisket.
Using the Air Fryer to Reheat Sliced Brisket
The air fryer is the new crock pot. If you have a leftover brisket and an air fryer, you have a winning combination. Set the temperature to 350°F. Place the sliced brisket in the air fryer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the beef reaches 140°F.
The biggest advantage to this method is it is quick, but the downside is you may lose some tenderness. I’d rank this method better than using the microwave but less superior to the oven or your smoker.
How to Reheat Brisket in the Slow Cooker
A slow cooker does a fantastic job at reheating briskets. Slow being the key word here, so plan accordingly.
Let your brisket rest on the countertop in the slow cooker pot for about 20 minutes so it can reach room temperature. Pour any beef stock, reserved drippings, and/or juices into the pot with the meat. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.
Reheating into Something New
Perhaps the brisket was less than superior to start with or you want to try something new with your meat. There are several interesting recipes for your leftover brisket:
- Brisket Tacos: Load your tortillas up with brisket and toppings. Keep it simple as you don’t want to drown the flavor of the slow cooked smoky meat. But some ideas are pickled onions, jalapeno slices, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
- Brisket Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Layer a few slices of brisket with cheddar cheese on bread to make a gooey brisket grilled cheese.
- Brisket and Eggs Bowl: Transform leftover brisket into a hearty high-protein breakfast. Top off the bowl with roasted veggies or avocado.
Brisket requires some patience and planning but is well-worth the hard work. Plus, brisket is a healthy choice. It’s an excellent source of protein, as a 3-ounce serving provides 28 grams. It has oleic acid (a healthy fatty acid) and is a good source of the B vitamins, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and selenium.
With nutritional benefits, tasty flavors, we hope this guide ensures that not a single slice of that juicy meat goes to waste.