Burnt ends are one of the greatest treasures of American barbecue. Over the years, many variations of the tasty snack have taken the barbecue world by storm.
But, have you tried Pork Butt Burnt Ends?
This sweet and savory twist on a barbecue classic combines everything you love about slow-smoked pulled pork with the sticky sweetness of a burnt end. The best of both worlds.
How burnt ends came about
Burnt ends originated in Kansas City. Originally, the brisket point would build a heavy bark (making it look “burnt”) and that portion of the brisket has a much higher fat content than the point, making it undesirable for some customers.
Many restaurants used to give those burnt ends away for free until a Kansas City native by the name of Calvin Trillin popularized the portion of brisket in his 1972 Playboy article.
As time passed, the burnt ends took on a new form and were coated in a thick, sweet, sticky sauce and then placed back on the smoker for another hour or two to caramelize. The result is a salty, sweet, and savory piece of beef that is now considered a delicacy in the world of barbecue.
While many barbecue purists will argue that it should only be called a burnt end if it’s made from brisket, people have started creating their own versions of a “burnt end” out of any and every type of protein imaginable.
What cut to use
You can use either a boneless or a bone-in pork butt for this recipe, but I recommend grabbing a boneless pork butt if you can find one.
The bone makes it a little tricky to cut the meat up into cubes and it’s much easier with a boneless pork butt.
How to make Pork Butt Burnt Ends
Unlike a traditional brisket burnt end where you would smoke the brisket whole, then chop the point into burnt ends and continue to smoke them, these pork butt burnt ends are chopped into cubes straight from the pork butt itself.
1. Prepare the pork
Start by slicing the pork butt into pork steaks about 1-½ to 2″ thick.
Then, take those steaks and cut them into cubes about equal width.
You are going to end up with pieces that don’t quite conform to the cube shape, but you can still smoke those.
Once your pork butt is cut into cubes, you want to coat the meat in a binder. I used olive oil for this recipe because it is what I happened to have on hand, but you can use mustard if you prefer. Just a little drizzle so each piece has a nice, light coating.
Now it’s time to season your pork butt cubes. I used Notorious PIG Pulled Pork rub by PS Seasoning for this recipe. It’s one of my favorite rubs for making pulled pork so it works well with this recipe.
If you prefer to make your own rub at home, check out these 7 Delicious Dry Rubs for Pork and Ribs.
Once your cubes of pork are well seasoned, transfer them onto a jerky tray (or wire rack). They should be about 1-1½” apart to allow for each side to be exposed to smoke.
After they are laid out on the rack, leave them at room temperature for about 15 minutes until the meat starts to “sweat” or look moist.
3. The first cook
Fire up your smoker to 250°F.
While I normally prefer Pecan when I’m smoking pork, I find that Mesquite can provide a really great smoky flavor and I wanted to kick up the smoke for this recipe.
Once your smoker is up to 250°F, just place the wire rack with your pork butt burnt ends on the grates.
You’re going to let them smoke for about 2½ to 3 hours.
4. Saucing up
First, grab an aluminum tray. You can use any oven-safe pan that you prefer, but I really like using disposable aluminum trays because cleanup can be a little tricky with burnt ends and it’s much easier to be able to just dispose of the tray than it is to sit over the sink trying to scrub burnt sauce off of a pan – but you do you!
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the barbecue sauce and melted butter.
Transfer your burnt ends to the aluminum tray (be careful, they’re hot!), and then pour the barbecue sauce and butter mixture all over the top. Give them a good shake until each piece is well-coated in that mixture. Then, grab some brown sugar and sprinkle it all over the top.
Cover the aluminum tray in a sheet of aluminum foil. This will trap the steam and moisture and help to keep your burnt ends from drying out during the final part of the cooking process.
5. The final cook
Place the aluminum tray back on the smoker for another 1-1½ hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork butt burnt ends is over 200°F.
I like to test the temperature of at least 4 to 5 of the burnt ends and if they are all up over the 200°F mark, then I know the whole batch is good to go.
For taking quick temperatures, I like to use my Thermoworks ThermoPop. It’s a super easy-to-use instant read thermometer that takes temperature almost instantaneously so you don’t have to leave the smoker open too long.
6. Let them rest
Once your burnt ends are up over 200°F internal, pull them off and let them rest for 20 to 30 minutes.
This is partially just to let them cool down (because no one wants to put 200°F meat into their mouth!) and also to let the moisture in the meat redistribute, which is key for maximum tenderness.
You can serve these as a snack or appetizer, or even as the main dish. You can also shred them up and create one of the best, saucy pulled pork sandwiches you will ever have!
For more burnt ends inspiration, check these out:
- Smoked pork belly burnt ends
- Best Brisket Burnt Ends
- Hot dog burnt ends
- Hot Honey Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- Poor man’s burnt ends
Pork Butt Burnt Ends
- Slice your pork butt into steaks, then chop those steaks into cubes about 1½” thick.
- Coat the cubes of pork in olive oil (or yellow mustard).
- Season the cubes of pork on all sides with pulled pork bbq rub, being sure they are well-coated.
- Lay the cubes out onto a jerky tray or wire rack, leaving about 1½” of space between each one.
- Leave the tray on your counter at room temperature while you fire up your smoker.
- Preheat your smoker to 250°F.
- Place the wire rack directly on the grates and let them smoke for 2½-3 hours, or until a nice bark has formed and the internal temperature is between 165°F and 175°F.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the bbq sauce and melted butter.
- Transfer the pork butt burnt ends to an aluminum tray and pour the barbecue sauce mixture on top.
- Give the pan a good shake until each burnt end is well-coated in sauce.
- Sprinkle the brown sugar all over the top of the burnt ends. Cover the entire pan tightly in aluminum foil.
- Place the pan back on the smoker for another 1-1½ hours, until the internal temperature is over 200°F.
- Let rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, then serve and enjoy!