We’ve all been known to snap up a brisket on sale and pop it in the freezer for future use, especially with skyrocketing prices nowadays. But what’s the best way to thaw a brisket when you’re ready to throw it on the smoker?
There is a lot of questionable advice out there on this topic. Our guide follows the USDA recommendations for how to thaw frozen beef safely. We also share how not to thaw brisket.
How to thaw a brisket
The USDA says there are three safe ways to thaw meat. The most important thing to remember is the meat must be kept at a safe temperature while thawing. This is 40°F or below, which is the recommended fridge temperature.
The Danger Zone is 40 to 140 degrees. This is when previously present bacteria may multiply rapidly, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.
1. If you have time, thaw brisket in the fridge
The safest way to thaw frozen brisket is in the refrigerator. It’s not only safe but the best way to ensure the meat retains its natural flavor, tenderness, and texture.
But you must plan ahead, as this is the most time-consuming thawing method. The USDA says it takes about 24 hours to defrost approximately 5 pounds of meat. So, for a 10-pound beef brisket, you’ll need to defrost it over two days.
There are a few things to note when thawing brisket in the fridge:
- Check your fridge’s temperature. Beef brisket will take longer to thaw in a 35-degree fridge than a 40-degree fridge. But your fridge should be set to between these two temperatures.
- Place your wrapped brisket on a plate, tray, or container in case of leaks. It’ll also catch the water from the melted ice.
- Have you ever noticed some areas in your fridge are colder than others? Keep this in mind when positioning your brisket. It all counts towards that lengthy defrosting time. We recommend placing the tray on the bottom shelf at the rear. Raw meat should always be on your fridge’s bottom shelf to prevent cross-contamination if there are leaks.
The good news is that thawed beef brisket will stay safe and keep in the fridge for an additional 3 to 5 days once defrosted.
2. If you need to thaw brisket faster, use cold water
Thawing beef brisket in cold water is faster. But it requires more attention, so you have to keep a keen eye on it. This is how the USDA recommends thawing in cold water:
- Place the brisket in an airtight bag. You don’t want bacteria or water absorbing your meat while it thaws.
- Submerge the bag in cold tap water. Place it in a plugged sink or a large bowl filled with water (depending on your brisket’s size).
- Change the water every 30 minutes as it continues to thaw. You can estimate 30 minutes of thawing time per pound for beef brisket. Changing the water is imperative to ensure your brisket remains under 40 degrees. Keep an eye on the temperature and adjust when needed. For example, add ice if necessary.
- Once thawed, the brisket must be immediately cooked or smoked.
How not to thaw a brisket
Now, the third method the USDA recommends is microwave thawing. But we don’t think this is the best option for beef brisket. There are a few reasons for this:
- The USDA doesn’t recommend holding meat thawed in the microwave because it increases the risk of bacteria. This is a little difficult with brisket when you need to apply a rub after thawing the meat. Not to mention touching it to place it in your smoker.
- With a cut of meat the size of brisket, your microwave is guaranteed to heat it unevenly.
- Thawing any food in the microwave dries it out. After forking out all that money for beef brisket, the last thing you want is rubbery, unappetizing brisket slices.
So, to keep everyone safe, we won’t recommend this method.
The USDA doesn’t recommend thawing brisket on the counter or in hot water either, as the meat is more likely to reach the Danger Zone (40 to 140 degrees). Beef brisket also shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
Do you want to know some more interesting places where the USDA doesn’t recommend thawing food as it increases the risk of bacteria? The garage, basement, car, dishwasher, plastic garbage bag, outdoors, or on a porch!
How long does a brisket take to thaw in the fridge?
Following the USDA recommendation of 24 hours for 5 pounds of meat, you can estimate about 5 hours per pound of brisket. But factors like how frozen the brisket is and your fridge’s temperature will impact this time. This is just a guideline.
How long does fresh brisket keep in the freezer?
Fresh brisket will last in the freezer for 6 to 12 months when properly wrapped.
Can you re-freeze the thawed brisket?
Have you changed your mind about your menu? The USDA says you can re-freeze brisket thawed in the refrigerator without cooking. But there may be a loss in quality.
Can you cook brisket from frozen?
Technically, yes, you can cook beef brisket from frozen. The USDA confirms it is safe to cook meat from frozen. But remember, it’ll take about 50% longer than the recommended cooking time. If you’re smoking a beef brisket, this adds hours to your smoking time. Check out how this frozen brisket turned out.
How to reheat frozen cooked brisket
So, you’ve thawed, cooked, and frozen your smoked beef brisket. Don’t worry; we have a guide on how to reheat brisket.