What exactly IS a burnt end? Well, it depends where you go
Burnt ends are tokens of modern-day Kansas City ‘cue. But they weren’t always a standard menu item. There’s no standard method to making burnt ends — it depends on where you are.
Arthur Bryant’s, circa 1972
“The main course at Bryant’s, as far as I’m concerned, is something that is given away free — the burned edges of the brisket. The counterman just pushes them over to the side and anyone who wants them helps himself.” —Calvin Trillin, Playboy, April 1972
At Jones Bar-B-Q, they cut off the fatty tip of the brisket point then smoke that fatty wedge longer until the fat renders down to make irregular cuts of barky meat candy.
At Joe’s, they separate the lean (flat) and fatty (point) halves of the brisket before smoking. The flat becomes sliced brisket and goes on the Z-Man sandwich. The point is smoked longer and becomes cubed burnt ends.
At Q39, brisket is always smoked whole. The point is split into a thick half and a thin half, seasoned and grilled over oak. The thick half is sliced for sandwiches; the thin half is served as cubes.
Gates makes burnt ends to order by shaving off crispy, barky, fatty pieces of brisket and serving them on a hoagie roll to make what is, essentially, a blackened grease sandwich.
Arthur Bryant’s, circa 2019
At Arthur Bryant’s, owner Jerry Rauschelbach says they now make burnt ends “totally incorrectly” because pretty much everyone orders them. Random pieces of brisket are double-smoked then sauced heavily. (Actual burnt ends are found in the beans and the 3 B sandwich.)