Should You Cook Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

Should you smoke your brisket fat side up or down? Smoking a brisket may sound intimidating to some, but when done correctly you can have an incredibly delicious and juicy barbecue experience. However, faced with The Great Debate of whether you should smoke your brisket fat side up or down even the most experienced pit masters will be scratching their heads trying to decide what to do. In this blog post, we’ll explore both sides of the argument so that by the end you can make an informed decision on what strategy is best for your own barbecue adventures!

What Is The Brisket Fat Cap?

The brisket is made from the animal’s chest. There is a layer of fat on the side that is exposed to the skin. The term “fat cap” refers to this layer of fat. The precise thickness of the layer will vary depending on the particular animal and how it was butchered, but a fat cap is typically around one inch thick.

Although the brisket’s other regions also include some rather sizable amounts of fat, the fat cap is on the side that is totally covered. When smoking, this side should be downward.

Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down
Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down

Should You Remove The Brisket Fat Cap?

The fat cap shouldn’t be removed entirely. A modest amount of fat adds taste and gives your brisket slices a burst of juiciness; but, too much fat would give the slices a mushy, slimy texture.

Although this is a matter of taste, we advise reducing the fat cap to a maximum of 1/2 inch. This will ensure that you get the juiciness without overly greasy slices.

Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

Let’s explore each approach in more detail to see if one is better than the other. In order to get the best of all worlds, I’ve also added the third option of turning the brisket over halfway through cooking. You can also check out my other article – Pork Butt Fat Up Or Down to get better!

Fat Side Up

For a very long time, even among seasoned specialists, smoking brisket fat side up remained the recommended method. Theoretically, the brisket will receive natural basting throughout the smoke because the fat renders out as it heats up.

In reality, the fat is not actually absorbed by the meat. While techniques like brining and injection might help beef absorb trace quantities of moisture, fat is a different matter. This implies that the majority of the rendered fat will fall into the drip pan as it slides directly down the sides of the brisket.

When brisket is removed from the smoker, it will likewise appear less remarkable if the fat side was cooked facing up. The bark might stick if the slimmer, more appealing side was placed against the cooking grate. Worse worse, when the food travels down, the fat may wash the spice rub away. This is the major defense used against cooking brisket fat side up, especially in competitive settings.

This might not make much of a difference if the brisket is merely seasoned with salt and black pepper because salt can seep into the meat’s deeper layers. But this is something to think about if you’ve spent the effort to create a unique spice rub.

Fat Side Down

This technique can assist in preventing the brisket from drying out in addition to preserving the spice rub. The fat cap serves as a barrier between the heat source and the meat when the brisket is placed with the fat side facing down, resulting in a tender and juicy final product.

Flavor is also another benefit of cooking the brisket fat side down. More smoke will be produced as the rendered fat seeps below the cooking grate, giving off more of the desired rich, woodsy flavor.

One warning: A smoker produces two different types of heat. The brisket would undoubtedly become dry on its own due to the source’s radiating heat. On the other hand, the majority of smokers are designed so that the ingredients are largely unaffected by this direct heat.

To ensure consistent cooking, smokers employ forced air, commonly known as convection. Even with the fat cap pointing up, the brisket’s flesh has less of a chance of drying out because to the hot air surrounding it. See A Word About Heat Sources below for further information.

Also keep in mind that you won’t need the additional insulation that the fat offers if you’re putting another form of barrier, like a foil pan, between the brisket and the heat source. Naturally, by doing so, you might also be giving up the additional smoke taste that results from the fat pouring onto the heat source.

Switching Sides

Some people choose to hedge their chances by turning the meat over halfway through the smoke because there are advantages and disadvantages to both techniques. This encourages even cooking and allows both sides a chance to replenish any lost moisture. Every two hours, the brisket will be turned over and basted by advocates of this technique.

But keep in mind that every time you raise the smoker’s top, the temperature inside drops. When you turn the brisket, any cooking liquids that have accumulated on the surface will fall out. Similar to this, even if you’re being careful, any pressure you apply to the meat will result in a small loss of moisture.

Video: Should you smoke your brisket fat side up or down

Does Fat Braise Brisket?

To give the meat more moisture, brisket is sometimes smoked with the fat side up. Rendering is the term for the melting that occurs when fat is heated. A brisket grilled with the fat side up drips produced fat over the meat.

However, the meat does not spontaneously braise or receive any moisture from the melted fat. Water is present in the flesh, and fat is a form of oil. Oil and water don’t mix, as you discovered in science class in the third grade.

Why Should You Cook Brisket Fat Side Down?

The two main benefits of cooking brisket fat side down are improved flavor and appearance.

Fat-Side Down Keeps Seasoning on the Brisket Where It Belongs

The fat cap will render as the brisket cooks, as was already indicated. If the rendered fat is smoked with the fat cap up, it will trickle down onto the meat. The flavorful seasoning you placed on your brisket may be washed away when it flows over the surface of the meat, falling through the barbecue grate. Instead of burning the bottom of your smoker, you want that spice on your taste receptors.

Fat-Side Down Makes Your Brisket Look Better

The bark is the most crucial component of smoked brisket’s look. The rich mahogany surface of the brisket that develops as a result of the Maillard reaction is known as the bark. The flavors and aromas that we associate with cooked meat are brought out by this important chemical reaction.

When flesh dries out and the proteins on the surface start to bond, the Maillard process takes place. Because the surface never has a chance to dry out, cooked beef will look grey and unappealing as a result.

The bark is formed on the surface brushed against the grill grates if the brisket is grilled with the fat cap up. The grates may result in the bark developing unevenly or not at all. In addition, you won’t be able to observe the bark developing. To keep an eye on your brisket’s aesthetic attractiveness, you want that presentation side to be exposed to the dry air.

A Word About Heat Sources

One particular smoker requires the fat-side-up technique. The heat will come from above the brisket rather than below if you’re using a horizontal offset smoker, also known as a barrel smoker. In this situation, positioning the brisket with the fat side facing up will produce the earlier-mentioned shield effect.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that fat serves as a natural insulator. The brisket should be placed in the smoker after determining the location of the heat source and whether it will be coming from above or below.

Regardless of the method, check on the brisket halfway through the anticipated cooking time. Try covering the beef in parchment paper to provide it with an additional layer of protection if it appears like the “hot” side of the brisket is becoming too dry.

The Texas Crutch

While I’m talking about wrapping, using the Texas crutch technique is one way to stop moisture loss.

This method was developed to overcome the stall that happens when the brisket temperature reaches 150 degrees. The cooking process will stop abruptly at this point and might not start again for several hours. To hasten the process, wrap the meat with foil or parchment paper.

There is nowhere for the liquid to go when the brisket is wrapped. This expedites the boiling process but degrades the bark’s quality. Remove the wrapping during the final hour of smoking to help mitigate this problem.

Where’s Your Heat Coming From?

As I’ve already mentioned, the source of the heat in your cooker ultimately determines whether to cook your brisket with the fat side up or down.

The best way to cook food is fat side down because heat is typically generated from the bottom (as on a Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet Smoker). For instance, smokers with horizontal offsets allow heat to enter from the top. In that instance, you want to protect the meat from the top by utilizing the insulating qualities of the fat cap. So, it’s best to eat them fat side up.

In order to figure out which way to position your brisket, take a glance at your cooker and identify the source of the heat. Checking to make sure the exposed side of the meat is not drying out is still a good practice. If so, you can always wrap the brisket in foil or butcher paper at the midway point of the cooking process.

Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down
Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down


After trying both methods, I recommend cooking your brisket fat side up. This allows the drippings to bast the meat as it cooks, resulting in a flavor that is out of this world. If you are looking for additional help with your barbecue technique, be sure to check out our eBook on Texas-Style Barbecue. It has everything you need to know about smoking meats like a pro! Now you know you should smoke brisket fat side up or down? Sweet Basil’s Cafe helps you will be able to make an informed decision whenever you fire up your smoker!


Hi, My name is Mariana. I have been a chef at Sweet Basil's Cafe for five years, and my loves every minute of it. I takes great pride in crafting delicious dishes that bring pleasure to people's palates, as well as creating an inviting atmosphere where customers can relax and enjoy their meals. I am especially known for my creative interpretations of classic dishes, as well as my signature desserts. With great patience and dedication, Mariana ensures that every dish is cooked perfectly and served with a smile. My passion for cooking has earned me the respect of customers and staff alike, resulting in many loyal patrons who return time and again to enjoy my creations. Whenever you visit Sweet Basil's Cafe, you can be sure to have an unforgettable culinary experience. Mariana's vibrant personality and enthusiasm for cooking is always a treat!

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