Do you flip meat when smoking?

Last Updated on: 24th June 2023, 09:31 am

Are you a fan of the smoky, tender flavors of smoked meat? If so, you’ve probably wondered about the best techniques for achieving that perfect result.

One common question that arises is whether or not to flip the meat while smoking. It’s a topic that sparks debate among pitmasters and backyard barbecue enthusiasts alike.

in this blog post, we’ll delve into the age-old question: Do you flip meat when smoking? We’ll explore different perspectives, examine the potential benefits and drawbacks, and provide you with valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a beginner looking to up your smoking game, keep reading to discover the secrets behind flipping (or not flipping) your meat during the smoking process.

key takeaway: you don’t have to flip meat when smoking ,unless its starts drying out or becomes charred, which only happens if it comes in contact with direct heat.

Smoking cooks the meat by indirect heat and smoke.

So the internal temperature of the meat rises gradually throughout the area of meat and the meat cooks evenly.

You should avoid flipping your meat if you are using a good quality smoker.

You need to flip the meat when you are grilling or searing it to avoid overcooking or burning it.

Although there are various other factors due to which you will have to flip the meat during smoking.

We are going to explain all of the if and but-related flipping in detail in this article.

Do you flip meat when smoking?

The purpose of flipping in a cooking process is to allow the meat to cook evenly throughout it’s surface.

You need to flip your meat when grilling or searing because the meat is exposed to direct fire which can burn it on being exposed for a long time.

But in case of smoking you don’t need to worry about flipping because the temperature is not high enough to burn the meat.

Moreover, meat is not exposed to direct heat and cooks indirectly by smoke which further minimize the chances of burning.

During smoking, the internal temperature of meat rises gradually throughout the cooking process rather than sudden increase.

When the internal temperature of meat has reached around 200°F , the collagen starts to convert into gelatin.

turkey leg 1

Collagen is responsible for holding the muscles together.

When collagen is converted into gelatin the meat becomes tender.

That’s why smoking is used to cooks tougher cuts of meat like brisket.

While grilling brisket can result in overcooked external side while undercooked Internal side.

But if you are unsure of the internal temperature of meat and the temperature of smoker than you can consider flipping it to avoid overcooking.

You can also consider to flip your meat if one side of the meat is starting to charr while the other side is uncooked yet.

Flipping your meat during smoking can be a personal choice.

There is no right or wrong method as long as you are able to get a tender and delicious flavor at the end of smoking.

Meat TypeFlipping Benefits
Brisket YesPromotes even cooking and smoke absorption
Pork RibsYesPromotes even cooking and avoids charring
Chicken OptionalFlipping can ensure even cooking
TurkeyOptionalFlipping can ensure even cooking
FishNoPreserves delicate texture and moisture

Some people like to flip brisket to make sure that the point and flat cook at the similar temperature.

Brisket has two sides: a flat side and a point one.

The point region of brisket has a higher amount of fat , due to which there is a controversy that if it needs to face up or down.

To cope with this situation, some pros like to flip the brisket halfway through smoking to be at the safe end.

When will you need to flip your meat while smoking

Now that we have discussed that generally you don’t need to complicate the process of smoking by flipping your meat, let’s take in account some special conditions when you may need to flip your meat during smoking to be at the safe end.

Generally, you don’t need to flip your meat when smoking if you are using a good smoker and the temperature inside your smoker is constant.

But if your smoker is not insulated and the temperature keeps fluctuating, then flipping the meat is a good option.

smoked meat on table

In addition to temperature fluctuations, there are several other factors that can lead to uneven cooking of meat.

These factors include:

  • Low quality smoker
  • Fat side
  • Heat source below the meat
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Charring

Let’s discuss all of these in detail.

#1 :Low quality smoker

The quality of smoker that you are using for smoking is major determinant of whether you should flip meat or not.

A good quality thermometer will maintain the temperature constant throughout it’s cooking area and will cook the food evenly.

While if you are using a cheap smoker which is not insulated then it will r result in a heat loss and temperature will keep fluctuating throughout the process.

In this scenario, you can flip your meat if you notice that one side of meat is cooking faster than other one.

If your smoker can’t maintain the temperature constant then flipping your meat is just a timely solution.

smoker with smoke

But to make sure that meat is cooking evenly and smoker requires least effort to smoke meat , you should either upgrade your smoker or insulate it by using tuning plates.

#2:Fat side

Another factor that can require to flip the meat during smoking is if the fat is distributed unevenly throughout the meat chunk.

For example brisket usually has two regions, a flat region which has lean meat and point region which has a higher amount of fats.

If the meat chunk like brisket has a fat side like brisket then there is no right or wrong way of cooking it.

Different pitmasters have different opinions over this.

Some pitmasters prefer to place the brisket with fat side up , so that the fat should melt and seep into meat to increase its flavor.

While other prefer to face the fat side down,to use it as a barrier between meat and fire.

There opinion is that this way fat can protect the meat from burning by sudden flare ups.

but usually it often leads to production of bad quality smoke due to dripping of fat onto fire which can affect the flavor of meat.

So as mentioned above, different pitmasters have different approaches to smoking such meat cuts.

But in our opinion, the most appropriate way is to flip it during the smoking.

It will help to cook both sides evenly and also taking the advantages of both approaches.

#3:Heat source below the meat

Another factor which can require the flipping of meat is if the heat source is present above or below the position of meat .

In this situation the meat side towards the heat source might absorb more smoke and heat than other side. in addition, meat will stop absorbing smoke after sometime.

So you will have to flip the meat during smoking to make sure both sides of similar flavor and tenderness to have consistency throughout the texture.

For example, if you are using a good quality vertical smoker than the heat is placed below the meat so you will have to flip the meat to cook upper side properly.

#4:Temperature fluctuations

Another factor that requires you to flip the meat is if the temperature is fluctuating continuously throughout the smoking process.

Although it is related to using a cheap smoker to some extent, but it is not necessary that the temperature in good quality smoker will not fluctuate.


Sometimes a good quality smoker can also be uninsulated or temperature can also fluctuate if the environment temperature is too low .

In such situations, you may need to flip the meat to make sure that both sides of meat are being exposed to equal amount of heat.


Finally, if your meat has charred on one side then you should consider flipping it to avoid overcooking it.

Charring usually happens due to sudden increase in temperature due to flare ups or being exposed to smoke for prolonged time.

It usually happens in vertical smokers, due to heat source present below the meat but it is not limited to vertical smokers only. Vertical smokers are as good as other smokers in term of charring

It can occur in offset smokers due to increase in temperature. it usually depends on amount of charcoal used in offset smoker.

charring is highly dangerous for health and you can flip the meat to avoid over-cooking.

Frequently asked questions

now that we have discussed the essentials regarding whether you need to flip meat or not, lets discuss some questions that you might have.

should you flip meat when smoking

No, you should avoid flipping meat when smoking. the reason is that smoking is the low and slow cooking of meat by indirect heat while adding the flavor through smoke.

so both the sides of the meat will eventually reach the same temperature ,no matter which side was up or down.

but if you smoking brisket , then you can make an exception and flip it once to avoid it from drying out.

do you flip a brisket while smoking

yes, you should consider flipping brisket while smoking process to avoid drying out of lower side due to longer exposure to the heat.

smoking brisket is a longer and tedious process which can take 10 to 20 hours to complete. so as a precaution , it is better to flip it once and make sure that both side get equal exposure.

do you flip steak when smoking

No, you don’t need to flip steak when smoking. steak is relatively thinner than other types of meat like brisket, so the temperature will stay unique throughout its texture, no matter if a side is faced up or down.

smoking is done without direct exposure of steak to the heat , so the grilling tricks don’t work here.

do you flip fish when smoking

No, flipping is not required when smoking because its a low and slow process and doesn’t result in burning of fish too quickly.

although if you are grilling fish then flipping can be essential to avoid charring.

do you need to flip pork shoulder when smoking

there is no black and white answer to this. it depends on the situation that you are experiencing . if the pork shoulder is drying out , then flipping is necessary .
but if that’s not the case , then you should avoid flipping to allow the development of bark.

Final Verdict

So, You don’t have to flip your meat when smoking if the process is carried out properly.

Smoking cooks the meat by indirect heat ,so the chances of over-smoking of any side are minimal.

But you may require to flip your meat if your meat has been charred or you are using low quality smoker.

if you are interested in read more than check out our guide on How long to let the Boston butt rest after smoking? The thorough guide

Jakob miller