Poor Man’s Burnt Ends: Smoked Beef Chuck Roast

Smoke it right and you get that great burnt end look and flavor without the cost with these poor man's burnt ends.

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These poor man’s burnt ends will have you feeling rich! 

Chuck roast is normally used for stews or braising and is really tasty when cubed up, seasoned, smoked, and finished with barbecue sauce. 

A great alternative to brisket burnt ends, these are a must-try and always a great option if brisket prices are too high or you don’t want to cook such a large cut of meat.

Poor man’s burnt ends vs. brisket burnt ends

Traditionally, burnt ends are tender and flavorful cubes of meat from the point end of a brisket. The point of the brisket is much fattier than its “flat” counterpart, which makes for delicious bites that are rich and beefy in flavor. 

Due to the higher fat content of brisket, it can take a long time to render down, but when done properly, there isn’t a better bite of bbq out there. 

whole piece of chuck roast on a wooden chopping board
Chuck is also a good option for a ‘practice’ run before using the more expensive cut of brisket.

A brisket is a large cut of meat and can be very expensive. That’s why Chuck is a great alternative if you want to try burnt ends on a budget.

Instead of having to buy a huge brisket that can weigh anywhere from 10-20 lbs and set you back over $100, you can buy a three to four-pound chuck roast and make poor man’s burnt ends using essentially the same recipe without breaking the bank. 

I will say that brisket burnt ends have a richer flavor and the fat content in a brisket point is a little better.

With that said Chuck makes a great substitute and can give you the burnt end look, and flavor, and can be tender if you smoke it low and cook it to the right temperature.

The best part is your guests won’t be able to tell the difference, so they’ll never know you cheaped out on them!

Where does Chuck Roast come from?

Chuck comes from the shoulder area of the cow, right above the brisket. It has a great beefy flavor, although it can be tough because it is a heavily exercised muscle. 

Cow diagram showing various cuts of beef

It is ideal for slow cooking and many people use it for stews and other similar types of cooks. When cooked slowly, the connective tissue melts as the chuck braises, helping it to become very tender.

You can leave the chuck whole and smoke it like a brisket, or cube it up for burnt ends.

Other roasts cut from the chuck are Boston Cut and English Roast or Cross Cut. 

How to make poor man’s burnt ends 

1. Cube your chuck

You want to cut 1” by 1” cubes as evenly as possible so they cook at the same time.

raw cubes of chuck roast on a wooden chopping board
Make sure the cubes are the same size for an even cook.

Season your cubes with a layer of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I went over them again with a layer of our Honey Garlic Rub

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I wanted a little kick and color with this rub, so I went for it! I’ve also made these with our beef rub combined with Honey Garlic, and they tasted great.

Feel free to stick with the basic SPG rub, use our beef rub, or experiment with anything in your rub cupboard.

Beef can take quite a bit of rub, so don’t hold back! 

seasoned cubes of chuck roast on a wooden chopping board
You can add an oil or mustard binder if you prefer but for this cook, I just seasoned them regularly. 

2. Fire up your smoker

You can use any smoker you want for this cook. I fired up my Large Big Green Egg and added some hickory wood chunks to the warm coals. Once the wood chunks were ignited, I closed the lid and adjusted the vents properly until the smoker was running around 250°F degrees. 

fire and wood chips inside a green egg
If you don’t have hickory wood chunks, just use what you have on hand.

When your smoker gets up to temp, take your cubes of chuck and spread them out evenly on your grill grate. Although I did not do it here, having a water pan underneath the grate to catch the drippings and to help deflect the heat is a good idea. 

raw seasoned burnt ends on a grill
Having an even layer of rub on the meat will ensure you get a good bark. 

This is also a good time to apply any extra seasoning to your burnt ends if there are any spots that are missing BBQ rub.

3. Spritz after an hour on the smoker

After an hour into the cook, spray the burnt ends with a 50-50 mix of water and beef broth.

This will keep the chuck moist and also help with the bark formation. Some people say that spritzing also helps the smoke to stick to the meat and gives a better smoke ring

cooked burnt ends on the grill

After you have done your initial spritz, spray every 30-45 minutes or when you see the meat starting to dry out.

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3. After 2-3 hours the burnt ends are ready to wrap

Within 2-3 hours your chuck roast will be ready to wrap. A lot of guys will wrap their chuck roast in foil or butcher paper to help further break down and tenderize the meat. You could do the entire cook without wrapping the meat, but I usually wrap it. 

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I prefer butcher paper when I have more time because it allows the meat to breathe a little better and therefore the bark will be better preserved. 

cooked burn ends on foil with a cube of butter
I was getting hungry so I decided on foil which is still a great option.

Using a meat thermometer, check your chuck roast has an internal temperature of 165-175°F. Wrap them with a few pads of unsalted butter and a good drizzle of honey.

You could also add a sprinkle of brown sugar, but I don’t like overly sweet beef.

I find that the barbecue sauce at the end is more than enough.

At this stage, the chuck cubes should have a good bark and be much darker in color, especially if you decided to smoke with a stronger smoking wood like hickory. 

After you have wrapped the chuck roast, place it back on your smoker until the internal temperature of the meat is around 205°F.

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4. Finishing off

You know the burnt ends are done when they feel squishy and can be pushed apart with some pressure. They shouldn’t completely fall apart in your hand though. You don’t want to overcook them as it will dry the meat out and change the texture.  

After the foil is opened and you know the meat is done it’s time for the finishing touch.

I like to add barbecue sauce and mix everything together. 

Use your favorite bbq sauce, or try our homemade bbq sauce recipe.

After adding the bbq sauce, close the foil back up and let the meat rest for 30 minutes.

You can place them back on the smoker at this stage, so the sauce tacks up.

If I’m serving these poor man’s burnt ends to a large group, I lay out some butcher paper, pile them in the middle, and let people dig in. 

Serve the burnt ends on pink butcher paper for that classic Texas style look

You can serve these poor man’s burnt ends with just about anything. I like to pair it with scalloped potatoes, green beans, coleslaw or mac and cheese

The recipe is really easy to make, delicious and affordable. They may be called poor man’s burnt ends but can taste like a million dollars! 

Some more bbq beef recipes you might like to try

Poor Man’s Burnt Ends Recipe

poor man's burnt ends stacked on pink butcher paper

Poor Man’s Burnt Ends

Cubes of beefy Chuck roast, seasoned, smoked slowly and sauced for a cheaper version of burnt ends.
4.95 from 232 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Total Time: 5 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 798kcal
Author: Jordan Hanger



  • Get your smoker up to a temp of 250°F.
  • Cut your chuck roast into 1"x1" cubes.
  • Season the cubes with a layer of SPG seasoning then a layer of a spicy bbq rub.
  • Place cubes into the smoker.
  • Spritz every 30-45 mins with a 50-50  beef broth and water mixture.
  • When the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165-175°F remove from the smoker.
  • Wrap the cubes in aluminum foil with pads of unsalted butter and a good drizzle of honey.
  • Place the foil pack back in the smoker until the temperature of the meat reaches 205°F degrees and is very tender.
  • Open the foil, add the bbq sauce and mix everything together.
  • Wrap the meat back up and let the rest for 30 mins before serving.



Calories: 798kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 73g | Fat: 50g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Trans Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 276mg | Sodium: 1352mg | Potassium: 1324mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 380IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 120mg | Iron: 10mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximation only. If you’re worried you could always add a side of kale.

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