Skip to Content

How long to smoke a brisket fat up or down? (Explained)

Sharing is caring!

How long to smoke a brisket fat up or down

If you’re wondering how long you should be smoking a brisket with the fat cap facing upwards or downwards, you have come to the right place. 

Before continuing this article, I wanted to let you know that I have a YouTube channel where I showcase all sorts of video content related to BBQ. Subscribing would mean a lot to me, and I very much appreicate all the support!

Depending on what you want out of your overall brisket cook, I usually recommend cooking fat cap up. This accomplishes two things. 

First thing that it accomplishes is obtaining a lot of smoke flavor, and acting almost as a heat shield from any smoke from being too hot and infringing upon the meat. 

The second thing having the fat cap of your brisket upwards is so that it does not stick to the bottom grates. 

That is a pretty significant problem that I have encountered over the course of my brisket career.

In terms of how long you should be letting the brisket fat cap face a certain way, it’s really up to the discretion of pit-master, but I like to just have the brisket in a certain position for the entire cook. 

I don’t like flipping it around too much because in doing that, you’ll have to open up the smoker chamber which escapes a lot of the heat which in turn prolongs your overall cook.

Speaking of fat caps on briskets, let’s take a quick look at whether or not you should leave it on your piece of BBQ.

Do you leave the fat on a brisket when you smoke it

You’ll often see among those in the BBQ community, that many recommend trimming the fat off of your brisket.

This is frankly a bit of a mistake in my opinion, because having a lot of fat all over the brisket gives it plenty of flavor and also helps to shield it from further heat damage from the fire and the smoker. 

That being said there are some parts of the fat cap that are so hard and tough themselves, that they never really render through even though you cook the meat past 200° an internal temperature. 

These are known as the hard white parts of fat on a certain side of the brisket. 

For these particular areas, it is probably recommended that you slice the fat off unless you like really fatty blobs as you bite into your meat.

Should you smoke a brisket fat side up or down

Smoking a brisket with the fat cap or the fat side facing upward will help the brisket not stick to the grate, because it will only be the meat portion of the brisket that is actually touching the metal, as well as helping to shield the brisket from overall heat damage. 

Shielding the brisket from overall heat damage is important because you don’t want your crust or bark to become too hard.

You do you want an excellent and crispy profile on your brisket, but you don’t want it to be where are you slicing  the brisket and the outer edges are so tough you can’t even eat them. 

Also, regarding smoking a fat cap in the upper direction, if you were to place it down where the fat cat is directly touching the metal on the smoker grate, I’ve encountered a lot of instances where it actually sticks to the grate and as you pull the brisket off, it destroys it and makes all the meat dry out instantly. 

It’s just something to watch out for but if you are bent on placing your fat cap down in that position, grab a bottle of nonstick spray and spray both the grate and the meat itself so it does not stick.

Why smoke a brisket fat side down

Smoking a fat cap brisket in a downward position accomplishes about the same thing that placing it upwards does. 

It also frankly depends as well, on what type of smoker you have.

A brisket with a fat cap facing upward and an offset smoker helps to protect it from a lot of excess heat in the same sense that a brisket with the fat cap side down in a vertical smoker does. 

So take a quick look at what type of smoker you have how you were cooking a brisket overall.

I’ll take a quick look at recapping as to why you shouldn’t smoke brisket with a fat cat side up.

Why smoke a brisket fat side up

As noted above, it really depends on what smoker you have.

And an offset smoker placing a fat cap side in the upward direction certainly seems to have the same effect as placing the same brisket and a downer position just an a vertical smoker. 

You just want to be able to shield the overall brisket from direct heat from the fire.

Does the fat side placement change the length of cook for a brisket?

It is never really recommended to be opening the smoker doors and rearranging the meat constantly.

All this does is serve to  prolong your smoking session and is not that optimal. 

You don’t want longer cook times than necessary, and rearranging your brisket in terms of placing it in an upward or downward position will not really do that much at the end of the day. 

What really matters for smoking a brisket is just bringing the internal temperature up to 200°F. That is really the only metric that you absolutely need pay attention to.

Final thoughts 

If you’re wondering if you should be constantly rearranging the fat side of your brisket throughout the smoke, and are wondering how long you should leave each side facing a certain direction, then you should know that you should first of all not be rearranging your brisket at all. 

Furthermore, once you decide on a placement, whether that be fat side up or down, leave it there for the entirety of the cook.

That means for an average of 10 to 12 hours, depending on how hot and fast or low and slow you are cooking it of course.

This article was written by Robert McCall, the founder of Robert also owns and operates the BBQ dropout YouTube channel where he demonstrates his first-hand experience cooking all kinds of meats and strives to provide helpful, authoritative content for people looking how to barbecue.

He primarily hand writes the bulk of the content but occasionally will leverage AI assisted tools, such as chatGPT, to properly edit and format each blog post on this website. This ensures a pleasurable reading experience for visitors. Read more about our editorial policies here. If there are any improvements that can be made to this article, reach out to us directly at