I remember the first time that I heard the term “burnt ends” when I started learning about BBQ. At first, I thought the term was referencing something that had gone terribly wrong in the smoker that would never yield anything close to being classified as edible. Oh, how I was wrong! Now they are my favorite thing we have on the menu, and from the lines that form on Fridays, I think that you would agree. Let’s get into the 411 about burnt ends and see what the fuss is all about.
What are burnt ends?
Burnt ends traditionally come from the point end of the brisket that butchers would trim away because they were fattier, tougher and not as sought after. Since butchers are trained not to waste anything, most would save these pieces for themselves as a treat because they had so much marbling (fat=flavor) and tasted delicious. Kansas City was a meat packing district and a hub for the railroad and this is one of the reasons that Kansas City is so ingrained in the B.B.Q. culture. They would break down the steers and ship out the cuts that would bring back the most in sales and they would smoke what was leftover and sell it locally. Since the flat was more likely to sell, they were left with the point end of the brisket. The point end was also the tastiest part due to the fat content, so they would treat themselves to a little snack. Also, since the brisket would take longer to cook and break down, all of the marbling the point end would have quite a bit more bark which is darker in color (but not burnt) crust on the outside of the brisket, hence the name burnt ends.
Burnt ends have evolved over the years and most interpretations take parts of the whole brisket (not just the point) and cube them up, season them a second time, add a sweet and savory ketchup based sauce and smoke them a second time. That’s exactly what we do at Saddleback BBQ. We save up portions of the point and flat and season them with our brisket rub and coat them in our red sauce so we can smoke them for a second time for about a total of 2 hours. They’re a delicacy. Because we have to save up all week to make them, we can only have them on the menu once a week, otherwise we would run them everyday. We feature Burnt ends every Friday.
Burnt Ends are something we take great pride in. People line up at 11:00 and we have a line out the door until they run out. We try to have enough to get through the lunch rush (1:30pm) and we usually come pretty close. Make sure you can get here early, because they go quick.
– Matt Gillett