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Using An Electric Oven To Hold Brisket At Temperature

Video: Using An Electric Oven To Hold Brisket At Temperature

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The Importance Of Resting Brisket After Cooking

Brisket wrapped in butcher paper

When I first started making barbecue in 1997, it was common to wrap briskets in aluminum foil after cooking, add a little beef broth, wrap it tight and rest it in an empty cooler for 2-4 hours before slicing and serving. The rest improved the moisture retention, texture, and tenderness of the finished brisket.

In the early 2010s, we saw the rise in popularity of Central Texas barbecue and the emergence of Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ in Austin, TX. Everyone watched his videos, saw him wrapping briskets in pink butcher paper and giving them a long rest before serving them to customers, and wanted to emulate his technique at home. As a result, there’s been a greater appreciation among backyard barbecuers of the importance of holding brisket for a good, long rest after cooking, usually wrapped in aluminum foil or pink butcher paper and placed in an empty cooler for a few hours.

How Do The Pros Hold Brisket After Cooking?

Alto-Shaam holding oven

I’ve been to some famous and no-so-famous barbecue joints over the years, and almost all of them wrap finished briskets in foil or butcher paper or even plastic wrap and hold them in a holding oven or hot box. One popular brand is from a company called Alto-Shaam. These are multi-shelved enclosures with a thermostatically controlled electric heating element that can maintain a low, steady temperature for hours on end.

Alto-Shaam at Franklin BBQ

Alto-Shaam at Franklin BBQ

For food safety, cooked brisket must be held above 140°F, so restaurants will use a holding oven to keep brisket at or above that temperature between the time the meat exits the pit (perhaps after a short cool down at room temperature to stop the cooking process) and when it’s sliced and served to customers.

Holding Brisket For 17 Hours In A Holding Oven

Pitmaster Jimmy Perez, Caldwell Country BBQ, Gilbert AZ

Pitmaster Jimmy Perez, Caldwell Country BBQ, Gilbert AZ

In February 2020, I enjoyed some barbecue at Caldwell County BBQ in Gilbert, AZ. Pitmaster Jimmy Perez was kind enough to show me around, including in the kitchen where they hold briskets in holding ovens at 170°F for 17 hours. Yes, you read that right. They put briskets into the pit at 6:00 am, take them out of the pit at 6:00 pm, and hold them at 170°F until they open for service the next day at 11:00 am. Seventeen hours of holding time in a hot box!

This got me to wondering…my home electric oven goes down to 170°F. Could I use it as a holding oven for finished brisket?

Will My Electric Oven Work As A Holding Oven?

I hooked up a ThermoWorks Signals alarm thermometer to my home oven, set it to the lowest setting of 170°F, and tracked the temperature for a couple of hours. The results surprised me! The initial temperature rose to 190°F, then slowly went down to the mid-140’s, then up to the low 150’s, and then wandered up and down within that temperature range for the next two hours.

Oven temperature chart

On the one hand, I’m not getting 170°F from my oven as I should, but from a brisket standpoint, a temperature of around 150°F is a really great temp for holding brisket for a long period of time.

Holding Brisket For 4 Hours In My Oven

Juicy brisket after a 4 hour rest in pink butcher paper in my electric oven

The next time I smoked a brisket in my WSM, I wrapped it in pink butcher paper part way through the cooking process. When it was done, I placed it on a rimmed baking sheet pan and moved it into the electric oven set to 170°F. The oven temperature wandering between a low of 143°F and a high of 147°F.

Oven temperature chart during 4 hour brisket hold

I held the brisket shown above for 4 hours and as you can see it was still nice and juicy! The tenderness and texture were good, too. I wonder how long I could have held this brisket in my home oven?

Test Your Electric Oven & Give It A Try

Can you use your electric oven to make better brisket with a long post-cook rest? You’ll have to test it to find out.

  • Turn your electric oven to “Bake” and to its lowest temperature setting.
  • Place a probe thermometer on the oven rack in the middle position.
  • Monitor the low and high temp for a couple of hours. Look for a low temp of not less than 140°F and a high temp of not more than 170°F, although I’d be more comfortable with a high of not more than 160°F.

If you’ve got a ThermoWorks Smoke or Signals or other thermometer that records and graphs temperature over time, you can get an accurate sense of how your oven performs at its lowest temp setting and whether it’s appropriate for holding finished brisket for long periods of time.

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