How to Defrost a Brisket - A Warming Story

You can defrost a brisket either using the refrigerator or the cold water method.

Having prepared plenty of briskets in my life, I have become a pro at preparing this cut. This includes thawing an entire cut.

In this post, I will show you how to defrost a brisket and provide you with all the guidelines that you need to do this the right way. Let's get started!

The Best Methods for Defrosting Fresh Brisket

There are two ways that you can defrost brisket safely:

Raw Beef Meat on White Background

Thawing Brisket in the Refrigerator

There is virtually no effort involved when you thaw meat in this manner.

Take the brisket out of the freezer and then place it in a container large enough to hold it.

Keep in mind that as your brisket thaws, there is going to be lots of blood and melted water. The container will help to prevent these liquids from spreading.

Make sure that the brisket is in the coldest part of the refrigerator to guarantee food safety.

How Long Does a Brisket Take to Thaw in the Fridge?

The rate of defrosting meat can vary quite a bit. How frozen the beef brisket is as well as the refrigerator temperature can impact the process.

On average, though, you can expect the brisket to defrost at a rate of almost 5 hours per pound.

This means that a 5lb brisket can take about 24 hours to defrost. A 10lb brisket will take 2 days to defrost completely.

The good news is that you can guarantee that this method will thaw the meat evenly.

The Cold Water Method

With this method, you defrost brisket in cold water.

If you are planning on defrosting your brisket using this method, the packaging needs to be completely airtight. If it isn't the water will seep in.

For this method of defrosting frozen brisket, you place the brisket in a large enough container and then fill it up with cold water. The brisket should be submerged completely.

Remember, you should never use hot water for this method as it increases the risk of food borne illnesses. Instead, you should always defrost meat in cold water.

Wait for about 30 minutes and then empty out the water. With the brisket still in the container, refill it with cold water once more. Be mindful of the water temperature - don't let it get warm!

This speeds up the thawing process quite a bit. Continue to do this every 30 minutes until the brisket is fully thawed.

How Long Does a Brisket Take to Defrost Using the Cold Water Method?

The cold water method can be twice as fast as defrosting the brisket in the fridge.

On average, this process may thaw meat at a rate of 30 minutes per pound.

Thus, a 5lb brisket will be defrosted in 10 hours and a 10lb brisket will be ready in 20 hours.

Is One Method Better Than the Other for Defrosting Brisket?

No, I wouldn't say that one process is better than the other. They each have their pros and cons. It is all about choosing the method that is right for you.

Yes, the refrigerator method does cause the brisket to defrost slowly. Due to this, you have to plan ahead and place the meat in your refrigerator for two or more days, depending on the size of the cut.

Nevertheless, I have found that this process is excellent for an entire brisket.

If you are dealing with a brisket that is upward of 12lbs, it can be tricky to find a container that can hold a cut of this size for the cold water method.

Sure, a kitchen sink or ice chest may do the trick but if these options aren't available to you, then you may not be able to utilize this method.

However, if you have a smaller cut or a proper container, this is the fastest way to defrost your brisket.

Even a large cut of meat can be defrosted from completely frozen within a day.

Raw Meat Placed Along With Lettuce

Why Does Brisket Take So Long to Defrost?

Well, this largely has to do with the sheer size of the brisket. Most cuts tend to be quite large and once frozen thoroughly can take a long time to defrost.

Now, this is largely true for a full brisket. The point cut on a brisket tends to be smaller and is likely to defrost within a few hours.

The flat is quite a bit larger - similar to that of a full cut. As such, it is going to take a longer period of time.

Can You Defrost Brisket on the Countertop?

I know that a lot of people prefer to thaw a brisket - or any meat at all - on the countertop. In fact, you probably saw your parents doing this quite a bit.

The benefit of this method is that the meat tends to defrost more quickly. Despite this, when meat is left outside, there is an issue.

When the brisket is kept at room temperature, it will spend a long time in what is known as the danger zone.

This is a temperature range between 40 and 140 F. During this range, the rate of bacteria can grow and reproduce significantly.

In turn, this increases the risk of food poisoning. As such, brisket has to be defrosted at a colder temperature.

Can You Defrost Brisket in a Microwave?

I have gotten this question from friends quite a bit and I do get it. Microwaves utilize concentrated heat, speeding up the defrosting process quite a bit.

I mean let's face it - no one wants to spend a day or even longer waiting for their brisket to thaw.

Despite this, you should never attempt to defrost beef brisket in a microwave.

In general, this machine is terrible at defrosting. When it comes to a large cut like brisket it is especially bad.

The problem is that microwaves heat the meat unevenly. As such, one part of the brisket will be thawed fully, another spot may be only partially defrosted, and other parts may be frozen solid completely.

If you put such a cut of meat into your smoker, it is going to cook unevenly.

A Guide to Defrosting Brisket for a Barbecue

As mentioned, thawing a brisket is going to take some time. This is why you need to plan the process carefully if you are having a cookout.

First, calculate the average time that it will take the brisket to thaw depending on the weight and method of thawing.

I like to always give myself several hours of wiggle room and will start thawing the brisket at an earlier time than I have calculated.

You should also consider the fact that you may need to brine the brisket as well. This can take 12 or more hours.

Keep in mind that the brisket has to be fully thawed before it is brined. Thus, you will need to thaw the meat first.

This means that depending on the size of your brisket, you may have to start your preparations up to three or more days before the cookout!

I would also like to remind you to take the resting time into consideration here too. Ideally, you should rest a large cut for around 4 to 6 hours.

Even if this timeframe is too great for you, try to rest it for at least two hours or all your hard work will be lost.

Meat on frying pan

How to Defrost Cooked Brisket?

Unlike with fresh frozen brisket, there is really only one way to defrost the meat - keep it in the refrigerator until it is fully defrosted.

As the beef brisket is cooked, placing it in cold water is quite risky. If you can guarantee that it is in airtight packaging then you can give it a try. Otherwise, it is best to go with the longer method.

Always defrost the cooked brisket in a tray or other container. Clear away any liquid that may pool so that the bark of the meat doesn't become soggy, sitting in liquid.

If you would like to speed up the process I would suggest slicing the brisket before you freeze it. This way, the individual slices will take a shorter period to thaw.

Remember, just because the brisket is cooked doesn't mean that it isn't at risk of food poisoning. As such, it shouldn't be kept out on the counter.

And, as with the fresh brisket, thawing in the microwave isn't an option. Even sliced, you will still end up with some sections that are thawed more than the others.

Can You Reheat Frozen Cooked Brisket?

No, it is best to thaw the cooked brisket before reheating it. If you try to do it any other way, the meat isn't going to be reheated properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take to Defrost a Brisket?

This does depend on the method that you are using and the weight of the brisket. With the refrigerator method, it can take about 5 hours per pound to defrost. With the cold water method, the brisket will defrost at around 30 minutes per pound.

Can You Cook a Brisket That is Frozen?

You shouldn't cook a brisket that is frozen as it will cook unevenly. Some sections may be cooked all the way through while others will still be largely frozen.

Wrapping It Up

This is everything that you need to about thawing out a brisket. You should now be able to do it in a safe and swift manner. Not to mention, you can guarantee that your cut will be fully thawed out for your cookout.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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