Sometimes, says Michelle Suddeth, customers will see “burnt ends” listed on the menu at her restaurant, Delano Barbecue Company, and wrinkle their noses in disgust.
Burnt food? Why would I order that?
Those people are, as they say, seriously missing out.
Burnt ends are a barbecue restaurant delicacy that are said to have originated in Kansas City. They’re not burnt at all, but their name refers to the chewy, caramelized bark that forms when fattier bits of brisket are seasoned or marinated and smoked longer than their leaner counterparts. The result is a chewy, fall-apart, flavor-filled, cube-shaped morsel that some people describe as meat candy.
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Burnt ends are typically made from two parts of a cut of beef brisket. One is the “flat,” and it produces a leaner, dryer burnt end, meant to be drowned in barbecue sauce. The other is the “point,” which makes for a more loose-grained, fatty burnt end. Some restaurants smoke one or the other. Some smoke a combination of both and chop them up together.
“A lot of people don’t know about them,” said Cedric Taylor, Delano Barbecue Company’s pit master. “But they hold flavor. And they taste really good.”
Burnt ends have such a devoted following that PBS even produced a five-part documentary detailing their history called “Burnt Legend.” And the legend has it that, when Arthur Bryant’s was in its Kansas City infancy, the cooks would slice off the burned edges of the brisket and let anyone who wanted them gobble them up for free.
Eventually, they realized that those crispy edges were actually quite valuable, and demand grew. Today, barbecue aficionados agree that Kansas City ‘cue restaurants like Gates Bar-B-Q, LC’s Bar-B-Q and Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que are the best places to eat ends.
But you can also get burnt ends in Wichita – though not every local barbecue restaurant serves them. And those that do usually offer them only one or two days a week, with a few exceptions.
Among the Wichita restaurants that have burnt ends every day are Hog Wild and Two Brothers, both of which have several local locations.
At Hog Wild, owner T.D. O’Connell has his kitchen prepare burnt ends using both the flat and point portions of the brisket, which have been marinated three hours longer and smoked two hours longer than the rest of the cut.
Hog Wild added the burnt ends to the menu about eight months ago, O’Connell said, and diners can order them as part of a meal, as a side or on a sandwich. Those who really love burnt ends can get a full pound of them.
“The flavor is unique compared to our regular brisket,” said Josh Hopkins, the general manager of the Hog Wild at 3550 N. Woodlawn. “You put a little mild sauce on there and there’s nothing better.”
Delano Barbecue Company at 710 W. Douglas serves two types of burnt ends. Its traditional beef burnt ends are available only on Fridays and Saturdays. It recently added pork belly burnt ends and serves them on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Burnt ends have quickly become a customer favorite at the restaurant, said Taylor, the restaurant’s pit master.
“A lot of people like them, so I save them till the end of the week,” he said. “It brings everyone out of the house.”
Where to get burnt ends in Wichita
Hog Wild, several Wichita locations: Burnt ends are available daily at the restaurant
Two Brothers BBQ, several Wichita locations: This local barbecue chain has burnt ends on its everyday menu
Bite Me BBQ, 132 N. St. Francis: Burnt ends are served every Thursday
Delano Barbecue Company, 710 W. Douglas: Beef burnt ends are available on Fridays and Saturdays, and pork belly burnt ends are available on Wednesdays and Thursdays
When Pigs Fly, 7011 W. Central: This restaurant has burnt ends as a weekly special every couple of months.