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?

The fatty part of a brisket plays a pivotal role throughout the smoking process.

So you need to know exactly how to treat it!

We all know brisket can be tough to master!

But 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!

Read on further to understand why.

The Reasoning Behind Smoking A Brisket Fat Side Down

The grill is typically the hottest part of your smoker.

So basically, we want to make sure the fat faces the hottest part for the whole cooking time.

Below are for reasons why the fatty layer of the brisket should be down the entire time on your smoker or grill.

Rendering The Fat

Rendering the fat just means cooking it down into liquid form.

Applying intense heat will help the fat and meat cook at the same time as the fat needs a higher temperature to liquify. 

Flavor

Saturated fat is a vessel for the 6 key flavor compounds we crave. 

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

The Maillard reaction which helps formulate a crunchy bark with a strong flavor and texture.

The fat plays a vital role in achieving these reactions and the bark.

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

So what happens if we smoke fat side up?

If you smoke with the fat side up there is always a possibility that it won’t cook or render down in time. 

If you notice this then you can wrap the meat in to protect it while leaving the fat exposed

Monitor the fat until it has rendered enough and rest well for around 15 mins per pound. 

What Exactly Is A Brisket?

Do you know what a brisket is? 

Beef brisket is a large size muscle taken from the chest area of the cow.

These pieces of meat are flavorful due to intermuscular layers of fat and connective tissue that reside within the muscle fibers. 

The cuts of meat are typically cooked low and this is why I am focusing on smoking in this article.  

over-trimmed-brisket

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

Why Do We Want To Smoke A Brisket?

So just quickly, why are we smoking this beautiful chunk of meat?

Smoking uses an indirect source of heat. 

The indirect heat and slow cooking create the ideal environment for a juicy smoked brisket. 

This is because not only does it slowly render the fat and lock in moisture within the meat.

But also assists the bark formation and adds a natural smoky flavor.

The Common Types Of Fat In A Brisket

So what kinds of fat are in a brisket?

Knowing the difference between edible and inedible fat will make all the difference.

I once didn’t remove the silver skin and my snobby uncle got a word in. 

Never again!

The Types of Saturated Fat on Brisket

Animal fat is saturated fat.

Saturated fat is solid at room temperature and natural.

1. Intermuscular Fat

I will start with the best and most desirable. 

Intermuscular fat is why you physically say ‘wow’ when wagyu beef is melting on your tongue. 

Or it’s when meat from a ribeye is so tender you can cut it with a spoon!

Intermuscular fat is desirable because it contains flavor, and can be rendered down which keeps the meat juicy.

When looking for this type of fat in your meat, make sure there is an even ratio of meat and fat inside the cut, it should also be soft the same as the protein, and not feel dense.

A brisket has loads of intermuscular fat as it can weigh up to 20 pounds!

This is why we smoke low and slow.

2. The Fat Cap

This fat is usually very thick and on the top.

A fat cap is still desirable but will need to be trimmed if over an inch thick. It also might need to be cut away to get to the inedible silver skin. 

If your piece of meat has a fat cap too thick then it might not have enough time to properly render and will become chewy.

Fat is flavor but there still can be too much of something good!

A well-trimmed fat cap is good for providing an extra layer of protection over such a long cooking period and is also essential for beautiful crispy bark.

I ask my butcher to cut any excess but keep those fat trimmings for the next time you roast potatoes!

Silver Skin

The silver skin is usually on top of your meat or under a fat cap, look for a very thin shimmering silver.  

It is a membrane of connective tissue that is connected to fat and cannot be broken down (even with direct heat). 

There is no reason why you should have this on your dinner plate so make sure you are certain it has been removed. 

Again, ask your local butcher to professionally remove it with a sharp knife so you don’t have to worry it’s part of your brisket recipe!

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! Then pull it from and smoker and allow it to rest in a cooler.

Consider wrapping it with butcher paper or foil halfway through the cooking process if it stalls.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

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 adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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