Keep Smoked Meat Warm For Hours

Many of you have asked me how to keep smoked meat warm once it is done cooking and many times this is also in reference to needing to transport the smoked meat to a different location and you do not want it to cool down over the 2 hour drive time or whatever the distance/time happens to be.

I have the solution for this and I will show you how to keep practically any meat, whether it is smoked or not, hot for as much as four hours.

This is my answer:

coolerOnce the meat has finished smoking/cooking, wrap the meat in foil or even a foil pan with a lid or foil over the top of the pan would be ideal. Wrap a thick towel around the foiled meat and place it down in the cooler.

Continue to fill the cooler with throw pillows, blankets, towels, etc.  until you can just close the lid without it popping back open.

This will keep the meat hot for as much as four hours. This does somewhat depend on how long it took you to wrap it, what the internal temperature of the meat was before you wrapped it, etc. but you get the idea.

I have found that this is an excellent way to add a little extra tenderness to pork shoulders, briskets and ribs so I usually plan to get them done two or three hours early.

This gives me time to go take a shower and get ready for dinner so that I don’t smell like smoke. My wife does not mind me smelling like ribs but if I am having dinner guests over, I don’t want to smell like the food I just prepared;-)

There are a few things I must tell you.. this will soften the outside of the meat so for those of you who have to have that crust on the brisket or crispy skin on the chicken better only use this in emergency situations.

You could alternatively throw the meat on a grill to crisp up the outside right before serving it if is that big of a deal.. I usually don’t bother with it but I am just mentioning it so I don’t get complaints later..

Jeff.. you ruined my meal. I put everything in the cooler and when I took it out the crust had disappeared! I can hear it now.

So relax a little about the exact time that you want to eat dinner and just plan to get the food done a little early. When the guests arrive you will have time to mingle and they will wonder how you did it.

Food safety

I do recommend that you use a digital probe meat thermometer in the meat so you can monitor the internal temperature of the meat. You do NOT want the meat to get below 140°F and stay that way for very long. It is imperative that it stay above this temperature until you are ready to serve it.

Just a safety precaution. I have never had a problem with this but I do want to mention it for those of you who are new to the game.

Happy eating!


  1. Great idea, thanks!

  2. A good alternative I have used for both pork butt and ribs is to use a thermo-electric cooler/heater; it provides the insulation of a cooler and the added benefit of a heat source to maintain temperature. I’ve found the added heat does wonders for maintaining the correct temperature. I generally wrap the meat in towels (in appropriate containers) and then place in the pre-warmed cooler. Thermo-electric cooler/heaters keep temperatures up to 90 degrees above ambient temps.

  3. Smoked Meat says:

    Nothing beats smoked meat…. nothing. 🙂

  4. I do a lot of turkey frys for my lodge. Using the cooler for holding is fantastic. I break down the birds in the kitchen, the cooler is brought in from outside and every time I open the lid to get another bird, I have to turn my head to avoid the steam. We just use foil to line the cooler (96 Qt.) easier cleanup. The birds stay hot for hours so there would be no problem to transport your food any where and keep it out of the temp. danger zone. I also say you will lose the crisp coating.

  5. How long will a brisket hold the temp. in a cooler? And do you put towels or just foil?

  6. So, I have been asked to smoke a turkey in Austin, TX and then transport it to San Angelo, TX. I will have to smoke the turkey Tuesday, then drive out on Wednesday and have dinner Thursday. What do I do??? I’ve been told I can wrap it in foil and leave it in a cooler until the day of and re-heat in the over. I’ve also been told to cool it down and keep it in the frig and then transport on ice. I’m not sure what to do, I don’t want a bird that will get my family sick, or turn out bad.

  7. Jim Holland says:

    I am smoking a 20 pound bird on my large big green egg. It will be ready by 8 tonight. Dinner is tomorrow around 1. I would like to keep bird safely warm until time to serve. Any suggestions?

  8. Eric Doman says:

    I’m smoking turkey legs this weekend, approx. 70. after brining do I season them and put them back in the refrigerator while starting the smoker or can I leave them out for approx. an hour.

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