Burnt Ends. The candy in a pitmaster's arsenal. There's a few different cuts of meat that can be used, but in the end, we have one, simple, go-to recipe that we like to use for meaty, crispy, burnt end goodness.
What Are Burnt Ends
Burnt ends are cubed pieces of beef or pork cut into roughly 1"x1"x1" cubes that are cooked long and slow until completely rendered. The name comes from the long and slow cooking process and the small cuts of meat.
The main difference between brisket burnt ends and poor man's burnt ends is that beef chuck eye is used for poor man's burnt ends. Beef chuck eye is a cheaper alternative to beef brisket but has similar amounts of fat and connective tissue, so the outcome is nearly indistinguishable from brisket burnt ends. Brisket is from the chest area of the beef while chuck comes from the back, around the shoulder blade.
For both brisket (or chuck eye) and pork bellies, the cuts have a lot of fat and connective tissue so it takes a lot of time and heat to fully render everything down to perfection. Cook times should exceed 4 hours on low heat and the goal internal temperature should be about 205 F.
Depending what sauce or seasoning you use (and/or if you add sugar), the final product should end up crispy and likely caramelized and will look "burnt", hence the name.
We've been asked before; are burnt ends just fat? The simple answer is no. Based on what we've already explained above, far from it. While burnt ends use fatty pieces of meat, whether you use beef or pork, you'll have a delicious, juicy final product that has plenty of meat in it.
What Kind of Meat is Burnt Ends?
Traditional beef burnt ends are made from beef brisket. A whole brisket, called a packer brisket, can be divided into two parts, the flat and the point.
Brisket burnt ends are made from smoked and roasted cubes of the point because it's fattier and has more connective tissue to render down into juicy flavor than the flat. The flat can be used, but the point is preferred for added flavor. The point of the brisket can be easily identified as it's the narrower end of the brisket.
The brisket itself is part of the chest of the cow and includes the two main muscles in the pectorals. These are both fatty and stringy portions of muscles that do lots of work. Cooking a brisket the right way isn't for the faint of heart – this is a big piece of meat that takes lots of time to cook in order to get a tender and juicy meal.
If you buy an entire brisket and aren't sure how to separate the flat from the point, watch our brisket smoking video here and skip ahead to 12:14 and Seth will walk you through it.
Burnt Ends vs Rib Tips
Another popular snack is rib tips. The biggest difference between these totally different pieces of meat is that rib ends loose all of the delicious fat when they cook. Burnt ends absorb that flavor, so you're getting something that is juicy and crispy, not just burned scraps.
Why Are They Called Burnt Ends?
Contrary to the name, burnt ends aren't actually burnt. They're just cooked to a point where the bark is predominant, lending a fantastic crunchiness you won't find if you overcook a steak.
Instead of a burnt flavor, what you get is an intense beefy flavor that is complemented by the sauce and cooking style used to make this treat. The best burnt beef ends start with good ingredients, like our famous Bearded Butchers BBQ sauce and a delicious first-cut brisket from Whitefeather Meats.
Burnt ends first came to popularity following a 1972 article in Playboy Magazine in which the author commented on how he dreams of "the burned edges of brisket, given away for free" at a popular Kansas City, MO restaurant while choking down a three-dollar hamburger that tastes like a burned sponge.
What Do Burnt Brisket Ends Taste Like?
Imagine for a moment that you just took a bite of tender and juicy smoked brisket. It's delicate, delicious, flavorful. Now, combine that with the robust flavor of the point, smother it in delicious sauce, then smoke it until the sauce is caramelized. Yeah, it's that good. Burnt ends don't taste burnt, they taste intensely smoked and crunchy.
How Do You Get the Black Crust on a Brisket?
The black crust, called bark, develops when you smoke a brisket. It comes from a combination of the spices and a chemical reaction that happens when the fat renders. It may seem tricky to get a great bark on your brisket, but if you check out some of our tips on smoking through our YouTube channel, you'll master smoking brisket and getting perfect bark in no time.
How To Make Burnt Ends
To make burnt ends, you'll cube and season your meat and add it to the grill at 250 F for about 4 hours. They won't be done until they are close to 200 F internal temperature and you see the fat and connective tissue has fully rendered and the meat is melt in your mouth tender without any chewiness.
Making burnt ends is a slow process. It takes time to cook tough brisket meat to tender perfection, then more time to complete the additional steps off the grill to add maximum flavor and texture.
We will walk through the steps with detail from trimming your brisket to seasoning, smoking, and the final steps to make those fantastically addictive brisket burnt ends you crave. This is an easy to follow recipe that will give you great tasting, perfectly barked, crusty burnt ends.
Step 1: Trimming the Brisket
If you are starting with a whole packer brisket, you'll need to trim the cut down. The first step is to remove the fat from the top of the cut. Trim the bottom fat leaving one-quarter inch- this is for flavor and juiciness, so don't cut too much.
The next step is to identify the fat seam that separates the point and the flat. Using a sharp knife like our favorite Victorinox boning knife and a decent amount of hand strength, you can cut and pull the two sections apart by following the fat seam between them.
It's likely that you can ask your local butcher for a brisket tip, so be sure to ask if you want to skip the step of carving the brisket, especially if you're not sure what to do with the flat portion.
Once you've isolated the point portion, cut it into cubes that are approximately 1" - 1.5" on each side.
Step 2: How to Season Burnt Ends
For a great, crusty bark to add max "burnt" to your burnt ends, it's best to use a seasoning with a little bit of sugar. We love to use our Hollywood Seasoning for burnt ends. Black is a great choice too. Near the end of the process you'll round it out with some butter, brown sugar, and BBQ Sauce (or Rebel Red for some added heat).
To correctly season the burnt ends regardless of the flavor you choose, you'll want to add a healthy coating of seasoning that completely covers all of the pieces of meat, then let the meat "sweat" through the seasoning for about 15 minutes.
Step 3: How to Smoke Burnt Ends (FULL RECIPE)
- Pre-heat your grill to 250 F. If you're using a Kamado-style charcoal grill, indirect heat is best.
- Season the burnt ends.
- Put them on the grill. After about an hour, spritz them with some water or apple cider vinegar to keep them from drying out.
- After 2 hours if they look good (fat is rendering and a bark is forming), get them into a deep, grill-safe pan.
- Once they are in a deep, grill-safe pan you'll add the following:
- Some honey.
- Add a top cover of brown sugar.
- A stick of butter per about 5 pounds (green weight) of burnt ends.
- BBQ sauce goes on last.
- We don't really measure much, so check out our burnt end video and skip to 11:38 to see how much we added to our burnt ends. We did another video here to compare beef to pork. The recipe is the same for both. Feel free to swap with the seasoning and sauce of your choice.
- Now that the burnt ends and ingredients are together in a grill-safe pan, wrap the pan up with foil and put them back on the smoker for another hour.
- After an hour, take the burnt ends off the grill and put them on a wire rack. Place the wire rack back on the smoker for 15 minutes to let them crisp up and caramelize.
- After about 15 minutes, take them off and enjoy.
Now that you know all about burnt brisket ends, you can make them at home easily! There are actually quite few ways to do it, we just prefer the classic way using the smoker.
You can adapt our recipe to use your oven, pellet grill, or whatever your favorite way to cook might be. Your friends and family will be blown away by the intense smokiness, the crispy, crunchy bark, and the tender and juicy deliciousness of each mouthful of burnt brisket ends you make.