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Posted on Mon. Dec. 17, 2012 - 12:12 am EDT


Secret Ingredient: Burnt ends

Brisket points finding place on dinner plates when smoked low, slow

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In the mix

Secret Ingredient is a monthly feature that highlights an ingredient and its uses. If you are a chef or home cook with a favorite ingredient and would like to be featured, email

Unloved and unwanted.

That’s how Jeff Neels, an owner and partner of Shigs In Pit, would describe his favorite cut of beef.

“Until recent years, most people would take that (brisket) point part off and that’s what they would separate off and grind up into hamburger,” Neels says, adding. “It was considered a tougher, drier piece, oddly shaped piece. They would just discard it.”

Now, Neels and his culinary crew at the restaurant, 2008 Fairfield Ave., use the point to make one of the most popular menu items: burnt ends.

Describing the flavor as intensely beefy and moist, Neels says burnt ends are chunks of the brisket point that are smoked at a low temperature for a long period of time. The smaller pieces of meat allow more surface area to be seasoned, which helps create a crunchy crust and juicy middle.

“It was one of the best tasting cuts of meats I’ve ever tried,” Neels says, with a smile and nod, as he recalls the first time he tried the burnt ends.

What is it: Burnt ends come from the brisket point, which is the fattier section of the muscle. It is found on the lower front shoulder of a cow.

Origins: “Texas is always known for its brisket but they don’t typically do the burnt end part of the brisket,” Neels says. “It truly comes from the Kansas City style of barbecue.”

Preparation: In competition, Neels smokes the entire brisket low and slow before sectioning off the point, reseasoning it and smoking it for an additional two to four hours. For the restaurant, Neels is able to buy just the point, which he seasons and smokes.

Season it: The flavor of burnt ends, Neels says, doesn’t come just from the meat but the rub. He advises using a barbecue competition blend, which can be found in stores. The proportions and ingredients of rub blends are often shrouded in secrecy, but he says they often include salt, sugar, paprika, garlic salt, garlic powder and chili powder.

“(You have to get) the right sugar content in the rub to create the right bark,” Neels says. “That’s where the flavor comes from.”

Where to buy: Briskets are available at area butchers. Jamison Meats, 3423 N. Anthony Blvd., sells the brisket – trimmed or untrimmed – for $5.99 a pound.

Shigs In Pit, in addition to its dine-in menu, offers cooked burnt ends for $12.99 a pound.

Serving suggestions: Shigs In Pit offers burnt ends on a hoagie roll or as a dinner, but Neels says they get creative with catering. He offered this appetizer idea: A grilled button mushroom, a piece of burnt end and a pearl onion. And don’t forget your favorite barbecue sauce.

Tips and tricks: Low and slow is the way to go. “The key is with brisket or any large cut of meat is to slow cook it for a very long period of time,” Neels said. “We smoke our briskets for 12 to 14 hours at about 220 degrees. For a home cook, the internal temperature of a brisket or large cut of meat like that should be about 190 to 195 (degrees).”

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