Burnt Ends: A Kansas City Tradition
Back in the day, at one of Kansas City's historic barbecue joints, over near 18th & Vine, the sandwich maker would slice brisket by hand right there on the counter where customers lined up to place their orders. The first thing the sandwich maker would do when a fresh brisket was brought to the counter was trim off the ends. The ends of a brisket are thinner than the middle part, and therefore cook faster, and after long hours in the smoker, the ends get, well, burnt. These crunchy, heavily caramelized, intensely smoky, end pieces were not considered suitable for sandwiches and over the course of a day, as the sandwich maker did his work, these discarded pieces piled up on the cutting board. To hungry customers standing in line, these blackened bits of barbecue proved irresistible. They'd reach in, snatch a few, and pop 'em in their mouths while they waited to order. These burnt ends were so popular, folks wanted them put on the menu. Problem is that there are really only two ends to a brisket, which makes it difficult to make enough burnt ends to feature them as a regular menu item. The solution to this dilemma, however, was close at hand.
A brisket consists of two main parts; the flat is the biggest part and it is, as the name suggests, flat and broad. It's perfect for slicing for sandwiches. The other part is the point (sometimes also called the deckle). The brisket point is much fattier than the flat. For that reason, some barbecue joints trim the point off the flat and discard it. This is a serious waste of barbecue potential. Here at Joe's, we figured out that when the point is separated from the flat and slow-smoked by itself for seventeen hours, what you get is a piece of meat that is heavily-caramelized-intensely-smoky-on-the-outside and tender-and-juicy-on-the-inside, just like those burnt ends back in the day.
One more thing; burnt ends are beef. And only beef. There is no such thing as pork burnt ends. And there is no such thing as ham burnt ends. Don't be fooled. Just because you cube up some other kind of meat in the shape of burnt ends doesn't mean they are burnt ends. Burnt ends come from a brisket. That's all.
There you have it. That's the burnt ends back story. Burnt ends are a cherished Kansas City culinary tradition, and Joe's burnt ends are the best there are.