Flip Your Brisket? Should You Turn Your Brisket Over?


Smoking a brisket is a challenge, and there are several things that you need to get right in order to nail the perfect cook. The last thing you want is a brisket with charred edges or one side cooked more than the other. Flipping and rotating your brisket will depend on the type of smoker that you are using. Every smoker will cook your brisket differently, so there’s a different strategy for each pit.

Flipping a brisket is only necessary if the heat source is coming from below or above the meat. When the heat is coming from one direction, the meat will cook unevenly, so turning over the brisket will prevent the meat from overcooking on one side. If the heat source is coming from the left or right side, the brisket will need to be rotated rather than flipped. Some smokers produce an even heat distribution, so flipping or rotating is unnecessary. Flipping and rotating is only required during the first phase of cooking where the meat is unwrapped. Once the brisket is wrapped in aluminium foil or butcher paper, the meat will be protected.

When To Flip Brisket While Smoking

We smoked brisket in to stages; unwrapped, then wrapped. While the brisket is in the wrapped phase, charring or overcooking one side won’t be an issue, so rotation and flipping isn’t necessary. However, during the unwrapped stage, the brisket will need some management.

Is Flipping Brisket Necessary?

You only need to rotate the brisket if the meat is cooking unevenly, or parts of the brisket is charring more than other parts. Often the flat, the thinner area of the brisket, will char more than the thicker point. Some cookers produce an even heat, so there’s no need to flip or rotate the brisket.

Do You Flip Brisket While Smoking?

Whether or not you flip your brisket depends on the type of smoker that you are using, and the direction of the heat source. All smokers are different, and the heat source will come from a different direction depending on the smoker. The heat source on some smokers may come from below, while with others, the heat will come from above.

Flipping Depends On The Smoker

Offset Smokers have a firebox to the side, so the hottest point may come from the left or the right. An electric smoker will produce indirect heat, so the brisket will cook evenly and need to flipping. All convection fan-assisted ovens/smokers evenly circulate the air, producing an even cook, so rotating a brisket isn’t necessary.

Traditional charcoal smokers with a fire underneath will char the bottom side of the brisket unless you rotate the meat at least once. Even though charcoal smokers should have a heat deflector, the bottom side of the brisket will still take the brunt of the heat. Heat deflectors will shield the meat from the fire and produce indirect heat, which is perfect for low and slow cooking. Always place the brisket fat cap down on a charcoal smoker and flip the meat three quarters of the way through the unwrapped phase of the cook.

Test The Temperature On Different Parts Of Your Smoker

If you have an electric smoker such as a Masterbuilt or a gas smoker, you might find the meat cooks faster on different racks. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to rotate the racks during the cook if you are cooking a few meats at one time. Using a duel probe thermometer, clip one probe onto the top rack, one at the bottom. Turn your smoker on and note the temperature difference. Then place a probe on the middle rack and compare the three areas. If there is a noticeable difference, make sure you rotate the racks or the meat during the cook.

Fat Side Up or Down?

If the heat source is coming from below, lay the brisket with the fat side facing down. The fat will absorb some of the heat and protect the brisket from drying out. If the heat source is coming from above, place the brisket on the grill with the fat cap facing upwards. If you notice one side of the meat overcooking, rotate the brisket.

Many pitmasters believe fat side up will also baste the meat. As the brisket cooks, the fat will drip down the side of the brisket. Fat side down will cause fat to drip down onto the fire and create more smoke. To minimize this occurring, make sure you have a drip tray because it could create a mess and may create too much smoke. Grease buildup at the bottom of your smoker can also cause grease fires during the cook, which will destabilize your smoker and may produce bad smoke.

Fat Cap Down

Even if you are cooking with an indirect heat, there will still be hot spots, matter what type of smoker. To identify a hotspot, you will notice the meat will be overcooked or charred on one part of the meat. If you identify a hot spot, rotate the meat once or twice during the cook. Once you are aware of the warmer areas, flipping and rotating the meat will be necessary.

Flipping Brisket On Charcoal Smokers

Charcoal smokers such a kamado style grills, drum smokers, kettle grills, WSM’s, etc will have a heat source coming from below, so the underside of the brisket will cook faster and may be charred in some areas. Placing the brisket fat side down will shield the meat, and the fat will absorb most of the direct heat, but charcoal smokers should also use some kind of heat deflector plate to shield the meat from the fire. A deflector will ensure the meat is cooking with indirect heat, creating a cool zone. If your smoker doesn’t have a heat deflector, build the fire to one side of the smoker and place the meat on the opposite side of the grill.

Do You Need To Flip Brisket On A Pellet Grill?

You can get away with not flipping or rotating your brisket on a pellet grill such as a Traeger or Pitboss. However, if you notice your grill has hot spots and cool spots, then you may need to rotate or flip your brisket. The more you cook on your pellet grill, the more you may notice areas that cook uneven. When cooking brisket, always place the meat in the coolest area when unwrapped. Once the brisket is wrapped and you want it finished, then it won’t matter where you place the brisket on the grill.

The best way to see if your pellet grill has different temperatures is to use a duel-probe thermometer and run a test. Experiment by placing the thermometer probe on either side of the grill or in the middle. Monitor the temperature and note the temperature differences. It’s good to have this awareness so you can rotate the meat when your smoking brisket or other large cuts such as turkey or pork shoulder.

How Often To Flip Brisket When Smoking

It is only necessary to rotate your brisket once prior to wrapping in foil. The first 3 to 4 hours you should leave your brisket alone. During the first stage of the cook, allow the meat to absorb smoke and give the bark a chance to harden. I usually wrap brisket about 5 to 7 hours into the cook. If the meat is cooking unevenly, flip or rotate the brisket halfway through this unwrapped stage.

Does Aaron Franklin Flip Brisket?

Brisket master Aaron Franklin doesn’t flip his brisket because he uses an offset smoker where the heat source is coming from a firebox to the side of the smoker. He may flip brisket when using other smokers, but from the videos I’ve watched, he doesn’t flip.

Here are smoke of my favorite meat smoking tools

Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking meat that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.

Remote Digital Thermometer: If you’re looking for your first thermometer, I highly recommended the ThermoPro TP20. This was my first thermometer, and I still use it to this day. For around $50, you get a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes so you can track the temperature of your pit with one probe and your meat with the other probe. The TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings. See the latest price on Amazon here.

Instant-Read Thermometer: I use the TP19 by ThermoPro, a more affordable version of the famous ThermoPen. The TP19 can do everything the ThermoPen can do, except for a fraction of the price. If you can afford the ThermoPen, then go for it. I think it’s worth every cent. But if you don’t want to fork out $100 for a thermometer, then check out the TP19. Check it out on Amazon here.

Pink Butcher Paper: If you haven’t tried wrapping your brisket in butcher paper, you should definitely try it out. Foiling is perfectly fine, but butcher paper is much kinder on the bark. You can’t use any old paper when wrapping meat, it has to be non-waxed peach paper. There are a few products available on Amazon, but I recommend this butcher paper. Check it out on Amazon here.

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