Brisket burnt ends—referred to simply as "burnt ends"—are considered a delicacy in the barbecue world. These tasty, tough pieces of beef brisket are served up in all kinds of dishes or offered as little bites drenched in barbecue sauce. They are a frequent feature on Kansas City barbecue menus; many barbecue joints across the United States will serve up a burnt ends plate and let you decide what to do with it.
What Are Brisket Burnt Ends?
Burnt ends, also called "bark," are the trimmings from a smoked brisket. A beef brisket is a uniquely shaped cut of meat and, when smoked, pieces around the edge tend to dry out and get very smoky in flavor. These parts are trimmed off to allow the rest of the brisket to be easily sliced for serving, without the odd bits that have a different shape and texture. Sometimes the fattiest portions of the brisket are trimmed for making burnt ends.
Instead of being discarded, the burnt ends are served up in everything from sandwiches to barbecue gumbo. They have an intense smoke flavor and, though generally on the tough and chewy side, are very popular with the barbecue crowd. The intense flavor makes burnt ends the perfect meat for stews and beans; the meat gets tender in the liquid and passes on that great smoky flavor.
How to Cook Brisket Burnt Ends
Brisket burnt ends can be acquired in two different ways: You can get burnt ends simply after smoking a brisket, or from taking parts of a smoked brisket and returning them to the smoker to finish them off. Yes, people actually intend to make dried-out burnt ends, and for good reason!
If you want a good source of burnt ends, try trimming the thin point from your smoked brisket and returning it to the smoker for a few more hours. This will drain off the last of the fat and intensify the smoke flavor. Simply cutting up brisket and tossing it with barbecue sauce without returning it to the smoker will produce inferior burnt ends; they won't have the intense flavor of true burnt ends. If you order them at a restaurant and the flavor isn't rich, the kitchen has likely taken this shortcut.
What Do Brisket Burnt Ends Taste Like?
The caramelization process and rendering of the fat in the brisket is what helps develop that deep sweetness and rich flavor. The extended time in the smoker gives the bark its signature taste. As the name implies, the meat is somewhat burnt and crispy, which is why the addition of a sauce or liquid is always welcome.
Burnt ends might be something of an acquired taste for some, and if you find regular smoked meats a little too smoky, you might want to steer clear of them. You also need to be a fan of the sweet/smoke combination to find the burnt ends desirable.
Recipes for Brisket Burnt Ends
Once you have a pile of brisket bark, there are a few different ways you can enjoy them, whether doused in a barbecue sauce or added to a stew, baked bean, or beef chili recipe.
Where to Buy Brisket Burnt Ends
If you don't have a smoker or are not interested in making your own brisket burnt ends, you can purchase already made brisket bark. Several online barbecue sellers and smokehouses sell portions of burnt ends, some with sauce and some without. Your local barbecue restaurant may also offer the burnt ends for purchase.
How to Store Brisket Burnt Ends
Since the burnt ends are considered "gold," properly store any leftovers so you can enjoy them again. If you plan on eating them soon, wrap well and put in the refrigerator where they will keep for three to five days. For longer storage (about two or three months), wrap in aluminum foil and then place in a zip-top bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.