If you are a barbecue enthusiast, you have no doubt heard of burnt ends. For those who haven’t, burnt ends are the most delicious things you can get on this planet. When people say burnt ends are the best part of smoked brisket, they know what they are talking about. When you cut up a brisket and find the point where the meat first started to become juicy and flavorful, you’ve found your burnt ends. But how do you make them?
A step-by-step guide to making burnt ends
The key to getting the perfect burnt ends is selecting the best brisket. To do that, we need to go through the anatomy of a brisket.
The anatomy of the brisket
The brisket is a cut of meat from the chest or lower breast of the cow. It is a tough cut but is full of flavor. Typically, the brisket is cylindrical. The part where it is found is called the flatiron. Burnt ends are normally made from the point cut of the brisket, which you may not be able to purchase alone. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is separate the flat and the pointcuts of the brisket. Refer to the article How to Slice a Brisket on how to do that like a pro!
You need a good butcher’s block or chopping board for that. Place your brisket firmly on the block and trim off the excess fat. This will help you to see where the two muscles join. Once you have separated them, you can choose to keep the flat or smoke it alongside the point.
Smoke the brisket
It’s time to start smoking! You don’t necessarily need to smoke the entire piece of meat before you start making burnt ends. However, experts say doing so helps with tenderness and keeps the bark, which we will talk about later, from getting too thick.
The best way to smoke a beef brisket is low and slow. Preheat your smoker to 225 °F (107 °C). Remember, the wood Bisquettes you choose will affect the flavor of your burnt ends, so you need to choose wisely. Oak is a good choice if this is your first time making this delicacy. You can also try mesquite or hickory Bisquettes.
The next step is seasoning. A light rub of salt and pepper is enough. Once you have covered every side, place your brisket on the smoker racks and close the door. Brisket is a tough cut, so you should be prepared to wait. Smoke the meat for anywhere between 8–24 hours for maximum smoke and tenderness.
The Bark – The Best Feature of Burnt Ends
The burnt ends’ bark is the best feature of this dish. It is crispy and full of flavor, adding great contrast to the tender meat inside. The bark is definitely the star of the show! A quality bark does not fall off the end of the rack—it’s a solid piece that still smells and tastes great.
To get a perfect bark, wrap the brisket with two sheets of butcher paper after 6 hours. The goal is to reduce the amount of heat that escapes from the meat, but it also needs to provide enough support for the meat to be wrapped with butcher paper. The paper will let the juices from the meat run out, and you can add more salt and pepper. Let the meat sit for another 2 hours under wraps in the smoker. The finished product should come out looking delicious and moist, but also with a nice crust on the outside.
Remember to keep your meat thermometer close by to monitor the progress. Brisket is considered done when its internal temperature holds between 195–205 °F (91–96 °C). Ensure you place the probe between the bone and the fat to get the correct reading.
Once you finish smoking the brisket, let it rest for at least an hour. This will allow the meat and fat to come together. As the meat is cooling, the fat will begin to set and harden, and that’s exactly what you want. It will be easier to shred later on, and the shreds will get extra crispy and delicious.
Prepare the Burnt Ends
After 1 hour of resting, remove the meat from the butcher paper and slice it against the grain. Slice it into small pieces between 1/2 an inch and 1 inch in size. These are your burnt ends. Now, smother the burnt ends in a gooey sauce. The gooey sauce can be a mixture of tomato and Worcestershire, or it can be a beef gravy or barbecue sauce.
Put your burnt ends in an uncovered pan and place it back in the smoker to finish. Allow the burnt ends to rest in the smoker for at least one hour to absorb the sweetness. You’ll know they are ready to serve when they get bubbly and gooey. Now dig in and enjoy the results of your hard smoking labor!
Whichever smoker you decide to buy, make sure to do your research first so that you know exactly what to expect from it. For more great ideas check out our articles on our Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.