Barbecue and “low and slow” are one of the few styles of cooking where you need to allow significant time to let the magic happen. Especially when it comes to cooking meats like brisket, where it can take between 8-18+ hours to reach perfection.
So if you’ve started your cook and something else comes up that requires your urgent attention, well, you can get yourself into a bit of a pickle.
Sure, you can somewhat multi task if you need to, but what happens if you truly need to leave?
Here we go through whether you can partially cook your brisket and finish it later, whether you can finish brisket in the oven, and what your options are if you need to pause or stop your cook.
You’re halfway through cooking your brisket, you’ve just wrapped it, and its sitting at about 165°F. Suddenly, something arises and you need to leave urgently. What are you going to do with your half-cooked brisket!?
Perhaps this is you right now, desperately searching for any options to save your cook.
The best advice I can give you is to try to find a way to at least finish cooking your brisket.
This is because it’s not recommended to only partially cook a brisket and try to finish cooking it later. Not only will the texture of the meat be compromised, but depending on the internal temperature of the partially cooked brisket it could be unsafe too.
Instead of completing stopping the cook, you could try finish your brisket in the oven, having someone else watch over it, or you could put out the flame or turn off your smoker but keep your brisket inside cooking longer.
Your options will depend on exactly how much time you need before you can resume cooking.
Can You Finish Brisket In The Oven?
If you’re smoking your brisket and you need to go out or attend to something else, you can always rely on your trusty oven to finish the job.
Besides, meat tends to only absorb smoke during the first half of the cook anyway. So moving it to the oven to finish it off generally won’t make any difference to the cook.
You still shouldn’t leave anything unattended in the oven for extended periods of time, but at least you can set a timer for safety, or have a family member check on it from time to time. Not a bad way to save the day.
So no matter what stage of the cook you were up to you can finish a brisket in the oven. This works fabulously if you’ve run out of charcoal or run out of wood pellets for your smoker!
Note: If you’re using a pellet grill you can leave it unattended for short amounts of time, but it’s not safe for all grills.
Can You Stop And Restart Cooking A Brisket?
As heart-breaking as it sounds, it’s not really possible to stop cooking brisket with the intention of restarting it later.
If you’ve only just started cooking it then sure, it’s possible to stop the cook and put your brisket back into the refrigerator, but this should only be done if your brisket hasn’t actually begun cooking.
If your brisket has been in the smoker for more than 15-20 minutes chances are the outside has started cooking. If you were to stop the cook and continue the cook later the texture of the meat would certainly be compromised, and you’d be left with a pretty tough and chewy bark.
Overall, the best thing to do if you’ve started cooking your brisket is to finish cooking your brisket, at least to 145-165°F so that it’s considered food-safe.
Although brisket doesn’t get tender until 195-205°F, cooking it to a food-safe temperature before stopping the cook will at least ensure it will be safe to consume later — so long as it’s stored properly too!
Can You Keep Cooking Brisket After It’s Rested?
As barbecue lovers I’m sure we’ve all experienced this before. When you’ve cooked a gorgeous brisket to 200-205°F thinking it’s done, rested it nicely, only to find it’s a bit tougher than expected when you’ve come to serve it.
Unfortunately at this point it’s not worth continuing to cook your brisket. During the resting process the brisket would have already cooled and reabsorbed the moisture into the meat. By restarting the cooking process the quality and texture of the meat will just not be as good.
To avoid this you should always test for doneness before you remove it from the heat. Remember, don’t just go by temperature, go by tenderness. Insert a probe or a toothpick into several parts of the brisket until it feels soft, tender, and almost like butter.
Only then, once you’re happy with the texture and tenderness should you remove it from the heat.
So here’s the truth. It’s simply not worth pausing the cook of brisket with the intention of continuing the cook later – if you can help it of course!
If you really need to go or you can’t keep the cook going, make sure you’ve explored all your options before deciding to completely stop the cook. Moving the brisket to an oven to finish the cook is a perfect way to continue the cook with much less supervision needed.
If there’s an emergency and you really need to leave everything, then it’s acceptable to stop the cook of your brisket.
Just be prepared for it to be tougher or lose the desired texture if you attempt to continue the cook later. Also, be sure it’s been stored correctly when paused, and you’ve re-cooked it to a food-safe temperature before consumption.