Barbecue’s newfound nationwide popularity has put burnt ends on menus across the country, but in all too many cases, the burnt ends are bogus. Genuine burnt ends are cutting-board scraps: crunchy edges, veins of fat, shreds, and debris that fall from slices destined to be served on plates or in a sandwich. At their best, they are a lascivious indulgence — barbecue at its most nutritionally incorrect. Burnt ends have become popular enough that when there aren’t enough scraps to be found on the cutting board, some places purposely shave the edges of brisket (or pork shoulder) to create them. This is not necessarily a horrible thing, but in general, such artificially created burnt ends are too dense and meaty to deliver the wanton succulence of the real thing. While good burnt ends can be found in Phoenix (in the beans at Little Miss BBQ) and even in the northeast (at Big W’s Roadside Barbecue), they are at their best in Kansas City, where they first were recognized as a regional specialty, sometimes known there as brownies.
by Michael Stern