Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kansas City Style Burnt Ends

Brisket and me have not had it always so easy.  I have smoked brisket a couple of times; but, despite my efforts, the end result isn't always so great. I've tried different ways to preserve the tenderness of the meat, such as injections of beef broth or mops of beef stock and ingredients, but the finished product is far from what I want or expect.  

I think the problem is that I have worked exclusively with the brisket flat. That piece is long, flat and very lean. It is difficult to smoke because it dries out and can become tough.  But the flat is just one part of the brisket; there is also the point.  The point is thicker and fattier.  It is far more forgiving to a amateur pitmaster like myself.  Together, the flat and point constitute an entire "packer brisket."  However, that packer typically weighs between 8 to 12 pounds.  I don't have the time, patience or appetite to eat an entire brisket point, at least right now. 

A while back, I decided to check out a local butcher cshop called Chop Shop Butchery.  I went there expecting to buy some pork, like a Boston butt, to smoke.  However, as I stared into the glass case, I saw brisket points.  My mind began to race. Do I want to do brisket?  How long had it been since I smoked a brisket? What I can I do with brisket point? I decided to answer that last question with a quick Google search.  The answer was simple: burnt ends. The quintessential Kansas City barbecue.

The history of burnt ends begins with that packer brisket. Some pitmasters removed and set aside the brisket points. The points were, so thought the pitmasters, too fatty to serve, caramelized and burnt.  The pitmasters and restaurants, like Arthur Bryant's, set aside the points and ends on the counter, offering them as a treat to customers while they waited for their brisket sandwiches. Customers ate  those fatty, caramelized pieces of brisket.  One such customer, a food writer and Kansas City native, Calvin Trillin, wrote, "I dream about those burnt ends."  Trillin further dubbed Arthur Bryant's "the best single restaurant in the world." After that, some restaurants took notice, and, collected the end pieces to sauce them once more time and serve them on bread.  Burnt ends made it on to menus and are now as BBQ as the brisket sandwiches themselves.

Although I have not made it to Kansas City (yet) or had the opportunity to eat at KC BBQ joints like Arthur Bryant's (yet), I have had burnt ends.  Those barbecue joints that are closer to where I live, and who strive to provide different kinds of barbecue, inevitably have burnt ends on the menu.  This at least gave me some idea of what the end result should look like.  Now, I had to try to make it myself.

Overall, I think that my first effort at making burnt ends was successful. It may not have been Arthur Bryant's successful, but it was amateur pitmaster in the Mid-Atlantic successful. The burnt ends had the smoke rings, along with some of the expected caramelization and bark that defines these little one-bite wonders. If there was anything that I could improve upon,  I think that the burnt ends could have been a little more caramelized.  That might require some additional time in the smoker at the end, or,m some refinement to the sauce recipe.

(You can learn a lot more about burnt ends from Burnt Legend, the Story of Burnt Ends, available at PBS.) 


KANSAS CITY STYLE BURNT ENDS
Recipe adapted for Brisket and Sauce from Hey Grill Hey
Serves several

Ingredients (for the Burnt Ends):
1 6 to 8 pound brisket point
2 teaspoons coarse ground kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 cup beef stock
1 cup Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce (see below)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar

Ingredients (for the Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce):
14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup ketchup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup molasses
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard

Directions:
1.  Prepare the cook.  Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit using wood charcoal.  

2.  Prepare the brisket point.  combine the salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Shake liberally on all sides of the brisket point.

3.  Smoke the brisket point.  Place the brisket point in the smoker, close the lid and smoke until the internal temperature of the meat reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.  This step usually takes 6 to 8 hours depending upon the size and thickness of the meat.  Spritz with 1 cup of beef stock every hour during the initial smoke period. 

4.  Continue smoking the brisket point.  Once the brisket reaches 165 degrees, wrap tightly in butcher paper (or aluminum foil) and return to the smoker.  Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees and then remove to a cutting board.  This typically takes another three hours

5.  Make the sauce.  Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan.  Whisk to combine.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Allow to cook completely before transferring to an air tight container.  You can refrigerate it overnight to get the best flavor. 

6.  Create the brisket ends.  Once the temperature of the meat reaches 195  degrees Fahrenheit, unwrap the meat and drain any liquid into an aluminum pan.  Cut the brisket point into cubes about 1 1/2 inches thick.  Place the cubes into the aluminum pan and toss with the BBQ sauce and brown sugar.  Work quickly during this step to prevent your brisket from cooling down too much.

7.  Finish the cook.  Set the uncovered pan back on the smoker and close the lid.  Continue smoking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 more hours, or until the burnt ends have started to absorb the BBQ sauce and caramelize on all sides and are very tender.

ENJOY!

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