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Should You Cook Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

A good brisket is one of the finest and most decadent food staples of any barbecue. It may take a lot of effort to get a brisket just right, but the results are more than worth it.

The juicy fat that surrounds the cut of meat imbues the whole cut with plenty of flavorsome juices that melt away on your tongue. And the meat itself has a soft, tender and moist texture that makes it an absolute joy to bite through. 


However, since getting a brisket just right requires some decent skill, and the fat is such a vital part of the meat, it would stand to reason that there must be a preferred way to cook it, right?

Should you have the fat facing up? Or should you have the fat facing down? Which would lead to the best results, and is it safe to do it in the opposite way? 

I’m sure you’d much rather be eating your brisket than endlessly pondering over it, so let’s find out for you the best way that you should cook your precious brisket to get those mouth-watering results! 

Should You Cook Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

It is difficult to give a definitive answer either way on this argument, but maybe not for the reason you expect. Technically, both ways are valid, but it depends on what you are using to cook the brisket.

If you are using a grill, or other device, that has heat coming from below and into the food, then you will want to place the brisket with the fat facing down. This way, the heat can directly reach the fat first, which helps to cook it to perfection.

If you are using a cooker that has heat coming from above the meat, then you will want to place the meat with the fat facing upwards, much for the same reasons.

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Why Should The Fat On A Brisket Face Toward The Heat?

This is to help make the brisket taste even better. No matter whether you cook the brisket with the fat down, or up, if it is facing the heat source, then the fat will begin to crisp up along the top.

This gives it an incredibly satisfying mouth feel, with a certain crunchiness and saltiness that is frankly irresistible. Placing a brisket upside down on the grill will also cause grill lines to be burned into the top of the fat, which can create an even more appetizing appearance. 

If the brisket is sat with the fat facing up towards the heat source then the juices that run off from the fat as it cooks will trickle slowly down the rest of the brisket, and coat it in delicious and savory flavors.

This is a great way to make use of the whole cut and to make use of the amazing flavors throughout. 

What Happens If You Cook A Brisket With The Fat Facing The Wrong Direction?

If you were to have the fat of the brisket facing the opposite way to the heat source, then you would likely find that the fat does not cook fully.

This will cause it to remain chewy, unsatisfying, and largely flavorless. As you cook the fat layer, the very top of it will become slightly crispy, and the juices throughout the fat will begin to ooze out onto the rest of the meat.

Not cooking the fat all of the way will lead to a very unsatisfactory brisket that would make for a great waste of an otherwise beautiful cut of meat.

The fat layer not being close to the heat also means that the meat itself might receive too much heat, which would cause it to overcook, and then become very crumbly and dry

It would still be safe to eat a brisket that has been cooked the wrong way around, but it wouldn’t be half as delicious! 

Cook Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down

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Is It Better To Cook A Brisket With The Fat Up Or Down?

This will depend entirely on your personal preference. If you cover the fat with lots of herbs and spices and other flavors, then placing it with the fat facing down will prevent those herbs and spices from falling off of the meat and becoming wasted.

This is a definite benefit of cooking a brisket with the fat facing downward. 

If you cook a brisket with the fat facing up, then the juices from the fat will drench the meat below, imbuing it with flavor, and keeping it moist throughout the cooking process. This is a benefit of cooking it with the fat facing upward.

However, it is difficult to decide between just one of them as the definitive method. Each method is entirely valid, and offers its own benefits, so you should use whichever one feels best to you in the moment!

To Finish Up

So there you have it!

You don’t have to place the brisket with the fat orientated in any particular way, but you should aim to have it facing the heat source of your grill or other cooking device, to allow the fat to cook fully, and to protect the larger cut of meat from being overcooked and thus becoming dry, crumbly, and very disappointing!

Cooking a brisket requires some careful control, so make sure to keep a good eye on it over the course of the cooking process, no matter which way round you decide to set it down! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Fat Side Up Or Down When Smoking

If you are smoking a brisket, you should aim to have the fat side facing downward. This is because smoking grills, of course, make use of smoke, which travels upwards, and thus this gives the fat a lot of heat to cook with, and helps to protect the meat from overcooking.

Fat Side Up Or Down In Oven

If you are cooking your brisket in a conventional oven, you should aim to have the fat facing up, as that is usually the direction from which the heat comes. 

Do You Smoke A Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down On A Pellet Grill?

On a pellet grill, you should aim to have your meat layed down with the fat facing downwards, as pellet grills make use of heat’s rising motion.

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