Expert Advice: Should I Smoke Meat Fat-Side Up or Fat-Side Down?

Expert Advice: Should I Smoke Meat Fat-Side Up or Fat-Side Down?

Posted on: January 18, 2023

How do you smoke your meat, fat-side up or fat-side down? Just like any story has two sides, a brisket equally has a meat side and fat side, and how you place it on your food smoker can affect the taste and flavor of your brisket.

For years, the question of which of the two is the best has aroused much debate in the food smoking community. Some say smoking meat fat-side up is the right way while others are of the contrary opinion, which drives us to our main question.

Should you smoke your brisket fat-side up or fat-side down? The best approach to any question is weighing all sides involved, and to give you a more detailed response, we’ll now look at the pros and cons of both.

Smoking brisket fat-side down

Smoking your meat fat-side down has several advantages as well as disadvantages. It’s also one of the most popular food smoking techniques because the fat and meat don’t absorb too much smoke.

Smoking directions


  • A quality food smoker
  • Cutlery (knife, fork)
  • Brisket, trimmed
  • A large bowl
  • Meat rub
  • 2 cups beef broth (you can also use cola)
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, apple cider, or apple juice
  • Spicy BBQ sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce


  • Prepare your brisket, adding seasoning depending on how you like your meat.
  • Season on both sides with your preferred beef rub.
  • In your bowl, make the mop sauce by combining the beef broth, beer, or cola with apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Spray the mop sauce on the brisket.
  • Preheat your smoker to a temperature of 225 °F. You can use apple bisquettes for this recipe.
  • Arrange the brisket fat-side down on the grill grate and smoke until tender (about three to four hours).

It’s important to note that the time it takes to smoke your meat is determined by various factors, including the size of your cut and the type of meat.

Why smoke your brisket fat side down?

Brisket is meat from any animal’s chest and contains a substantial amount of fat. The side facing out towards the skin is usually covered with a layer of fat called the fat cap, which in this case should face down when smoking your meat.

This helps your brisket taste and look better by giving it a crispy back.


  • It protects the meat from bottom heat – while heat is evenly distributed in the food smoker, the side facing downwards receives much more as it’s placed directly on top of the smoker. Putting your brisket fat-side down protects the meat from overcooking as it gets just enough heat.
  • Better overall presentation – how you present your food on the table is as important as the cooking process. Using this technique, you avoid the brisket getting stuck on the grill, leaving you with a well-cooked, presentable meal.
  • It has better bark formation – smoking your brisket with the fat cap up means that bark can comfortably form on the surface without you having to do much. Smoking fat-side down often results in a deep, crispy bark.


  • You run the risk of drying out your meat – too much heat may drain all the juices from the brisket, leaving it dry.

Smoking brisket fat-side up


  • Meat is juicier – smoking your meat fat side up adds more juice to your brisket as the fat melts, trickling down to the rest of the meat.
  • More enhanced flavor – as the brisket cooks, the fat droplets baste and braise the meat, adding flavor.
  • Renders out more fat, making the brisket tender, moist, and crispy on the edges.
  • Shields the meat from the heat from the top – as the fat side is up, the brisket is protected from the heat, allowing it to smoke slowly while ensuring it doesn’t overcook.


  • Washes off rub as it melts – if you have applied any rub or seasoning to the brisket, it can be washed away as the fat melts.
  • Slicing through the fat may create greasy slices of meat as the fat flows down.

Key Takeaways:

While the two techniques are a bit different, there are some similarities, like:

  • In both, you get a crispy bark.
  • Whether you smoke your brisket fat-side up or down, you still add flavor.
  • The smoking process is almost similar.
  • Both enhance the smoky flavor of the beef. However, this is also dependent on the food smoker you use.

The bottom line

Cooking is an art, and with any art, there are variations in technique. There’s also no right or wrong answer, so it’s important to consider the pros and cons in each and what you want to achieve.

Interested in more articles about smoking brisket? Well, you’re in the right place! Check out these articles we have prepared for you:
How to Smoke Brisket and Pro Brisket Tips
5 Best Kinds Of Wood For Smoking Brisket
Brisket Terminology and Cooking For Food Smoking
How to Slice a Brisket

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.