Do You Smoke A Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down (The Truth + The Simple Steps For Juicy Brisket)

Wondering whether you smoke brisket fat up or down? This question has raged debate in the BBQ world for decades. A majority of pitmasters agree that fat side down is better, however in Texas they smoke their brisket fat side up. Below are will break which is the best to do so you can smoke the best damn brisket. Once you read our method below you’ll be smoking brisket like a pitmaster!

Do We Smoke A Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

The best way to smoke brisket is the fatty side down. There will always be variations in technique in BBQ culture but when cooking brisket I have found that smoking brisket fat side down is the best as the fat cap protects the meat.

What is The Brisket Fat Cap?

As we know the brisket comes from the chest of the cow. The side of the brisket that is facing outward has a layer of fat, this is what is known as the fat cap, the side will be completely covered and this is known as the fat cap. The fat cap is usually around 1inch thick but this really does depend on the animal and the style of butchering.

You shouldn’t totally remove the fat cap as it gives flavor and juiciness to your brisket, however if you leave to much fat you will get a slimy and mushy taste. I recommend trimming the fat cap to 1/4 inch.

Why Should You Smoke A Brisket Fat Side Down

Brisket is smoked fat side down to ensure consistency, below are some of the other reasons for smoking your brisket fat cap side down.

  • Easier to Slice

When you smoke the brisket fat side down it is easier to see to the grain of the meat. This makes for a neater cut and ensures you don’t with all chopped brisket. For easier cutting you need to allow the brisket to rest, if you not sure how long to let the brisket rest in the cooler, you should allow at least four hours, you want to bring the temperature down from 200°F to 140°F over that time period.

  • Better Smoke Ring

I have found that you can get a more pronounced smoke ring when you smoke the brisket fat side down. The smoke ring is that that really thin line of pink meat between the crust and inner meat.

All these flavors are natural, or the spices we season with will be fat-soluble and once rendered will carry those flavors and penetrate the brisket. 

  • Ensuring The Cooked Brisket Is Juicy 

When heat is applied the rendered fat keeps the meat moist as it doesn’t evaporate like water and gets absorbed back into the proteins when rested. 

  • Better Looking Brisket & Bark

If you cook the brisket with the fat side up the meat will be in direct contact with the grill grates, this can hinder the formation of the bark. We associate smoked brisket with the crispy outer layer that is developed by the Maillard reaction, which helps formulate a bark with a strong flavor and texture. The Maillard reaction happens when the meat dries on the surface and the proteins bind.

What Will Happen If We Smoke A Brisket With The Fat Side Up?

So what are the pros to smoking your brisket fat side up? Well some pitmasters argue that the fat will baste the meat as it renders and it will drip down over the meat. However I have found that the brisket can only absorb so much moisture and a majority of the fat will just drip down into the bottom of the smoker along with the rub.

Smoked Brisket Recipes

Know you know how to put your brisket in your smoker, here are some of my favorites recipes for smoking it.

Smoked Brisket Recipe Pit Boss

Traeger Brisket Recipe

Weber Kettle Brisket Recipe

Note: I have written plenty recipes and tips about brisket. You can see them here.

What Happens To Fat During The Cooking Process?

So what exactly happens when you cook saturated animal fat? Without getting into the actual science, the smoking process will heat fat molecules which change their structural integrity. 

A multitude of factors come into play but all we need to know is that the texture changes, desirable flavors concentrate, and moisture absorbs in the proteins. One of these reactions is known as the milliard where heated sugars and fats form a browned caramelization with concentrated flavor. 

Cooking the fat ultimately leads to less of a loss of moisture in the meat, depth of flavor, and texture.

What Is The Best Temperature To Smoke A Brisket?

So what is the best temperature to smoke a brisket? Cook at a constant temperature of 225°F and monitoring the internal temp with a probe is the go-to method

How Long Do We Smoke A Brisket?

Smoked brisket should be in your smoker or pellet grill for a cook time of 1 hour per pound. Or until the internal temperature read 204°F.

What Is The Desired Internal Meat Temperature For A Smoke Brisket?

What is the internal temperature for a perfect finished product? The answer is 204°F. If you pull the brisket at 200°F-202°F you will find that the carryover cooking may help it to increase to the 204°F.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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