Coolers for Resting Meat: Keep Your BBQ Delicious!

You’ve just smoked some delicious meat and you plan to serve it later. The challenge is keeping it tasty until it’s time to eat. You need a way to store this meat so it stays just as good as when it came off the smoker. This is where a cooler specifically designed for storing meat comes into play.

You need a good cooler to rest your smoked meat, but choosing the right one can be tricky. I personally used various coolers to store meals and also tested coolers that are mostly used in restaurants and home kitchens. Some of them provided me with a very good experience. From that list, I selected coolers that represent a one-time purchase; they are durable and reliable, so you won’t need to replace them frequently.

Best Cooler

In this guide, I’ll share the top 3 coolers from my collection and personal tests that offer the best performance.

Additionally, I’ll provide you with practical tips and guidance that could help save money if you are going to reset your meat.

YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Soft Cooler

YETI Portable Soft Cooler

I recently tested a portable cooler, which I primarily use for camping and to rest brisket on. The capacity of this model is around 11 liters, and it can easily accommodate more than 20 pounds of both uncooked and smoked meat. However, I typically store more than two pieces of trimmed brisket in it. A great feature is that it keeps the brisket rested in a Yeti cooler for more than 4 hours at the same temperature.

If you’re in the market for a small cooler that’s perfect for resting meat, the YETI Hopper Flip 12 Portable Soft Cooler could be just what you need. Do you know why I use it mostly and what makes this cooler stand out and how it could serve your specific needs, especially when keeping your meat at the right temperature is crucial.

The YETI Hopper Flip boasts ColdCell Insulation, which is a closed-cell foam technology far superior to what you’d find in most soft coolers. This technology ensures that your meat stays cold and fresh, preserving its flavors until you’re ready to serve. The cooler’s ability makes it versatile for various outdoor activities, from hunting to fishing, or even just a backyard barbecue.

Durability is a key feature of the Hopper Flip, thanks to its 100% leakproof HydroLok Zipper and high-density fabric. This fabric isn’t just tough; it’s designed to withstand punctures and UV rays, ensuring that this cooler can handle the rigors of outdoor adventures without showing wear and tear. The DryHide Shell further enhances its durability, offering waterproof protection and resistance to punctures and abrasions. This cooler is built to last, making it a wise investment for anyone who loves the outdoors.

From a user’s perspective, the Hopper Flip 12 is incredibly user-friendly. Its portable design, complete with a handle, makes it easy to carry on any adventure.

However, all these premium features come at a price. The YETI Hopper Flip 12 is on the expensive side, which might be a consideration for some. But given its durability and performance, it represents a long-term investment that could save money and hassle over time.


  • Superior cold retention
  • Extremely durable
  • Portable and lightweight


  • Pricey

Igloo Sportsman Cooler

Igloo Sportsman Cooler

At the heart of the Igloo Polar Cooler’s effectiveness is its Ultratherm insulation, integrated both in the body and the lid. This innovative insulation guarantees up to 5 days of ice retention, even in temperatures reaching up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Such performance is essential for ensuring that your meat remains fresh and safe to consume over the course of your outdoor activities.

This cooler’s design is also worth noting, particularly for those who value convenience and durability. The Igloo Polar 120 boasts a horizontal telescoping handle that reduces lifting effort by 50%, making it easier to transport over distances. Coupled with a cushion-grip handle, towing this cooler becomes a comfortable task. Additionally, its stainless steel hinges are virtually indestructible, enhancing the cooler’s overall longevity.

Capacity is another significant feature, with the cooler’s volume being 120 quarts.This space is more than sufficient for storing large quantities of BBQ and other essentials, making it perfect for group camping trips. The cooler also includes practical elements like swing-up handles with a tie-down loop and a threaded drain plug for optional hose hook-up, which adds to its usability.

However, no product is without its drawbacks. Personal experiences and various reviews have highlighted that the Igloo Polar Cooler stands out in cooling performance, with frozen food remaining frozen for at least 3 days, as I have experienced. However, its plastic latches could be more durable, and maneuverability may be challenging due to the design of the telescoping handle, which only locks fully extended or completely retracted, without any intermediate options.


  • Long-lasting ice retention
  • Large capacity


  • Flimsy latches

Coleman 316 Series Insulated Portable Cooler


Exploring the vast array of coolers on the market for the ideal solution to rest meat during your outdoor adventures can be daunting. However, the Coleman 316 Series Insulated Portable Cooler emerges as a standout option, promising to keep your provisions chilled for days.

The Coleman 316 Series Cooler is crafted with durability and efficiency in mind. Its fully insulated lid and body are designed to maintain ice for up to 5 days in temperatures as high as 90°F, a claim that places it among the top contenders for meat preservation during extended outdoor excursions. Whether you’re camping, tailgating, or enjoying a beach day, this cooler’s performance ensures your meat remains fresh.

When I initially considered higher-end brands like Yeti have found Coleman to offer comparable performance without the hefty price tag. Its lightweight design does not compromise on cooling efficiency, making it a favored choice for tailgate seasons and other activities where performance and convenience are key.

This cooler, while excelling in most areas, might still leave some room for improvement in terms of innovations or additional features when compared directly with more expensive alternatives.


  • High capacity
  • Long ice retention


  • Basic features

Useful tips for resting meat in cooler

  • To save money when resting and transporting brisket, ribs, and pork butts affordably, consider getting a cooler (even a cheap one will do). Place a beach towel at the bottom, wrap the meat in a second towel or you can also use butcher paper, and cover the top with a third towel to fill any remaining air space. This method can work very well.
  • If you’re resting meat for an extended period, consider using a meat thermometer to check its temperature without opening the cooler. Ensure it doesn’t drop below the safe temperature of 140°F to prevent any risk of bacterial growth.

Why Resting Meat Matters?

Letting meat rest after it comes off the grill or smoker makes it taste better. This is something that many home cooks and pitmasters do. Letting the meat rest means to infuse again juice and its natural flavor, and its results come in the form of a more tender piece of meat.

A smaller piece of steak Instead of slicing into it right away, you let it rest on a cutting board for about 10 minutes before you serve. Bigger pieces, like whole chicken, After cooking, if you let the chicken rest for about 15-20 minutes, it not only makes carving much easier, but it also ensures that the juices don’t run out as soon as you start to cut. 

If you want to know how long to rest meat, the duration depends on its size and type. A 5 lbs brisket requires a resting period of 30 to 45 minutes to allow the juices to reabsorb evenly. Meanwhile, a larger 10 lbs brisket benefits from a longer rest time of 1 to 1.5 hours to achieve peak juiciness and flavor.

Resting Your Meat In Coolers

When you rest your meat in a cooler, it effectively traps the heat inside the container, maintaining a good internal temperature of the meat. So, after removing meat from a grill or smoker, its internal temperature can continue to rise if not monitored. A cooler, especially when pre-warmed, provides an insulated environment that slows this process, allowing the meat to rest without significant temperature changes, thus preventing overcooking.

Another reason that I consider why a cooler is beneficial for you is that it keeps the meat juicy and delicious. The juices inside the meat are what give it lots of flavor. By resting the meat in a cooler, you make sure it keeps all those tasty juices. So, when it’s time to serve it to your guests, the meat will be more flavorful and yummy.

How To Do It

While your meat is cooking, prepare the cooler. You can preheat it by filling it with hot water; then, just before you’re ready to use it, dump out the water and dry the cooler.

Once your meat is cooked, take it off the heat. If it’s a smaller cut like a steak or chicken breasts, wrap it in aluminum foil. For larger cuts, you might use butcher paper to keep it from drying out. For more insulation to lock in the meat’s internal temperature, wrap it in paper or foil and then in a towel.

Before closing the lid, place a thermometer inside to monitor the temperature and ensure that the meat, such as brisket, stays within the safe range of 140 to 200 degree of F.

Secure the cooler’s lid to trap the heat inside. The insulation will slow down the cooling process, allowing the meat to rest evenly and thoroughly.