We all love delicious BBQ brisket with some white bread and salad, but can you freeze it if there’s leftovers? After all, it’s a shame to waste all that mouthwatering flavor.
BBQ brisket freezes very well as long as you wrap the slices tightly in foil and seal them in freezer bags, keeping all the air out to avoid freezer burn. You can freeze brisket for up to 3 months before reheating it, and don’t forget to freeze that leftover BBQ sauce too.
In this article we’re going to consider in greater detail if it’s ok to freeze cooked BBQ brisket, how long it can be frozen for before being safely reheated – and look at a step-by-step process to freeze your leftover brisket to avoid it drying out and getting freezer burn.
Is it Ok To Freeze Already Cooked BBQ Brisket?
The answer is, enthusiastically – yes!
Questions are: will it freeze well or come out nasty and freezer-burned? Will it be as tough as a dog’s chew toy (the really, really, tough ones)? Is there some magic time limit in the freezer?
Whole beef briskets can be pricey: up to $10 per pound. And briskets aren’t small – a whole brisket can weigh up to 20 pounds. That’s a pretty significant brisket investment.
Let’s say that you have ten friends and family to invite over for a BBQ brisket-athon. Hungry people will eat around a half pound each. But what if they don’t eat it all?
Or what if you don’t have 10 friends and family to invite over, but are still craving BBQ brisket?
Easy. Plan ahead to freeze some. Here’s how.
After you’ve gorged yourself on your BBQ brisket masterpiece, leave it in its own juices and let it cool completely.
If you are too stuffed to deal with the freezing procedure, don’t leave your delicious masterpiece on the kitchen counter for long. Within two hours, wrap your leftover brisket tightly and leave it in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Try To Avoid Freezer Burn
Most experts agree that the biggest downside to freezing leftovers is freezer burn. Freezer burn happens as the result of moisture loss. All foods contain water. In the freezer, minute water crystals form in the food and then migrate to the surface in a process called sublimation.
Water loss through sublimation allows oxygen to move in and change the flavor and color. Freezer burn leaves meat grey and shriveled. Dry and tough.
To prevent freezer burn, first make sure foods bound for the freezer come to room temperature. Then, you need to package leftovers as tightly as you can. No air = no freezer burn.
Wrap brisket pieces in foil or plastic (cling) wrap first, then zip lock them in freezer bags. Make sure to get as much air out of the bags as you can. Roll them around to get the air out of the packaging. If you don’t have freezer bags, first wrap them in plastic wrap, then wrap them in butcher paper – waxy side in.
Vacuum sealers are cheap and work great. Vacuum sealers are handy to freeze – anything. Here are 101 ways to use vacuum sealers.
Other freezing tips: check the temperature of your freezer – it should be 0° or less. When you need something from the freezer, open and close the freezer as quickly as possible.
Sounds boring but label your foods with a date so you can chuck out things that have been in there for too long – maybe years.
How you divide up leftover brisket before freezing is a personal choice: do you have a family of five? Just yourself? Have a party coming up? Freezing for lunches?
Let’s say it’s just you. One way to freeze your leftover brisket is to slice it thinly, then freeze the slices individually. Like meat Popsicles. To do this, arrange all the individual slices on a cookie sheet and pop the whole thing, flat, into your freezer.
Once they are hard (check often), then set aside the number of slices for a meal. Package the slices carefully to avoid freezer burn – a vacuum sealer works great.
If you are a family of five, then avoid cutting the brisket into thin slices. Instead, cut meal-sized slabs, package, and freeze. Be aware that meal-size slabs may take some time to defrost, though.
Handy tip: while you are preparing your brisket for freezing, don’t throw away that leftover BBQ sauce. Freeze it too! BBQ sauce can be frozen in ice cube trays or vacuum bags.
Portion them with your brisket so you can take them out when you take out your leftover brisket. If you’ve used a vacuum bag, pop it in a pan of boiling water or sous vide cooker along with the brisket packets.
Experts recommend that you don’t refreeze BBQ brisket after you’ve thawed it out.
How Long Can You Keep Cooked BBQ Brisket in The Freezer?
A frozen brisket will keep safely in your freezer for an indefinite time. BBQ experts, though, say an optimum time is two to three months.
After three months, your brisket masterpiece will start to lose its flavor – so try to reheat before then to avoid disappointment.
Freezing Your Cooked BBQ Brisket in Simple Steps
- Let the brisket come to room temperature.
- Cut the brisket into meal-sized portions, the larger the better, to avoid freezer burn.
- Wrap the brisket portions in plastic wrap or foil, then in heavy-duty freezer bags. Roll the wrapped brisket around before sealing to get all the air out.
- If using a vacuum sealer, set the brisket in the refrigerator or freezer for an hour first. That way, the natural brisket juices won’t get sucked into the vacuum.
- Don’t forget any leftover BBQ sauce – freeze it too!
- Label your brisket package with the date.
- Put them in your freezer for up to three months.
How To Reheat BBQ Brisket Without Making it Dry
Most experts say to thaw your frozen BBQ brisket in the refrigerator. Depending on the size of your leftover piece, that could take a few days. Experts say that a four-pound piece will take a day.
Like a Thanksgiving turkey, you can speed up the thawing process with water baths. Make sure the brisket doesn’t sit around in the “danger zone” (40° – 165°F).
Preheat your oven to 300°F. Put your thawed leftover brisket into an oven-safe pan with some beef broth.
Cover the pan tightly and set in the oven. Time to heat up will vary, depending on the size of your brisket piece. A good internal temperature is 165°F.
If you don’t have any beef broth, try this instead: reduce two cups of apple cider vinegar or apple juice to one cup. Mix in two tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce. This mixture is great drizzled onto the warmed-up brisket.
After the brisket is hot, experts recommend removing the brisket from the oven, then increasing the temperature to 450°F. Uncover the brisket and set it back in the oven for a few minutes to let the “bark” crisp up.
If your brisket is in a vacuum sealed package, you can heat up the sealed brisket packet in a pan of boiling water. This method preserves all the yummy brisket juices. Throw in those sealed packets of leftover BBQ sauce as well.
A sous vide system works well for heating up sealed brisket packages. The circulation of the sous vide water will speed up the warming process.
In a pan or a sous vide cooker, boiling water works great for heating up brisket without drying it out. If you want your bark crisp, try putting the warmed brisket pieces on a cookie sheet in a hot oven (450°F) for just a few minutes.
If it’s a beautiful day and the patio beckons, grab a beer and reheat your brisket on your grill. Heat your grill to 225°F. Wrap your thawed brisket tightly in heavy-duty foil.
Using the two-zone method, put your brisket packet on the indirect temperature side and heat up to an internal temperature of 165°F. Then, to re-crisp the bark, unwrap the brisket and set it on the direct heat side for 5 to 10 minutes.
So there we have it – if you’ve got some delicious leftover BBQ brisket there’s no need to throw it out or feel like you have to eat it within a few days.
If you follow the correct process to wrap and seal the slices with no air in them, you can successfully freeze your leftovers for up the three months before needing to reheat them.
Just don’t make the same mistake I did and throw out the remaining BBQ sauce when clearing up, you can freeze that too. My wife still hasn’t forgiven me 🙂