My BBQ brisket burnt ends recipe comes straight from the pit masters in Kansas City’s biggest BBQ joints. Slow smoked brisket point is cubed and braised in a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce for the most tender, melt in your mouth bites of meat candy.
What are Burnt Ends?
Burnt ends originally began as a Friday special at BBQ joints after the restaurant had collected the crispy ends of their sliced brisket throughout the week, sauced them up, and served them on bread. They became such a phenomenon that lots of restaurants started putting them on the menu.
The place where the burnt ends tradition really took hold was in Kansas City, Missouri and that’s where I went behind the counter to learn the ins and outs of how to cook burnt ends the right way. Burnt ends aren’t the leftovers anymore, they are now a headlining item! Today’s burnt ends are made specifically from the point end (also called the deckle) of a brisket.
This cut comes from the pectoral muscle of the cow and is exceptionally tough because the cow uses it so frequently. It is also well marbled with fat, so when the meat cooks low and slow over a wood fire those tight connective tissues break down and gelatinize as the fat melts and moisturizes the meat. At the end of the cooking process, you are left with these little nuggets of tender beef with some of that signature smoky bark in every bite.
How to Make Burnt Ends (the most awesome Brisket Burnt Ends EVER!)
This whole process starts with a brisket. These brisket burnt ends are made from the brisket point only, opposed to smoking a whole brisket and then separating and cubing the point later. this technique is pretty unique to Kansas City, but it is definitely preferred for making the perfect burnt ends because you end up with more smoke and bark on the entire surface area of the brisket point.
Most people don’t have the opportunity to purchase just a brisket point (if you do, then you can skip on past this part) so the first step is to separate the point of the brisket from the flat. I’ve got a full video showing the process if you are more visual and want to scroll down a little to watch how it happens.
Essentially, a large strip of hard white fat separates the two muscles. I like to trim the excess fat from the sides of the brisket first so I have a better view of where that strip of fat runs. Make sure the brisket is on a large, stable cutting board with the fat cap down. Use a sharp knife (I have this Shun filet knife that works great) to cut through the fat, working your way down at a wide angle toward the cutting board. Lift the flat away from the point as you work your knife through. You should be able to cut along that layer of fat the entire way through. If you start to hit any muscle, readjust your knife and just stay within that fat as much as possible.
Once your point and flat are separated, trim any remaining hard fat from the bottom of the point and then trim the fat cap at the top to an even 1/4 inch thick. You can save the flat and cook another day (maybe cure it for some corned beef or pastrami!) or you can smoke it alongside your point for tasty sliced brisket!
The key to great burnt ends is low and slow cooking. I keep my smoker at 225 degrees F and use oak as my wood. The cooking process is very similar to cooking my Texas Style Brisket. The seasoning is simple to start, just salt, pepper, and garlic powder on all sides, then the brisket point hits the smoker until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F. At this point, I’m usually happy with the progression of the bark, so I wrap it tightly with peach butcher paper to retain as much moisture as possible. Return that wrapped meat to the smoker and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees F.
It’s finally time to cube that pretty smoked brisket and make some burnt ends! Remove the smoked point from the butcher paper and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes. At this point, these little morsels are technically edible, but to bring out that true Kansas City style burnt ends experience, we need to add some sweetness and sauce to finish the process. Once I cube and sauce my brisket point, it’s time for the final kiss of smoke and heat on the smoker. Finish cooking the burnt ends in a pan uncovered for another 1-2 hours or until those burnt ends have soaked up that sweet sauce and are just about falling apart.
Now dig in!! All of that time and effort will all seem worth it once you take the first bite. There is nothing like Kansas City Style Burnt Ends.
Tools Used to Make Burnt Ends
Burnt Ends Video
Burnt Ends Recipe
BBQ Brisket Burnt Ends
- 1 6-8 pound brisket point (also called the deckle)
- 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce ((link in recipe notes))
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F using oak wood.
- If you are starting with a whole packer brisket, separate the point from the flat by running a knife through the vein of hard white fat between the two muscles. Trim up your brisket point by removing any remaining hard fat and trimming the top fat cap down to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Combine the salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Shake liberally on all sides of the brisket point.
- Place the seasoned brisket point on your smoker, close the lid, and smoke until the internal temperature of your meat reads 165 degrees F. This step typically takes 6-8 hours, depending on the size and thickness of your meat. Spritz with the 1 cup of beef stock every hour during this initial smoke period.
- Once the brisket reaches 165 degrees F, wrap tightly in peach butcher paper and return to the smoker. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees and then remove to a cutting board. This typically takes another 3 hours.
- Unwrap from the butcher paper, draining any liquid from the paper into an aluminum pan. Cut the brisket point into cubes, about 1 1/2 inches thick.
- Place the cubes into the aluminum pan and toss with the BBQ sauce and brown sugar. Work quickly during this step to prevent your brisket from cooling down too much.
- Set the uncovered pan of burnt ends back on the smoker and close the lid. Continue smoking at 225 degrees F for 1-2 more hours, or until the burnt ends have started to absorb the BBQ sauce and caramelize on all sides and are very tender.
- Remove the burnt ends from the smoker and serve with a slice of white bread for an authentic experience.