Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down: The Long-Debated Topic

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Brisket is one of those dishes that everyone loves, but many of us face conflict over the best way to prepare it: should brisket be cooked rare, medium, or well done?

Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down: The Long-Debated Topic

Should it be fat side up or down? Do you let it cool, or eat it fresh and hot?

To help you ensure that you enjoy the best possible experience with your brisket, we’ve
compiled everything you need to know about cooking brisket perfectly, including tips on how to cook brisket properly, as well as information about what makes a great brisket.

How To Choose The Best Brisket

The first step is to make sure that you choose the right brisket, and this means choosing a good cut of meat.

Brisket is made from the lower portion of the cow’s shoulder and comes in two cuts: flat iron and point.

Flat Iron Brisket

This is the most common type of brisket used for barbecue. It has a nice marbled appearance and tends to have more flavor than point.

Flat iron briskets are usually sold whole (which means they come without any bones), so you can just slice them into pieces yourself.

Point Brisket

Point brisket is leaner than flat iron brisket, and is often referred to as “pork butt” because it looks like pork when sliced.

Because of its leanness, point brisket doesn’t hold together very well if overcooked, which is why it’s not typically served at restaurants.

Instead, it’s usually reserved for home cooks who want to do their own cooking.

You can find point brisket in both whole and half sizes, and it’s fairly easy to carve out slices.

What Makes A Good Brisket?

When selecting a piece of beef for barbecuing, there are several things that you need to keep in mind.

First, look for a thick layer of fat around the outside of the brisket; this will add flavor and moisture during cooking.

Next, look for a deep red color – this indicates that the brisket has been exposed to smoke long enough to develop a rich mahogany color.

Finally, look for a tight grain pattern – this means that the muscle fibers run parallel to each other, rather than being crisscrossed.

This helps the meat retain moisture while cooking.

Cooking Brisket

Once you’ve selected a good quality piece of brisket, you’ll need to decide whether you want to cook it rare, medium, or even well done.

Each of these has its own pros and cons:

  • Rare: If you prefer slightly pinkish meat, then go for rare. It’s moist and tender, and won’t dry out too much during cooking. However, in some cases, this can cause the meat to lose and lack flavor, so you may wish to season it before serving.
  • Medium Rare: For those looking for a bit more flavor, try medium-rare. Brisket cooked this way still retains some pink in the center, but has developed a deeper flavor.
  • Well Done: If you prefer your brisket very well cooked, then you can go ahead and cook it until it is well done. Take care here; this will result in a slice of very tough and chewy meat if you don’t keep a close eye on it.

Do I Need To Trim The Fat On Brisket?

Some people prefer to trim the fat on brisket before they eat it; this essentially means removing the excess fat around the edges of the meat.

If you choose to remove the fat, be careful not to leave too much behind. Otherwise, the meat may become dry and tough.

If you choose to trim the fat, the following steps can help:

  1. Use a sharp knife to slice off the outer layer of fat. Make sure to go slowly so that you don’t tear the meat.
  2. Remove any remaining fat from the bottom of the brisket.
  3. Using a paper towel, wipe away any remaining fat from the sides of the meat.
  4. Finally, use a paper towel to wipe away any remaining grease on the top side of the meat, and cook as desired.

Should I Cook Brisket Fat Side Up Or Down?

This is another long-debated topic among BBQ enthusiasts.

Some people like to cook their briskets fat side up, while others prefer them cooked on the bone side down.

So which method is better? We took a look at the pros and cons of each.

Fat Side Up

If you choose to cook your brisket fat side up, then you’re going to be able to enjoy the juicy goodness that comes from the fat.

The fat helps add moisture to the meat, making it more flavorful and tender. However, there are a couple of drawbacks to this approach.

First off, since the fat is exposed to high temperatures, it tends to get burned quite easily.

Secondly, the fat can become greasy and sticky, especially if you don’t remove it from the pan once the meat is fully cooked.

Fat Side Down

On the other hand, if you decide to cook your brisket on the fat side down, then you won’t have to worry about the fat getting too crispy.

Instead, the juices stay trapped inside the meat, ensuring that it remains moist and tasty.

The downside to this approach is that you’ll need to use tongs to turn the meat over halfway through the cooking process.

However, this isn’t much of a hassle because the meat usually doesn’t stick very well to the pan, meaning that you can turn it regularly without the worry of the meat sticking and becoming damaged or tasteless.

Tips On How To Cook Brisket Properly

Tips On How To Cook Brisket Properly

Now that you know all about buying and preparing brisket, here are a few helpful hints on how to cook it properly.

Make Sure That Your Fire Is Hot Enough

When cooking brisket, you should always start with a hot fire. When using charcoal, you should preheat the grill for at least 30 minutes.

Once the coals begin to burn down, you can reduce the heat by 25% for the best results.

Season Before Cooking

Seasoning your brisket is an important part of the process. Start by rubbing the meat with salt and pepper.

Then, rub it with garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. These spices help give the meat a distinct flavor.

Use A Quality Cut

If possible, try to buy a cut of brisket that has been aged for at least 14 days.

This ensures that the meat is tender, flavorful, and juicy.

Cook With The Grain Of The Muscle Fibers

When cooking brisket on the flat surface of the grill, make sure to cook it with the grain of the muscle fibers.

This helps prevent the meat from drying out during the cooking process.

Don’t Overcook

As mentioned above, you shouldn’t overcook your brisket. In fact, it’s best to let it rest after cooking.

This allows the juices inside the meat to redistribute themselves throughout the meat, resulting in a juicier final product.

Use An Instant Read Thermometer

An instant-read thermometer is one of the most useful tools for any barbecue enthusiast.

They allow you to monitor the internal temperature of your food throughout the entire cooking period.

This makes it easier to determine when the meat is finished cooking.

Keep A Close Eye On The Meat

It’s also important to keep track of the internal temperature of the meat as it cooks.

You can do this by placing an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat – this will reduce the risk of overcooking, and ensure that the brisket is safe to eat before serving.

Let It Rest After Cooking

After cooking, it’s important to let the meat rest before slicing it up.

This gives the juices time to redistribute themselves throughout your meat. As a result, the meat becomes much tastier.

Should I Brine My Brisket Before Deciding Whether to Cook It Fat Side Up or Down?

When considering whether to cook your brisket fat side up or down, brining brisket has its pros and cons to take into account. Brining can help keep the meat moist and add flavor, but it may also alter the texture and make the brisket too salty if not done carefully.

How Do I Cook Brisket?

There are many ways to cook brisket. Some people like to smoke their meat, while others prefer grilling it.

Here are some ideas to get you started:


To smoke your brisket, place the meat in a smoker box. Add wood chips to the bottom of the box, then close the lid.

Smoke the brisket until its internal temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit (65 degrees Celsius).


For those who don’t have access to a smoker, there’s still plenty they can do to prepare a delicious brisket.

First, soak the brisket in cold water overnight. Next, rinse off the excess liquid. Season the meat with salt and black pepper.

Place the seasoned brisket onto a preheated grill, and cook it for about 2 hours.

Other options for cooking brisket include:


This method involves roasting the meat instead of smoking it. To roast the brisket, remove the fat cap first.

Then, season the meat with salt and ground black pepper.

Wrap the brisket tightly in foil, and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) for 3 hours.

What Can I Pair With A Brisket?

Brisket is perfect when paired with a range of dishes; why not try pairing it with these side options:

Potato Salad

A classic American potato salad is made with boiled potatoes, celery, onion, mayonnaise, and pickle relish.

For more flavor, add chopped hard-boiled eggs, bacon bits, and fresh parsley to the mix.

Green Beans

These green beans are cooked with onions, garlic, and thyme. Serve them alongside your favorite brisket dish.

Cabbage Slaw

Slaw is usually served alongside fried chicken and barbecued pork but also works beautifully with brisket.

Just toss together shredded cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, jalapeños, and cilantro, and enjoy!


You can serve your brisket with all sorts of garnishes. These include carrots, parsley, and cornbread.

Final Thoughts

Learning the best way to cook brisket is important in ensuring that you enjoy a delicious, nutritious cut of meat every single time – anyone else feeling hungry?

Tommy Hall

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