You paid good money for a quality brisket. You trimmed it and seasoned it carefully. You stayed up half the night tending the coals.* You patiently rested the brisket and sliced it for every person at the cookout individually. Everyone loved it. You loved it! But somehow…somehow there are…leftovers?
With all the work and care that goes into BBQ, the last thing you want to do is ruin your smoked meats by drying them out when warming them up. Can’t we have supple tender, juicy leftover BBQ? Must it be dry and disappointing—flavorless, even?
Yes we can! And no, it needn’t! Here we’ll look at our favorite way to reheat BBQ so that it is (almost) as good as it was fresh off the smoker. No surprise here—temperature is the secret.
Proper reheating of all leftovers
First, we should say that all leftovers should be heated to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) for food safety. Not only will cooking leftovers to 165°F (74°C) kill all the bacteria on your food, but it will also destroy most of the toxins that were produced by bacteria that were introduced to your food as it sat out. Unless you held your cookout in a hospital clean room and thoroughly cleaned all your guests before they entered, chances are pretty good that some Staph bacteria (not to mention other bugs) landed on your food. E. Coli and Salmonella hurt us by living inside of us, but some bacteria, like staph, actually secrete poisons that sit on our foods. They can be long dead and their poisons will remain unless they, too, are destroyed. So, we know we need to reheat our leftovers up to 165°F (74°C).
Use a water bath
We should probably say this at the outset: reheating BBQ in the microwave is about the worst approach to leftovers. You know it will come out tough, overcooked, and dry.
Reheating it in the oven, in stead, can work, but to keep it from drying out, you really need to reheat it at a very low temperature, and—air being the bad conductor of heat that it is—that takes a long time. The best way to reheat BBQ is in water, and I don’t mean simmering it or boiling it! To reheat BBQ the very best, you should really sous vide it.
Sous vide? So I need a circulator and vacuum sealer just to warm up my brisket? No! While sous vide circulators are super accurate (and really quite fun), you can achieve results that, in this application, are almost indistinguishable by using a pot, a stove, and some zip-top bags along with your ChefAlarm® or Smoke®. Do it right, and you’ll end up with amazing results and no additional gear cost.
Key points for reheating BBQ without a sous vide circulator:
To demonstrate how easily this can be done, we used some frozen brisket that we had saved. (Remember those amazing brisket nachos that only used a flat? Time to pull that point out of the freezer!) We pulled it straight from frozen and reheated it in an improvised sous-vide bath. You don’t have to start with frozen meat for this technique, but you can do it from frozen, which is great. Whatever BBQ meat you use, these are the steps you should follow for the reheating process:
- Use a pot that is large enough to comfortably hold your leftovers with a lot of water (more water = a larger heat reservoir).
- Use a zip-top bag if you don’t have a vacuum sealer. You’ll still need to get as much air out as possible, and that’s best done by mostly submerging the bag with the food in it, letting the water around the bag push the air out, and then sealing the top. (Zip-top bags are foodsafe at the temperatures we’re discussing here.)
- Use a leave-in probe thermometer clipped to the side of the pot to keep track of the water bath temperature. To get up to the requisite 165°F (74°C) you’ll need the water temp to be higher—175°F (79°C) works. Set the high-temp alarm on your ChefAlarm for 175°F (79°C) and adjust the heat on your stove to keep it as close to that temperature as you can.
- Check the temp of your meat occasionally by opening up the zip-top bag and using a Thermapen® Mk4. This is actually an advantage over using a vacuum-sealed bag—you can temp the meat more easily this way.
- Or, if you have a Smoke thermometer, you can monitor the temperature constantly with the second channel and your other probe.
- When the meat reaches 165°F (74°C) internally, remove the bag from the pot and the meat from the bag and slice up and serve your delicious BBQ!
Yes, you will lose some juice to the bag, but you can easily pour it back onto the sliced meat, it won’t have evaporated and lost to the oven. Our brisket shed about 3/4 cup of juice, but even without pouring it back over the slices, you’d never have known. It was tender and succulent and way better than if we had used the microwave to reheat it! Look at how the brisket bent after cooking:
Employing this method of reheating BBQ will give you superior, juicy results every time. Get the best out of your BBQ leftovers with a ChefAlarm and a pot.
Simple, excellent, easy, and delicious!
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