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Hacking a Brisket Reheat

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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.

Cooler Brisket 06
Cold brisket in the cooler


Cooler Brisket 07
Miki adding three gallons of hot (nearly boiling) water
Cooler Brisket 08
Submerged brisket before closing the top
Cooler Brisket 02
It shifted only slightly during the drive
Cooler Brisket 03
The water was still plenty hot with steam coming out of the cooler three hours later
Cooler Brisket 04
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
Cooler Brisket 05

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 pre-order a whole, chilled, cryovaced brisket from Franklin Barbecue on their website. You can also walk in the side door after 9:00am 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.

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  • Cole

    What brand is your cutting board?

  • zach

    was the brisket frozen or thawed out just prior to pouring the hot water on it?

  • Ron Knight

    Is there any health concern that the temperature was not up to 140 for serving? Like this idea! I have tried to warm up in foil, and the brisket bark turns to mush. Thanks!

    • Health department requirements are that hot food must be held at 140 degrees or higher. Once it hits your plate, it’s probably lower. Most of the sliced brisket you’ve ever eaten has probably been less than 140 degrees at some point during consumption.

      Either way, the health department also allows a four hour window in between 40 degrees and 140 (for reheating). This entire process took just three hours.

  • Ron Knight

    Do you think a non-commercial type “food saver” vacuum machine would work for this method?

  • Hungrydrunk

    If I were to use a sous vide bath, what temp do i set it for?

    • If I reheat in a water bath in the oven, I set it at 250.

  • Russ Erbe

    Thanks to you and Jack for the info.

  • Docbuldog

    To answer the question about the use of a “foodsaver” type product for this “faux vide” method, the answer is “Yes”… Have done it for years… But – the size of the brisket can sometimes dictate the need for bigger bag than the standard 11″ bag… A 15” bag is available, which will handle most briskets… But it requires a special “foodsaver” (you can find at Cabellas)… And it is pricy compared to the standard “foodsaver “…

  • swag

    I regularly buy extra sliced brisket from my favorite places – why stand in line for just one meal? Once home, I seal-a-meal it in 12-16 ounce packages and freeze.

    When I want some, it goes from the freezer directly into hot water, boil and then simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from water, let stand 5 minutes, then open and enjoy, every bit as moist and smokey as when it first came off of Todd’s cutting board.

    Way better than an oven or microwave.

  • Dave

    Being as your brisket is already cooked via the smoking process you do not have to reheat to 140.

  • I tell all my clients 200 for 3 hours in the oven wrapped in Saran. Let stand for 15 mins then slice. Seems to be working quite well!