When you hear the words "burnt ends," you might think of the blackened ends of a cut of meat that have been charred until they're burned and tasteless. But burnt ends are actually a fatty, moist barbecue dish that you would be crazy to turn down, no matter how unappealing the name.
Burnt ends are small, cubed pieces of the pointed end of a brisket -- think of them as smoky barbecue nuggets. Burnt ends are very smoky, heavily caramelized, crunchy and tough while still being fatty and chewy. The delicacy is not actually burnt, but charred -- the bark-like exterior conceals the meat's tender insides, which ooze juicy flavor with every nibble.
Brisket has long been a favorite barbecue meal, but in the past people were often quick to toss aside the brisket trimmings that lacked the cut's beefy, juicy quality. This is where burnt ends were created.
The dish originated as fatty pieces of meat that were nothing more than leftover trimmings from well-cooked brisket. When cooked with the brisket, the ends would become chewy compared to the majority of the rich brisket meat. The cooks would simply cut off these chewy ends and discard them. But the ends proved irresistible to those who tried them, and as they grew in popularity, barbecue restaurants began adding them to their menu. Though the south is known for its barbecue, it's Kansas City that is often credited as the birthplace of burnt ends. And while burnt ends are traditionally made from brisket, today it's not uncommon for them to be made from cuts of pork, such as pork belly, as well.
Burnt ends make a delicious side for any barbecue plate, a succulent appetizer, a flavorful part of barbecue gumbo or a delicious sandwich. But how can you make this rich, tasty treat at your own backyard barbecue? It can be as simple as cutting the fatty ends off of a brisket and serving it, or you can treat the burnt ends a bit more to achieve the flavor you want.
Many recipes recommend slicing the ends off the smoked brisket and then cooking the ends in a mixture of sauce and brisket juice to make the burnt ends extra tender and juicy. Others tell you to take the ends back to the smoker for an extra charred, smoky flavor. Play around with different methods and recipes until you find one that fits your tastes.
If you're making burnt ends from a pork belly, simply cut the meat into cubes before seasoning, marinating and cooking it.