Burnt Ends vs Brisket: A Comprehensive Comparison of Two BBQ Favorites

BBQ cuisine is a beloved American tradition that has been enjoyed for generations. It’s an art form that involves low and slow cooking of meat over wood or charcoal, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes. Two of the most popular BBQ dishes are burnt ends and brisket. While they are often served together, they are actually two distinct cuts of meat, each with its own unique flavor and texture.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between burnt ends and brisket, and provide a comprehensive comparison of the two dishes. Whether you’re a BBQ enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of smoked meats, this article will help you understand what sets these two dishes apart, and which one might be the right choice for your next BBQ feast.

What is Brisket?

Brisket is a cut of beef that comes from the lower chest of the cow. It’s a tough cut of meat that requires low and slow cooking to break down the collagen and connective tissues, resulting in a tender and juicy final product. There are two main cuts of brisket: the flat, or “first cut,” and the point, or “second cut.”

The flat is a leaner cut of brisket, with a long and flat shape that makes it easier to slice. The point is a fattier cut, with a triangular shape that makes it more difficult to slice, but also more flavorful. Some BBQ pitmasters prefer to cook the whole brisket, while others prefer to separate the flat and point and cook them separately.

Brisket is typically seasoned with a dry rub made of salt, pepper, and other spices. It’s then smoked over wood or charcoal for several hours until it reaches an internal temperature of around 200°F. Brisket can be sliced against the grain and served as a main course, or chopped and used as a filling for sandwiches and tacos.

What are Burnt Ends?

Burnt ends are a unique BBQ dish that originated in Kansas City. They are made from the fatty point of the brisket, which is cut into cubes and re-smoked until they are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. The process of re-smoking the cubes causes the fat to render and caramelize, resulting in a rich and flavorful dish.

Burnt ends are typically seasoned with a sweet and smoky BBQ sauce, which complements the rich flavor of the meat. They can be served on their own as a main course, or used as a topping for sandwiches, nachos, or baked potatoes.

Flavor Profiles

Brisket and burnt ends have distinct flavor profiles that set them apart from each other. Brisket is known for its smoky and savory flavor, with hints of black pepper and other spices. The seasoning on the outside of the brisket forms a bark that adds texture and complexity to the flavor.

Burnt ends, on the other hand, are known for their rich and sweet flavor. The caramelized fat and BBQ sauce create a flavor that is both savory and sweet, with a hint of smokiness. The texture of burnt ends is also different from brisket, with a crispy exterior and a tender interior.

The flavor profile of both dishes can be influenced by the type of wood used for smoking, as well as the seasoning and sauce used. Some pitmasters prefer to use hickory or mesquite wood for a more intense smoky flavor, while others opt for fruitwood like apple or cherry for a milder flavor.

Texture and Appearance

The texture and appearance of brisket and burnt ends are also different from each other. Brisket is a long and flat cut of meat that is typically sliced against the grain. It has a tender and juicy texture that can range from chewy to melt-in-your-mouth, depending on how it’s cooked. The bark on the outside of the brisket adds a layer of texture and complexity to the dish.

Burnt ends, on the other hand, have a unique texture that sets them apart from other BBQ dishes. The exterior of the cubes is crispy and caramelized, while the interior is tender and moist. The fat that renders during the re-smoking process creates a rich and luxurious mouthfeel that is unlike any other BBQ dish.

In terms of appearance, brisket, and burnt ends also have distinct differences. Brisket is typically presented as a large, whole cut of meat that has been sliced against the grain. The slices are arranged on a platter or plate, with the bark side up to showcase the texture.

Burnt ends, on the other hand, are presented as a pile of cubes that have been coated in BBQ sauce. The caramelized exterior of the cubes is visible, creating a visually appealing dish that is sure to impress.

Pairings and Sides

Pairing and side dishes are an important part of any BBQ feast, and both brisket and burnt ends have a variety of options to choose from. For brisket, classic pairings include tangy BBQ sauce, coleslaw, and cornbread. Other popular side dishes include baked beans, mac and cheese, and potato salad.

Burnt ends pair well with sweet and smoky BBQ sauce, as well as tangy slaw and pickles. They can also be used as a topping for nachos, baked potatoes, or even pizza. Other side dishes that complement burnt ends include corn on the cob, baked beans, and mac and cheese.

When it comes to beverage pairings, beer is the go-to choice for most BBQ enthusiasts. A cold, crisp lager or a hoppy IPA can help cut through the richness of the meat and complement the smoky flavors. Other options include sweet tea, lemonade, or even a refreshing cocktail like a mojito or margarita.


In conclusion, burnt ends and brisket are two distinct BBQ dishes that are both beloved by BBQ enthusiasts around the world. While they have some similarities in terms of seasoning and smoking techniques, they also have distinct differences in terms of flavor, texture, and appearance.

Whether you prefer the smoky and savory flavor of brisket or the rich and sweet flavor of burnt ends, there’s no denying that both dishes are a true celebration of BBQ cuisine. So the next time you’re planning a BBQ feast, why not try both and decide for yourself which one is your ultimate BBQ favorite?

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