Should brisket be cooked with the fat side up or down?
Assuming you have a brisket that has been cut, spiced, and is ready to go on the smoker, do you want to know if you should put the fat side up or down?
There are a variety of conflicting viewpoints, so we'll give you a short response so you can continue cooking, and then we'll examine the theory and science behind the argument and consider both sides.
Let's investigate this further.
The art of brisket-ing: is it up or down?
Briskets have two distinct sides; one has a thick fat cap and the other may have a few thin fat flecks but is primarily bare meat.
While some individuals prefer to remove the entire fat cap, I prefer to keep a thin layer of fat that is between 1/4" and 1/8" thick.
I advise aiming the fat cap at the primary heat source.
This will entail cooking with the fat cap down on a grill or a smoker like the Weber Smokey Mountain.
The heat will be primarily coming from above on a well-insulated offset smoker, so in that situation, you would put the fat side up.
You may now go get your brisket on and come back to discover what the entire argument is about now that the question has been resolved.
Why is brisket cooked fat side up?
Fat-side-up cooks contend that the meat will become moist and juicy when the fat "melts" into the meat.
This is a myth, though.
In actuality, meat is unable to absorb fat. Instead, any spice you may have applied to the meat is carried away by the fat as it melts and flows the flesh into the drip pan.
Even worse, roasting your brisket fat side up won't produce the best-looking results. You will end up with a less-than-appetizing-looking brisket since the fat won't develop a consistent bark as the bare meat would.
Nevertheless, grilling brisket with the fat side up is not entirely forbidden. Cooking fat side up is recommended if you use an offset smoker that burns logs or any other smoker where the heat is generated from above.
What makes the fat side down better?
Brisket cooked fat side down will typically taste and look better.
Fat side down is more delectable
Because the fat is towards the bottom, it won't wash the seasoning away as it melts, so the bark keeps all the flavours you added.
Moreover, the smoke that is formed when the fat makes contact with the hot coals can enhance the flavour of your meat.
The meat is heated from underneath in the majority of cookers. Insulation is provided by fat. Therefore, when your meat cooks, the fat that doesn't melt away shields it from the strong heat of the fire. This prevents the drying out of your meat.
Fat side down is more handsome
An attractive brisket has a uniform, liquorice-baked bark all around. The flesh must dry out before the Maillard reaction can take place so that the proteins on the surface can unite.
With the fat side up, your rub will constantly be washed away by rendering fat, which will stop the bark from forming.
Your brisket will have that distinctive meteorite appearance if you cook it with the fat side down, allowing the bark to form freely and uniformly.
The source heat: where do you get your heat from?
As we'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).
Though there are few outliers.
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 utilising 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.
What do the pros have to say about it?
On both sides of this argument, there are specialists. This makes sense now that we are aware that the sort of cooker you use makes a significant difference.
Malcom Reed of "How To BBQ Right.com" prefers to cook his regular briskets with the fat side up. He says:
“At a contest, I would cook brisket fat side down the entire time. But you have to remember with my competition briskets I’ve trimmed off most of the fat, and I’ve injected it with at least 16oz of liquid….
For this “Eating Brisket,” we’re not worried about the extra fat or what it looks like after it’s cooked, so I’m going to cook it fat side up the entire time.
I want the final product to have a “beefy” flavour but not be enhanced or artificial.”
After examining the smoker he used for the recipe, it appears to be a horizontal offset style smoker, suggesting that the direction from where the heat enters also played a part in this choice.
Similar to this, brisket master Aaron Franklin cooks his meat fat side up.
But he also employs a smoker that receives heat from above. You can read a review of Aaron Franklin's BBQ Masterclass or follow his brisket guide here.
Still, the fat does have a distinct flavour of its own, and when it drips into the embers, the meat might pick up on that flavour. According to Meathead Goldwyn of amazingribs.com:
“And what about the fat dripping into the fire and being resurrected as flavorful droplets mixed in with smoke? I save the fat cap and put it on the grate over the fire and let it drip away.”
Similar results can be achieved by cooking your brisket with the fat side down, with the fat dropping straight into the hot coals and the accompanying smoke permeating the meat.
Should the brisket fat cap be removed?
The animal's breast is where the brisket is cut. The fat cap, a layer of fat that covers the side facing outwardly, is present.
Depending on the animal and how it was killed, this can be up to an inch thick.
Some individuals choose to remove the entire brisket fat cap. They contend that it keeps your smoke and rub from reaching the meat.
You can get away with removing the entire fat cap when cooking a premium brisket, such as a Wagyu.
Because fat adds flavour, I would always leave at least 1/4 inch.
Is it fat side up or down? Look at your smoker's heat source
You now understand that there isn't a single, universal solution to the dilemma of whether to gain weight or lose it. But you need to be aware of some crucial information.
No, as the fat melts it won't seep into your steak; however, it will wash your rub off.
Yes, the melting fat hitting the embers will produce smoke that will flavour your meat.
Yes, the fat will serve as an insulating layer between the meat and the heat source to prevent the meat from drying out.
What's the bottom line? Put the fat cap between the heat source and the meat in your smoker by figuring out where the heat is coming from, yeah!