What Are Burnt Ends?
Plus, pitmaster Rodney Scott offers tips and tricks for a perfectly smoky and succulent result.
Burnt ends refers to slow-cooked, caramelized cubes of beef brisket or pork belly. Traditionally made from the tough trimmings of smoked brisket, this charred and succulent snack is now the centerpiece of Kansas City barbecue. Despite their name, burnt ends do not have a scorched, unpleasant flavor, but a mouthwatering bark and tender meat.
Burnt ends have crisp, smoky skin and buttery interior. The flavor is intensely rich and savory, with a kiss of sweetness depending on the sauce used. They can be enjoyed on their own, on a sandwich, or incorporated into side dishes like baked beans and cornbread.
Related: What Is Brisket?
Pitmaster and restauranteur Rodney Scott enjoys this crave-worthy cut year-round. "Whether it's December or the middle of July, burnt ends are a favorite," he shares. "Make it a meal with sides and bread or use them as nibblers by themselves."
What Are Burnt Ends Made From?
Kansas City-style burnt ends are primarily made with beef, but pork belly is also a popular option. The fatty cut comes from the point of the brisket (attached to the ribcage) and requires a long cooking time for flavors to fully develop. The meat from this part of the brisket may take longer to render fat, but the result is unbelievably delicious.
How to Make Burnt Ends
Preparing burnt ends is a lesson in patience. "You've got to keep your eye on them," says Scott. "Keep the temperature under control and wrap them up well so they're not dried all the way out."
Choose Your Meat
Select a well-marbled cut of beef (or pork) such as brisket point or pork belly. Trim excess fat and season according to your preference.
Smoke Low and Slow
Place the seasoned meat in a smoker set between 225 and 250 degrees F. Use hickory or oak chips for deep, pronounced flavor.
After the initial smoke (5-8 hours depending on brisket size), Scott recommends wrapping the meat to ensure a moist, evenly cooked result.
Related: A Field Guide to American BBQ
After achieving an internal temperature of around 200 degrees F, unwrap the meat, cube the fattiest portions and toss the cubes in your favorite sauce.
"Sauce the ends up, put them back in the smoker, and watch carefully," advises Scott. "A sweet sauce plays well with the salty, smoky meat — it's essentially the perfect bite." Once the ends are well caramelized, remove them from the smoker and serve.
How To Store Burnt Ends
If you happen to have burnt end leftovers, save them for more mouthwatering meals in the future. Place them in an airtight container or foil wrap and refrigerate for three to four days. Burnt ends can be frozen for up to one month in a freezer-safe bag. Reheat in the oven ( around 300 degrees F) or using the sous vide method.