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Old 05-06-2005, 08:01 AM   #1
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Brisket - Fat side up or down

I know we've debated this before and there seemed to be a slight majority that favored fat side down to up. The rational (if I remember correctly) that was given was that the fat cap protects the brisket from either drying out or burning because the down side is closer to the heat. I guess this would have some validity if you were cooking the traditional way directly over hot coals but if you are cooking in an offset smoker or even in a WSM, the temperatures are alway higher at the top, so doesn't if make sense in those instances to cook fat side up in order to benefit from the self basting effect you get from the fat cap slowing melting and having the dripping juices coat the meat. Seams like a waste of good drippings to have that fat drip directly into the bottom of the smoker.

I noticed that in BBQ USA, Raichlen advocated fat side up.

The last brisket I cooked was fat side up but I intentionally cooked over the lowest temps I ever had used for cooking a brisket before. Average temp was about 210. The brisket came out great but I did flip it about 6 hours into the cook so, I'm not really sure if the great results were due to starting with fat side up and then flipping. My guess is that it probably was more related to the lower cooking temps and longer cooking time.

Any thoughts?
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Old 05-06-2005, 08:08 AM   #2
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In my WSM I cook it fat side down...after it reaches an internal of 190* I pull it off, wrap it in HD foil and rest it FAT SIDE UP in a dry cooler...as it's resting (4 hrs ideally) the fat is still melting from the fat cap and basting the now underside of the brisket. It has worked out very well for me the last 3 times I have done them like that.
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Old 05-06-2005, 08:10 AM   #3
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I, personally, don't know, but Keri C posted "Your brisket bible - a writeup by legendary pitmaster Danny Gaulden" over on TVWB and here's what he had to say:

After your fire has settled down to around 240-250¬į, put the brisket in the pit, fat side up and leave it like that the entire time if you're using a pit like my Big Bertha with a Ferris wheel rack system or a water smoker.

Now, if you're using an off-set firebox type pit, like a New Braunfels Black Diamond or a Klose, put the brisket on the rack fat side up and then turn it over and mop it every two hours so the bottom side doesn't get too much heat and dry out. While it's with the fat side up, the fat renders and penetrates in, over and around the cooking meat. When brisket becomes fork tender in the flat, take it off the pit, let it cool for about 30 minutes.


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Old 05-06-2005, 08:15 AM   #4
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I guess another thing to take into consideration is whether you are cooking a whole brisket or just the flat. I prefer whole brisket because it's the only way to get burnt ends (from the point). The point is a much tougher fattier piece of meat and can take higher heat than the flat which tends to dry out easier.
It also requires a longer cooking time.

I'm just trying to make sense out of this in a scientific/Alton Brown sort of way.

I think flipping does make sense because you can mop the underside of the brisket that way to keep it from drying out.
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Old 05-06-2005, 08:48 AM   #5
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I always cook my Briskets fat side up. Never had a dry one, never had a burnt one. I cook everything I cook in the WSM at a dome temp in the range of 240-260. I've thought about giving the fat side down method a try, but I'm happy with the way mine turn out. If I ever have a dry one, I'll blame the cook (myself) rather than whether the brisket was fat up or fat down. I'm not saying the folks that do cook fat side down are doing anything wrong, but fat side down just doesn't make sense IMHO.
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Old 05-06-2005, 09:19 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexLaw
The eternal question. I backed out of this debate a long time ago. I'm not even saying what I do.

For those who seek the answer, you must earn it. Cook 'em fat side up, and cook 'em fat side down. Whatever you like better, keep doing it that way.

Mahalo.


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Great conclusion Tex!
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Old 05-06-2005, 10:30 AM   #7
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I'll take fat anywhere I can get it. I've been known to put briskets on the bottom rack of the offset, fat side down, it keeps the meat protected from the bottom. Then I'll put a couple of butts on the top shelf fat side up. I'll mop the hell out of the butts and let the fat from the butts take care of the brisket. At the end of the cook I get my choice of Q off the pit and some fine eatin' for a couple of weeks. The process can be the same in any 2 level smoker.

Good Q!

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Old 05-06-2005, 10:48 AM   #8
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Ok for you fat side down guys please explain why this is better than up. For those that say its to protect the brisket from the heat, please explain. The top rack of any smoker is hotter than the lower rack as heat rises, so using that rationalle, shouldn't you cook fat side up to get the benefits of the self basting over the meat plus the protection from the higher temps up top? And it your cooking at 200-210 where's this big heat that we need protection from?

P.S. I always place my brisket at the farthest end of the cooking chamber away from the fire box.

Not trying to start an argument, just trying to understand this scientifically so to speak. All you Einsteins/Alton Brown types out there please speak up.

After we debate this ad nauseum we can go back to the issues of right side/left side brisket. LOL!

Thanks for sharing any and all ideas/theories.
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Old 05-06-2005, 10:54 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Kloset BBQR
After we debate this ad nauseum we can go back to the issues of right side/left side brisket. LOL!
That's gonna be a good one!
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Old 05-06-2005, 11:02 AM   #10
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If we could get a few more people to attend Smokestock 2005 perhaps we could settle this issue through a blind taste test and compare three briskets
1 cooked up, 1 down, and 1 flipped.

We could also do the lump vs briquette with wood chunks and see if anyone can pick out the briske and butts cooked with lump vs briquettes. My guess is that most could not.
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Old 05-06-2005, 11:57 AM   #11
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I think it depends on the cut. Flat, Point, Or whole packer. Also if it is a whole packer, Is it graded "Choice" or "Select" ? All these variables come into play. What about how much fat you trim? Lets skip the left-right debate.
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Old 05-06-2005, 12:41 PM   #12
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Well, from a purely scientific standpoint, I can't see any advantages to fat side down, it just seems like a waste of a free basting which means less opening of the pit which I believe is a good thing, right. Scientific explanations keep opinions out of it and keep the discussion civil I hope.

My assumptions are based on the following conditions:

1 Useing a whole packer brisket
2. Low temps between 200-210 to keep the fat from boiling out
3. Long cooking times
4. Cooking on an offset smoker so no direct contact with coals or fire
5. I am going under the theory that heat rises to the top so the heat at the
bottom of the brisket is not any hotter and probably cooler than the top
of the brisket.
6. I am cooking the brisket at the farthest end of the cooking chamber
away from the firebox (again to minimize the effect of heat spikes).

For flat's I can understand the need for mopping and flipping but still don't see the benefit of flat side down for the entire cook.

Points

Nobody cooks points unless they are cooking the whole brisket. These require the longest cook and usually are separated from the flat after the flat is done and returned to the pit for another 3-4 hours. Hard to screw up the point (kind of like a pork butt, very forgiving). It's the flat when cooked by itself can turn out dry. If someone can point me to a place in NE Ohio where I can buy the point separately from the flat, you'll be my new best friend. Can't get enough of those burnt ends.

One final challenge - Can someone tell me a disadvantage to fat side up because right now I can't see any.

Thanks again.
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Old 05-06-2005, 01:25 PM   #13
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Points make great pastrami and are great for corning! I'm thinking that the fat side up vs. the fat side down comes to personal preference. And what kind of pit you have along with care to fire tending. Just as cooking with or with out a thermometer.Is it worth trying to learn with out a thermometer? I would have to say Yes.Simple fact is that most (not all) people love to stick to the "rules" and think if a pork butt I did last time took 12 hours @ 225-250 same should be true this time,after all it's about the same weight. Nothing could be farther from the truth.In a nut shell. The more you do in your pit the more the pit it self will educate you.No thermometer,person or pit can make you a pit master.Yes it is a handy tool to use,but as time goes by the more you cook the better you come acquainted with your pit and what end result you want to achieve.There are folk that run to there pit and check the temp.because a little beeper is going off or the wireless polder they look at every 2 seconds.Then adjust that, move this,It's all a waste of time.Don't get me wrong, If I have three hundred dollars of standing rib on the pit I sure as hell am not going to wonder too far away,BUT ribs, butts and brisket basic staples of barbecue? I'll go back to bed or read a book as to fool around with a thermometer. But that's a whole different subject.
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Old 05-06-2005, 01:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pigs On The Wing BBQ
I think it depends on the cut. Flat, Point, Or whole packer. Also if it is a whole packer, Is it graded "Choice" or "Select" ? All these variables come into play. What about how much fat you trim? Lets skip the left-right debate.
IMHO the hard white fat on beef is great for the ground beef, but not as good for basting. It takes a lot of heat to get it to render and there is not as much moisture there to use. I find it best to trim it to 1/4 inch. Lay a thin layer of trim on the top of the cow pie and the debate now turns to fat, or no fat.

Without the Texas police here the left-right debate is really not as much fun.

Good Q!

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Old 05-06-2005, 01:50 PM   #15
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Geesssshhh Jack! Don't give away all the secrets!! What's next, The secret pig skin formula? (cracklings) #-o [-o<
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Old 05-06-2005, 02:05 PM   #16
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Geesssshhh Jack! Don't give away all the secrets!! What's next, The secret pig skin formula? (cracklings) #-o [-o<
LOL

I've been sworn to strict secrecy on that one!! [-X [-X
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Old 05-06-2005, 02:15 PM   #17
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That's it!!!! I'm cooking my briskets in a rib rack.......SIDEWAYS! So now we can throw the fat up/fat down out the window! 8-[
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Old 05-06-2005, 04:13 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kloset BBQR
Well, from a purely scientific standpoint, I can't see any advantages to fat side down, it just seems like a waste of a free basting which means less opening of the pit which I believe is a good thing, right. Scientific explanations keep opinions out of it and keep the discussion civil I hope.
Do you have any scientific data to confirm that the basting of the fat acutally does anything? If so I would realy like to read about it.

I dont know one way or the other myself, but I would think it is pointless. As it renders it seems to just roll of, but hey thats my opinion. If that is the case put it on the bottom and save it some travel time. I cook fat side down and it works great for me.

I wonder if this would fall into one of those myth catagories such as Searing Meat Seals In The Jucies.
Just very curious ... thats all.
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Old 05-06-2005, 05:48 PM   #19
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This is way too confusing. My next brisket is going to be Memorial day weekend. I'm gonna close my eyes as I put it on the smoker, It's gonna cook and i'm gonna eat it!
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Old 05-06-2005, 06:53 PM   #20
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Ya know this is just a how you like it type of thing. If you like it fat side up, cook it that way. If you like it fat side down, cook it that way. We could go on and on and on and on and bring up other stuff. The bottom line is, cook it how you like it.
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