Beef Brisket Burnt Ends are one of the ultimate treats in BBQ and a true reward for your hours of hard work in low and slow cooking. Burnt Ends BBQ is like meat candy with soft texture and a sweet and tangy sauce finish.
First some background on “American Wagyu”.
What is American Wagyu?
Wagyu (wag-you) refers to a Japanese style of beef, which uses very specific breeds of cattle native to Japan. A few non-native breeds were cross-bred, but the Wagyu from Japan is highly regulated and is rare to find outside of Japan. American Wagyu is the same concept, leveraging specific breeds of cattle from Japan, and often cross-breeding them with American counterparts.
This info graphic from Snake River Farms is an awesome resource for more insight.
Prime Versus Wagyu Rating
They are very different. For the USDA rating system (Select, Choice, Prime), ranchers opt into that program for a rating based upon a number of factors and with many different breeds of cattle from around the world. Beef is not required to have a quality rating, it is only required to have passed health inspection.
For American Wagyu, the rating system is based on the Japanese style of rating from 3 – 12 and has to be focused on the Japanese lineage of cattle. You will often see A-5, or something similar which refers to the marbling scale of 3 – 12. American Wagyu producers will have their own gradient ratings like Gold and Black with Snake River Farms. And I cannot stress enough the importance of marbling for brisket. It can make the difference between a tender juicy brisket and a dry firm brisket.
For more information on how to prepare and start a full brisket, see this detailed post.
Understanding a Packer Brisket
There are two muscles on a packer or whole brisket called the point and the flat. The point and flat are connected by a layer of fat. The point is well marbled and the best cut for burnt ends. The flat is leaner and best for slices.
What Are Burnt Ends?
Burnt Ends are cubed up pieces of smoked point meat from the point of the brisket. They are cubed, then sauced, and added back into the smoker to caramelize rendering a juicy and tender beef bite.
Burnt ends are said to have originated in Kansas City by a few early BBQ pioneers. Today you can swing by Jack Stack or Joe’s Kansas City (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) and taste their version of the KC origin story. We are using the entire packer brisket, smoking it, and then separating the point from the flat to make burnt ends. Serve the brisket flat along side of the burnt ends or as the main dish with the burnt ends as the appetizer.
Don’t let the name fool you. Burnt ends are not, in fact, burnt. They are cubed up and have a darker color from the smoke creating bark, and then continue to form more color as they cook in the sauce. The sugar in the sauce caramelizes helped by adding honey, butter, agave nectar, or any other similar ingredient.
How to Make Burnt Ends
- Smoke the brisket. Some may separate the point and just smoke that which is fine, but we just cook them together all at once.
- Separate the Point and Flat. After the brisket reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit use a long slicer knife along the fat pocket that is between the point and flat and separate the two muscles.
- Cube the Point. Cut up the point into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes into a tray, add sauce and honey. Place uncovered back into the smoker for a few more hours.
- Remove from smoker. We typically probe the burnt ends with an instant read thermometer like the Thermoworks Thermapen for texture and the general temperature of the burnt ends is 200 – 210 degrees F. They probe like butter.
Smoke the Whole Brisket
Start by cooking the brisket packer as you would normally, this post highlights the details. Ideal cooking temperature is low, 250 degrees Fahrenheit. We use fruit woods readily available in the Pacific Northwest, use your favorite local wood. Typically this runs up to five or six hours until an internal temperature of 165 degrees, measured by an instant read thermometer like the Thermoworks Smoke unit or a Thermapen.
Separate The Point From the Flat
At the time you would normally wrap your whole brisket (when internal temp reaches 165 degrees F), that is when we separate the flat from the point. Trim off some of the fat layer between the point and the flat, and then cut up the point into 1 1/2-inch cubes.
Cook the point cubes and flat separately. The point cubes go into a pan with BBQ sauce, butter, dry rub, and honey, and the flat is then wrapped and then placed back onto the smoker to continue cooking. You can also separate the point before you cook, but for our preferred method we cook the packer and then separate the point from the flat when we wrap.
Flavor and Sauce The Burnt Ends
When placing the burnt ends into the pan, dust with more rub, then add sauce. It’s important to have enough BBQ sauce for the size of the pan you are using. Typically we start with one cup of sauce and add more as needed to make sure the burnt ends are all evenly covered, otherwise the burnt ends will continue to cook unevenly and you’ll have some chewy bites alongside some perfect morsels.
For more flavor add a touch of butter, and honey. This adds another punch of flavor and the sugar in the honey help caramelize making great burnt ends bbq.
Cook for two more hours uncovered. This allows the fat to render out of the burnt ends, and the sauce will reduce while cooking. After two hours, when the sauce has reduced a bit, cover the pan with foil and return to smoker.
Continue cooking, covered, and check the temperature of the burnt ends 60 minutes later, and pull when the internal temperature of the burnt ends are 200 degrees, or until the meat thermometer inserts like into butter. This process will take up to 2 additional hours after they are covered in foil. The key is temperature not time. When you get the temperature reading and feeling you like, pull the ends and serve when they slightly cool.
The Brisket Flat
Don’t forget about the flat! Continue to smoke like you would a normal brisket. Wrap the flat in butcher paper (or foil), until the temperature of the flat starts reaching 190 degrees. This can take a few more hours. The flat is done when the temperature probe inserts into the flat like butter.
Remove wrapped, and place into a small cooler (with no ice) to let rest for an hour. Remove, slice, and serve for the main dish.
Brisket Burnt Ends Recipe
Brisket Burnt Ends Recipe
- The day prior to smoking brisket, trim. Using a sharp knife, remove excess layers of fat and silver skin.
- Coat the brisket with olive oil and then combine the dry rub ingredients in a bowl. Reserve 1/3 of a cup for the burnt ends. Liberally season the brisket with the dry rub. Don’t be shy. Wrap in foil and place in fridge until ready to cook.
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees F using apple or cherry wood. Remove the brisket from the fridge at this point.
- When smoker is at temp, insert your meat thermometer into the flat and place in smoker. We place ours fat cap side down, as the bottom of our smoker is hotter than the top.
- Smoke until the brisket reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Remove from smoker and then, using a sharp knife, remove the point from the flat. Trim some of the excess fat off point and the flat.
For the Brisket Flat
- Wrap the flat in peach butcher paper, and then re-insert the meat thermometer. Place back in smoker and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the brisket flat reaches 190 degrees. Begin temping the flat in various places, and remove from smoker when the temperature probe inserts easily into the flat like butter. This can take 3 to 5 additional hours depending on size of brisket.
- Place wrapped brisket flat in a cooler with no ice and let rest for an hour. Remove and then slice against the grain.
For the Burnt Ends
- After placing the flat into smoker, cut the point into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place into a smoker safe tray. Season with the reserved 1/3 cup of dry rub, and then add barbecue sauce, butter and honey, and toss together. Place uncovered in the smoker and stir once the butter and honey have melted.
- Smoke in the tray uncovered for 2 hours. Stir midway to incorporate the sauce and move the cubes around. After 2 hours cover with foil and place back into the smoker. Remove when the internal temperature ranges from 190 to 205, or when the meat thermometer inserts into the cube like butter (expect an additional 1 or 2 hours).
- Serve immediately.
Wine Pairing For Brisket and Burnt Ends BBQ
You may be surprised to know our favorite go to for Burnt Ends is rosé. This is because of the smoky beefy flavor, and sauce, a nice dry rosé complements the flavor of the brisket. Buy a bold Washington State rosé, which tends to be made from merlot, or bigger red blends. Or go with a nice dry sparkling wine.
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