Why Is My Brisket Losing Temperature?

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Here we will discuss what is going on with a brisket when it has a safe internal temperature, but begins to drop in temperature after some time when resting. Of course, the brisket will lose temperature if it is no longer cooking, but when the brisket is resting, it should be kept heated to maintain a food safe internal temperature. Leaving a brisket out at room temperature to rest for an extended period of time is not a good idea, as it gives bacteria and other foodborne illnesses a chance to grow.

So hopefully you are using some kind of food warmer to keep your brisket’s internal food temperature safe. If you are wondering what the safe internal food holding temperature should be, it is 145 degrees Fahrenheit as stated by the USDA for a brisket. If the temperature is dropping after checking it with a food thermometer, then we will cover some possible reasons to why that could be. We will cover some simple fixes first before we go into anything else, as we don’t want to make adjustments that are unnecessary and could lead to more temperature holding problems.

Is the food thermometer reading correctly?

This is one of the first things that we want to be sure of. The food thermometer should be clean and calibrated before using it. Once this is done, then we can be sure that the food thermometer is reading correctly.

The next thing we need to do is make sure that the food thermometer is being used correctly. The food thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the brisket when reading the temperature. Sticking the thermometer in different areas can yield different results. Placing the food thermometer into a thinner portion of the brisket to read the temperature and then later checking it on a different area, such as a thicker portion, can give the illusion that the temperature of the brisket is dropping.

In this case, the temperature of the brisket isn’t dropping, but instead the thickest portion of the brisket, where the temperature should be checked everytime, hasn’t been kept up to temperature or it is just lower. If the thickest portion of the brisket is kept up to temperature, then we can be almost sure that the rest of the brisket is not going to go below a safe temperature while it is resting or being kept warm.

We also need to be patient and allow the food thermometer to finish its reading to ensure a correct temperature is being given. Food thermometers can take a minute to finish their readings. The thermometer will begin to fluctuate less or sit at the temperature it is reading when it is done. What ever temperature the food thermometer is reading can also go up continuously every few seconds, or down, indicating that it isn’t done reading yet.

It takes hours when a brisket is cooking for it to finally reach a desired internal temperature to be considered as “finished cooking”. Keeping this in mind, we have to be cautious when taking a brisket from cooking conditions to a resting condition. If the temperature that we rest our brisket at is too low, then we risk the brisket dropping below food safe temperatures that could take a long time to bring back up. For this reason, taking a brisket from cooking and setting it warm at exactly 145 degrees Fahrenheit is probably not a good idea. The temperature should be set higher to prevent it from dropping below 145 degrees Fahrenheit to be on the safe side.

Remember, that the brisket is thick, so the heat isn’t going to immediately reach the center of the brisket and immediately bring it back up to temperature if it drops. It will take time for the internal temperature to rise, even if the temperature of the food warmer is set higher to bring the brisket back up to temperature.

Stalling and Evaporative Cooling

However, setting what ever is being used to keep the brisket up to temperature when it is resting (food warmer, oven, or what ever else may be used) to a higher temperature is still the solution for fixing a brisket that is dropping in temperature while it is being kept warm. This can be done temporarily until it reaches a suitable internal temperature and then lowered again, not below 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is however a phenomenon that can occur with the brisket called stalling, evaporative cooling, or a brisket plateau. This is when the brisket reaches a certain internal temperature and then stays at that temperature as the moisture from the brisket evaporates of the meat when it is heated. This means that when the temperature is expected to rise, it instead doesn’t because of the moisture cooling the brisket as it evaporates. Basically, the brisket is “sweating” when this happens.

This brisket plateau can happen within the food safe internal temperatures too that a brisket is supposed to be kept at, which is a good thing. It can be used to keep the brisket at a safe food temperature for hours.

This temperature drop or stalling period can be stopped by wrapping the brisket while it is being kept warm, while it is resting and during the cooking process. This stalling will also stop on its own if the temperature for cooking the brisket is high enough and enough time has passed that the moisture evaporating from the brisket becomes much less. When this happens, a brisket can go from stagnating at the same temperature for a while, to a sudden increase in internal temperatures. This however, is not ideal if you don’t want to risk the brisket drying out while it is being kept warm, after it has finished cooking.

Either way, these things need to be kept in mind while the brisket is cooking or being kept warm while it rests. They can help you to keep your brisket from stalling or suddenly dropping in temperature when you aren’t expecting it to happen.

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