In the book The Grand Barbecue, author Doug Worgul writes about the history, places and colorful personalities of Kansas City barbecue. On page 29, Worgul says that burnt ends were popularized by Arthur Bryant's Barbecue. As the story goes, in the old days Arthur Bryant's would pile up the burnt ends trimmed from briskets next to the meat slicer and customers could help themselves for free. Consisting of the dry edges and leftover bits and pieces of the brisket, these tasty morsels were highly prized for their intense, smoky flavor. Burnt ends became so popular that customers began demanding them from other barbecue joints around town, and most were only too happy to oblige.
About burnt ends today, Worgul says, "Sadly, what many barbecue places call burnt ends are really just chopped-up pieces of regular barbecue beef and/or pork, mixed with sauce. They're more like Sloppy Joes. In fact, a few joints call 'em Smoky Joes."
Your better Kansas City barbecue restaurants try to satisfy the demand for burnt ends by double-smoking the brisket point section, cutting it into chunks, adding just a little bit of sauce or au jus, and serving that as burnt ends. You may have seen this demonstrated on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network by Phil Hopkins of Smokin' Guns BBQ.
Here's a description and photos of how I made burnt ends from brisket point on the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker on April 4, 2011.
As always...click on any of the pictures to view a larger image.
Re-Rub The Brisket Point
Burnt ends begin with a brisket point that has already been barbecued as part of a whole brisket. When the flat portion of the whole brisket is cooked to your liking and after letting it rest for at least 30 minutes, separate the point from the flat along the natural fat seam. Slice the flat portion and serve.
Scrape excess fat from the area of the point exposed after separating it from the flat. Apply a heavy dose of the same rub originally used on the whole brisket to this freshly exposed area on the point (Photo 1).
Continue Smoking The Point
Place the re-rubbed point back in the WSM and continue smoking at 225-250°F for another 4-6 hours. There's no target internal temperature to shoot for...just super-dark, crusty brisket point that has rendered most of its fat and is just about fall-apart tender.
Rest The Point & Serve
Remove the point from the smoker, cover with foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Cut the meat into 1" wide strips then into 1" chunks (Photo 4). Place in a large bowl and toss with just a bit of warmed barbecue sauce to coat the pieces and serve (Photos 5-6).
Alternatively, reserve the accumulated juices from the whole brisket, de-fat the juices, and sprinkle in just a bit of barbecue rub. Use this au jus straight or cut 50/50 with barbecue sauce to coat the burnt ends before serving.
Make Burnt Ends Another Day
If you don't have an additional 4-6 hours immediately after a whole brisket cook to make burnt ends, simply freeze the brisket point and make them another day. Thaw the frozen point and re-rub and cook as described above along with whatever else you're barbecuing that day in the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.