We all know fresh meat is better than frozen. However, sometimes it’s worth freezing meat if it’s on sale. If brisket is cheap, is it worth buying an extra one for the freezer? What do frozen briskets taste like? Can they be tender and juicy like fresh brisket? Or, perhaps you’ve got a tonne of brisket leftovers that you want to freeze. What’s the best way to do it? I wanted to find out the answer to all these questions, so I asked the barbecue gurus how they freeze fresh or cooked brisket.
Fresh brisket is always better than frozen brisket because freezing damages the meat fibers and causes moisture to escape. The quality of the frozen brisket will depend on how long it was frozen, how it was frozen, and how the meat was packaged. A brisket that was frozen for a month in vacuum sealed packaging will turn out better than a brisket that’s been sitting in the freezer for 6 months with loose wrapping and freezer burn. To preserve the quality of the meat, it is best to package brisket in vacuum sealed bags before freezing, and avoid defrosting it on the kitchen counter or in hot or cold water. Additionally, to avoid freezer burn, make sure to cover the meat well before putting it in the freezer.
- Fresh meat is generally better than frozen meat, especially large cuts like brisket
- Freezing brisket can cause damage to the meat fibers that can lead to loss of moisture
- The quality of frozen brisket depends on how long it was frozen and how it was packaged and frozen
- Vacuum sealing before freezing is the best way to keep brisket fresh and prevent discoloration and foul odors
- It’s safe to buy brisket when it’s on sale and store in the freezer as long as it’s well sealed
- Thawing frozen brisket in the refrigerator is the best way to prevent loss of moisture
- Avoid freezer burn by making sure the brisket is well covered before freezing
- Vacuum sealing and using the sous-vide method is the best way to store and restore brisket leftovers
- Alternatively, brisket leftovers can be reheated in the oven wrapped in foil.
Fresh Brisket vs Frozen Brisket
Fresh meat will always be better than frozen meat—especially large cuts like brisket. A frozen brisket may not be as moist and could dry out easier. However, the average person eating brisket at your barbecue probably won’t notice because the taste difference is minimal.
Why Frozen Brisket Won’t Taste As Good
The secret to cooking a brisket is to hold as much moisture in as possible. Unfortunately, freezing brisket damages the meat fibers that causes moisture to escape. When you are defrosting a brisket, it will lose some moisture during the thawing process.
How Long Was The Brisket Frozen?
The quality of the frozen brisket will also depend on how long it was frozen and how it was frozen, and how the meat was packaged. A brisket that was only frozen for a month in a vacuum sealed packaging will turn out better than a brisket that’s been sitting in the freezer for 6 months with loose wrapping and freezer burn. It also depends on how the meat was frozen. Blast freezing does less damage to the meat fibers, so it won’t dry out as easily.
How To Package Brisket When Freezing
Placing the brisket in a vacuum sealed bag prior to freezing will keep much better and prevent discoloration and foul odors. If you do a lot of barbecuing, a vacuum sealing machine is a must for storing leftovers. I always vacuum seal meat before freezing, simply because it keeps much better and doesn’t dry out as much when cooking.
If you see brisket on sale, there’s nothing wrong with buying brisket and putting it in the freezer. I’m always filling my deep freezer with bargains from the supermarket. As long as the meat is well sealed, it will still taste good if you know how to cook brisket properly. Obviously, if you own a vacuum sealer, your brisket will keep better and longer.
A vacuum sealer is also the best way to restore brisket leftovers—especially using the sous-vide method. I’ve written an article on Sous-Vide Barbecue here.
Thawing Frozen Brisket
Avoid defrosting frozen brisket on the kitchen counter. It’s much safer to defrost the meat in the refrigerator over a few days. Also, don’t try to defrost the brisket in hot or cold water. Soaking frozen meat in water is fine for smaller cuts—but not a prized brisket!
Avoid Freezer Burn On Brisket
Freezer burn occurs when meat isn’t covered correctly, causing a dry, fibrous structure to form on the outside of the meat. Meat that is freezer burnt is dehydrated, so it’s more likely to be dry when cooked.
If your brisket has freezer burn, it may appear discolored—usually a lighter color. If the meat is severely freezer burnt, the meat will turn yellow. Also, often freezer burnt meat may also be covered in ice crystals and may shrivel. To avoid freezer burn on your brisket, make sure all your meat is covered well before going into the freezer. Double or triple wrap the meat.
Can You Freeze Brisket Leftovers?
If you’re cooking large packer briskets, sometimes you’re going to have a tonne of leftovers. By far the best way to store and restore is by using a vacuum sealer and sous-vide method of reheating. Alternatively, you can reheat brisket in the oven wrapped in foil.
Vac Seal And Freezing Brisket Leftovers
The best way to store brisket leftovers long term is by vacuum sealing then freezing. Try to keep your brisket leftovers unsliced if possible as it will keep much better. However, brisket slices can also be stored in the freezer if vacuum sealed.
The vacuum sealer will suck all year out of a plastic bag and prevent the meat from spoiling. Vacuum seal made is also less likely to suffer freezer burn. You can get cheap vacuum sealers for about $50, but I would recommend spending $100 and get a better quality machine.
Vacuum Sealing Brisket Without A Machine
If you don’t want to purchase a vacuum sealer, another technique is to use zip-lock bags with the air sucked out. This is a cheap and easy method. All you need to do is place the brisket in a zip-lock bag and lower it into a pot of cold water. Once the air has been squeezed out, seal the bag and freeze. Before placing the brisket into a zip-lock bag, pour some of the meat juices into the bag. The video below shows you hot to use this method.
How Aaron Franklin Reheat Brisket – Sous Vide
Sous-vide cue is a popular trend and by far the best way to restore brisket leftovers. If the brisket has been vacuum sealed, you can bring the meat back to life if you reheat slowly in a sous-vide bath. Sous-vide is a French cooking method and means “under vacuum”. For many years, chefs have been using this poaching method in fancy restaurants. Although no browning occurs using this cooking method, this isn’t an issue when reheating smoked brisket because it already has a bark. In the video below, Franklin reheats brisket using the sous-vide method.
Sous vide requires precise temperature control, and it is a way where you can cook meat to perfection. Sous vide involves cooking meat in a bath or a sou vide water bath for several hours, sometimes days. When reheating a brisket using the sous-vide method, the water bath would need to be at around about 160° F to 175° F.
Reheating Brisket In The Oven – Franklin’s Technique
No matter what way you decide to reheat brisket, you need to bring it up to an internal temperature of 160°F. You can reheat frozen brisket in the oven as long as has been defrosted. Although the oven is not as good as the sous-vide method, you can restore brisket reasonably well using this method. Once the brisket has defrosted, remove the meat from the bag and place the meat in an aluminium pan. Pour in some meat juice and a little water to create steam to keep the meat moist. You can also use a few sticks of butter, or some broth or stock. Pre heat the oven to 225°F wrap the brisket in aluminium foil.
In the video below, brisket master Aaron Franklin shows how he reheats brisket in the oven.
Microwaving brisket isn’t the best way to reheat brisket because you will loose too much flavor. Another method is on the smoker or the grill as long as you wrap the meat in foil and add some liquid.
Don’t Slice Your Brisket
If you’re smoking a large biscuit, don’t slice it all up. Leftovers will keep much better in a piece rather than slices. It will dry out easier in slices, so vacuum package a large piece and it will retain moisture. If you have sliced the brisket, vacuum seal them with as much meat juice as possible.
A technique I learned from Meathead Goldman is to use zip-lock bags instead of a vacuum sealer. Lower zip-lock bags into a pot of water, and then seal the bags as the water pressure sucks out the air. You can also sous vide meat this way, by putting your meat thermometer in a pot of water, setting the temperature and slowly bringing your leftovers up to temperature (160°F).
Buying Frozen Brisket
In our pursuit of the perfect barbecue meat, we spend hours on techniques, but forget the battle is often won or lost at the butcher or supermarket. We spend hours over-thinking how, when or if to spritz, wrap, inject or brine our brisket. Often we are meticulous in how we maintain temperature control so our brisket doesn’t dry out. We would be far better off putting more thought into the meat we are buying. The quality of the brisket and whether it’s fresh or frozen will have far greater impact than the barbecue tips and tricks you learned on YouTube.
Brisket Cook Times
|Brisket Size||Temperature||Cook Time||Including Resting|
|12 lbs||225°F||18 hours||19 hours|
|18 lbs||250°F||18 hours||19 hours|
|12 lbs unwrapped||225°F||19 hours||20 hours|
|18 lbs unwrapped||250°F||19 hours||20 hours|
|16 lbs||275°F||10 – 12 hours||11-13 hours|
|16 lbs unwrapped||275°F||11-13 hours||12-14 hours|
My Favorite Brisket Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Injector: Injecting meat is a great way to take your barbecue to the next level and help you make competition-style brisket. An injector is the only way you will be able to get flavor and moisture into the middle of the meat. The Beast Injector is a stainless steel injector that is sturdy and affordable. Check the latest price on Amazon here.
Brisket Marinade: The best injection solution on the market is the Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection. This marinade is used in competitions and is made by World Barbecue Champion pitmaster, Dave Bouska. You can find the marinade on Amazon here.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Brisket Rub: These days I make my own rub when possible, but I always have a few pre-made rubs for when I’m running low. Barbecue guru Malcom Reed produces Killer Hogs, one of the best brisket rubs I’ve found over the years. Another great rub is Slap Yo Daddy, made by brisket master and multiple World Barbecue Champion, Harry Soo.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.