Full Guide to Fat Brisket: Side Up or Side Down?

brisket sliced
The most important factor when deciding whether to cook a fat brisket side up or side down is the location of the heat source. Always place the fat part of your brisket pointing directly at the heat source. In most cases, this means pointing the brisket fat side down.

Why You Should Cook Brisket Fat Side Up or Down

Opinions vary among pitmasters – some recommend cooking fat side up while others always cook brisket fat side down (Aaron Franklin). Some people like the melting fat and basting effect of making your brisket fat side up with the meat side down, but it can sometimes yield a dry brisket.

The type of smoker or grill you have will make a difference in how you place the meat because of how heat works in different vessels. Radiant heat and convection heat will cook brisket differently.

Ultimately, the most important factor is where the heat comes from! It’s best to place the fat part of your brisket towards the heat source to keep the meat juicy and from drying out. Where you place the fat cap will depend on what kind of smoker/grill you use – some of them have the primary heat source coming from below, others from above.

What is a Fat Brisket?

A fat brisket is a cut of meat from the lower chest of a cow. Brisket is traditionally braised and eaten with a side dish in America, but it can be prepared and served in many different ways.

When people talk about “fatty” briskets, they are referring to the fact that there is more beef fat on one side of the brisket than another – this is called a fat cap. The thickness of this layer of fat varies but is typically close to 1-inch. Some prefer to cut most of this part off, while others leave it on entirely.

You should only remove a small portion of the brisket fat cap so that your brisket maintains some juiciness while cooking.

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brisket being sliced with a carving knife

Epic Fat Brisket BBQ Recipe

  • Total Time: 15 hours 30 minutes


A properly prepared Texas brisket is incredibly tender and delicious with a wonderful bark. If you are wondering what to do with your brisket, try this BBQ brisket recipe – it’s the only one you’ll never need!


Units Scale
  • 1012 lbs Brisket ((trimmed))
  • 1/2 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup black pepper


  1. Trim the extra fat of the brisket while it's still cold.
  2. Mix the salt and pepper in a small bowl (you can also use your favorite dry rub if preferred).
  3. Rub your brisket with the dry ingredients ensuring it adheres to the meat.
  4. Preheat the grill or smoker to 250°F and place a probe thermometer on the brisket flat.
  5. Place your brisket in the smoker, keeping an eye on the internal temperature.
  6. Wait for the stall (the point where the temperature stops rising): when the thermometer shows 165°F and the bark forms, remove the brisket from the heat.
  7. Foil the brisket and wrap it (use aluminum foil or butcher paper).
  8. Return the brisket to the heat. Let the brisket continue cooking until it reaches between 200°F and 205°F. When it does, remove it from the heat source.
  9. Don't unwrap immediately. Let the brisket rest in a cooler until the internal temperature reaches 145°F (this takes between 1 and 2 hours).
  10. Slice brisket once it reaches the proper temperature. It’s important to note that slicing brisket must always be done against the grain.
  11. Serve your perfect fat brisket with your favorite side dishes!
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 14 hours

Tips for Smoking Fat Brisket

You can make your own brisket dry rub to add some sweetness or spice by combining your favorite dried spices with salt and sugar in lieu of plain salt and pepper.

You can spritz the brisket with apple cider vinegar and water if you’d like to ensure moist meat. Do this after the bark forms but before wrapping the piece of meat.

It’s best to wrap up your brisket while smoking to maintain all those tasty juices.

While fat doesn’t penetrate the meat, salt does! You can brine your brisket in advance if you have time (do this up to 24 hours before). The salt transfers its flavor into the meat and helps the proteins retain moisture.

How Much Brisket Do You Need?

It’s essential to choose the size of your brisket depending on how many people you want to feed.

When it comes to feeding a crowd, you can’t beat brisket. It’s a perfect cut for sharing. But how many people will a brisket actually feed? 

That depends on the size of your crowd and the cut of meat. It will also depend on how much you trim off. A good estimate is 1 pound of brisket per person (prior to trimming and cooking the brisket). This will equate to around half a pound per person after trimming and cooking.

Best Place to Buy Fat Brisket

Where should you buy your fat brisket? Should you buy it at a butcher or a store? What’s the difference between the two?

If you want to ensure that the meat is high quality and fresh, then buying from a butcher is your best option. That’s because they offer advice on selecting the best cut of meat for the type of cooking method you prefer.

Butchers also know where the meat comes from if you have questions or if this is important to you.

However, if you don’t have access to local butchers in your area or don’t want to go out of your way (which is understandable), then buying from a grocery store works. Just look for a brisket that has good color and opt for a prime or choice cut.

How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Fat Brisket?

It depends on the temperature and the size of the brisket. Typically, cooking your meat at 250 degrees Fahrenheit takes about 1 hour per pound of brisket (cooking and resting included). 

That means that if you’ve got a giant, 16-pound monster of brisket, you’ll be waiting about 16 hours. Not ideal for an impatient cook, but worth it in the end.

Smoked Brisket Cook Time Estimate:

Weight of BrisketApproximate Cook Time
Up to 10 pounds8 – 10 hours
10 to 12 pounds10 – 12 hours
12 to 16 pounds12 – 14 hours
16 to 20 pounds14 – 16 hours

How to Trim Fat Brisket

You can trim your fat brisket in three easy steps:

  1. Trim the fat cap (the fat that covers the surface), leaving about 1/4 inch of it on for protection during cooking – this part acts as an insulator from intense heat.
  2. Trim the silver skin (the fat underneath the flap), and underside.
  3. Cut the point ends (the corners of the brisket) – same as trimming the fat cap, remove ¼ inch of both sides.

What are the Benefits of a Fat Brisket?

Fat brisket is a favorite of barbecue lovers, but is it really worth the extra work? Yes! There are several benefits to cooking a fatty brisket:

1. It’s juicier. A fatty brisket is more tender and juicy than a lean one. The fat melts outside the meat during cooking, adding flavor and moisture to each bite.

2. It’s cheaper. Fatty briskets are less expensive than lean ones.

3. You can use the leftover brisket trimmings to make things like ground beef in burgers, chili, soups, or sausages. You can freeze unused portions, so you’ll always have some ready for later use.

4. Eating fat brisket comes with some nutritional benefits as it is rich in iron, selenium, and phosphorus. Brisket also raises HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering bad cholesterol due to the oleic acid in the meat.

Difference Between Fat Brisket and Lean Brisket

The first thing to know is that there are two types of brisket: lean and fat. They both come from the same cut of meat, but they’re different in terms of how much fat they contain. That makes them look, cook, and taste differently.

Briskets that contain more fat have more marbling (small flecks of fat throughout the meat), which means they’ll have better flavor than leaner cuts, no matter how they are cooked.

Leaner brisket will have less moisture content because it contains less fat, so it’ll need to be cooked in a way that keeps it moist—like braising or smoking—to keep the meat tender enough for eating without drying out.

What Can Brisket Fat Be Used For?

Brisket fat is also known as beef tallow. After trimming your brisket you will have a good amount of it. There are several ways of using beef tallow so it doesn’t go to waste.

1. You can use brisket fat as a binder in burgers or meatloaf

2. Use the trimmings for making gravy or add them to soups and stews for an extra layer of flavor.

3. Fry some bacon slices in the pan with your leftover fat!

4. Mix with flour, salt, and pepper to make crispy fried onions (perfect for topping hot dogs).

What to Do with Leftover Fat Brisket

Store and Freeze Brisket Fat

It’s good practice to store your leftover beef fat in an airtight container (or jars) in the fridge until it solidifies into a block of hard yellow fat. You can then keep it in the refrigerator if you plan on using it within a few weeks, or place it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Using Fat Brisket Meat in Leftovers

Here are just a few ideas for using leftover brisket:

1. Make brisket tacos. Pile the meat on top of some tortillas with your favorite salsa and avocado. It’s almost as good as fresh!

2. Make fried eggs in leftover fat brisket grease and serve them over rice or noodles for an easy weeknight dinner that tastes amazing.

3. Serve your leftover brisket on top of some mashed potatoes with gravy to create a quick tasty dish.

Can you Feed Leftover Fat Brisket to Cats or Dogs?

No. Do not feed fat brisket leftovers to cats or dogs. While it’s not deadly in small quantities, it can be unhealthy if fed regularly.


Alexandra is a passionate writer who loves everything related to food: from buying local produce and sourcing the best ingredients to finding the perfect spice mix and sauce to complement each dish. She loves getting together with friends near a campfire and grilling up some barbecue goodness while having quality conversations - no screens allowed.

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