Pork Butt Fat Side Up or Down When Smoking On a Pellet Grill?

When it comes to any form of cooking, certain cooking techniques can amplify or dull a dish’s flavor. Using the proper technique is a game-changer for all cooking styles, including smoking meat. Something as small as deciding how to place a pork butt in a pellet grill when smoking. Can either make it a touch juicier or enhance the bark’s flavor.

Pork Butt Fat Side Up or Down?

If you are looking for a juicier, more succulent smoked pork butt. You will want to place the fat side up in your pellet grill. However, if you’d rather enhance the flavor of the bark. Then placing the fat side down would be the better cooking option.

pork butt fat side up or down

How you place your pork butt on the pellet grill comes down to how you like your meat. Here’s how long it takes to smoke a Boston butt on a pellet grill.

If you’ve been confused about how to place the pork butt on the grill. This article will answer all your questions and explain the differences.

After reading it, you’ll no longer wonder why some people do it one way vs. the other.

Do You Smoke A Pork Butt Fat Side Up?

Boston butt fat side up

Everyone has their food preferences. If yours happens to place juiciness at the top of the list on what you look for in a smoked pork butt, you are certainly not alone. 

There is nothing worse than doing a ten-hour smoke for it to turn out dry. So, for those of us who want to enhance how succulent their pork butt comes out, placing the fat side up is ideal.  

When smoking a pork butt on a pellet grill, you will want to place the pork butt fat side up as it cooks. 

This is because as the meat cooks in the heat and smoke, the fat will render down, essentially melting along the surface of the meat for a slow and consistent basting made of its juices.

Are There Any Other Perks to Pork Butt Fat Side Up in a Pellet Grill?

One of the great things about pellet grills is that their design already makes flareups a less likely occurrence when smoking meat. With a shield placed between the food and its heat source, fat drippings are less likely to result in bursts of flames.

Besides having your pork consistently basting in its juices, smoking it with the fat side up also has the added bonus of further limiting the likelihood of flareups occurring. 

With the juices that are released from the fat penetrating the meat and having less direct drippings into the heat source, flareups become even less of a concern when paired with being smoked in a pellet grill.

Why Place Pork Butt Fat Side Down When Smoking on a Pellet Grill?

For many, achieving a flavorful bark on the outside of their smoked pork is the ultimate goal. The taste alone can be the saving grace even if it does happen to come out slightly dry.

For the most part, smoking your pork butt slowly on low heat will all but guarantee that it comes out juicy. It is one of the great things about smoking your meat.

As a result, many people may find it unnecessary for the pork butt to be placed fat side up for its basting effects. And with the pellet grills design, unnecessary to further prevent flareups.  

Instead of using it to baste the pork, many people choose to place the pork butt fat side down. This position helps the meat act as a buffer against the heat source and helps the meat retain its moisture as it is smoked. 

If you find you want to place more emphasis on flavor over moistness, placing your pork butt fat side down can yield a tastier bark. 

What is Bark?

The bark is what forms on the outer layer of meat. When the smoke from your pellet grill interacts with the spice rub, moisture, and meat proteins

As you are smoking your pork butt, the spices will cook in whatever juices the pork butt releases and enhance the flavors of the spices used.

As the outer layer of moisture is cooked off, the meat and spice rub will harden. This locks in the rest of its juicy goodness. This process prevents the meat from drying out. 

If the Spices Cooking in its Juices Enhances the Flavor, Why Not Place It Fat Side Up?

If you place your pork butt fat side up during the smoking process, some feel you run the risk of having the rendered down fat wash away the spice rub. 

However, if your rub is applied correctly, this will likely not be the case.

It would be better to place the pork butt fat side down. Because the outer layer needs to dry out a bit to become that yummy, hardened goodness. With the fat side up and melting across its surface, getting the desired bark layer can be problematic. 

Some people even choose to remove the excess fat in their efforts to achieve exquisite bark.

Should You Flip The Pork Butt When Smoking On a Pellet Grill?

If you are looking for the best of both worlds. You can also try flipping the pork butt so that it cooks for portions at a time with the fat on either side. 

This is a less common approach. But for those aiming for an even cook all around, flipping your pork butt can help achieve that.

It is important to note that if you choose to flip your pork butt so that the fat side alternates, your grill’s temperature will inevitably be affected. Any time you open the grill, heat will escape and affect the cook on your pork butt.

What It Really Comes Down To

When it comes to deciding whether you should place your pork butt fat side up or fat side down. It comes down to preference and what you value most in your final dish. 

No matter what cooking technique you choose. You really can’t go wrong choosing between enhancing how juicy or how flavorful your smoked pork butt will be.


There is no right or wrong way to cook a pork butt. Cooking it fat side up will make the meat juicier, while fat side down will enhance the bark’s flavor. 

You may find you prefer how it cooks one way and not the other. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what method works best for you. 

If you’re still confused, check out our step-by-step tutorial of how to cook a Boston Butt on a Pit Boss

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