If you’re king of the backyard barbecue, chances are you’ve held cooked barbecue in your cooler (without ice, of course). Some even have a name for it, the faux Cambro, named after the insulated food storage boxes made by Cambro Manufacturing. Suffice it to say, it’s a simple hack to keep barbecue hot without electricity, and using equipment most of us have at home. I use the method often, but I’d never considered that the same cooler might work for reheating briskets as well.

Jack Perkins owns the Slow Bone in Dallas, and we were judging a barbecue competition last week. He said he had a method for reheating his smoked briskets. They cryovac whole, chilled briskets, and sell them individually at the Slow Bone, and he tells his customers to put the brisket in an empty cooler, pour boiling water over it, and close it for several hours. The idea is that the hot water will act as a low-tech sous-vide water bath to heat the briskets. I was intrigued.

Yesterday, I was driving back home to Dallas through Austin. I reserved a whole brisket from Franklin Barbecue,* and asked nicely for a side of boiling water. I had a three hour drive ahead of me (the same amount of time suggested by Perkins for the reheat), and hoped to have a hot brisket when I got home. Miki at Franklin Barbecue helped me load it up. The brisket was seven pounds, and we added about three gallons of hot water.

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Cold brisket in the cooler.


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Miki adding three gallons of hot (nearly boiling) water.
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Submerged brisket before closing the top.
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It shifted only slightly during the drive.
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The water was still plenty hot with steam coming out of the cooler three hours later.
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The temperature of the water and the internal temp of the brisket had equalized. They were both 131 degrees, which is a perfect serving temperature if eating immediately.
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It was an absolute success. The brisket was ready when I got home with no additional reheating required, and it was still juicy. There are more exacting ways to reheat barbecue, but this one is a whole lot simpler than an electric oven, a sous-vide bath, or a fancy, humidity-controlled CVap. It’s perfect for a camping trip or a tailgate when you might not want to lug your smoker along with you but still need a hot brisket. The faux-vide method is also a quicker way to get some Franklin Barbecue brisket than standing in line. You just have to add water.

*You can preorder a whole, chilled, cryovaced brisket from Franklin Barbecue on their website. You can also walk in the side door after 9 a.m. and ask about availability, but they can’t guarantee you one unless it has been reserved. Also ask your favorite local barbecue joint, like the Slow Bone, if they offer them as well.